Stair Railing Ideas

A Stair Railing Should Serve Much more than a Functional Purpose

By Mark J. Donovan

One of the first items viewed when looking at a stair case is the stair railing. The stair railing stands several feet off the floor and flows upward with the staircase, making it a major focal point in a room or home. A stair railing also provides a safety feature to the stair case. Consequently some extra thought and money should go into your choice of stair railings when designing your home. Not only does it need to look nice, it also needs to be securely installed to aid and support the partial weight of people walking up and down the staircase.

Stair railings ideas vary in both material choices and design. Though Oak stair railings have been used for centuries there are other wood species and materials that can also bring elegance to a staircase.

Similarly, you don’t have to limit yourself to standard vertical Oak balusters spaced evenly along the length of the stair railing. Again there are other wood species and materials that can be used to serve the baluster purpose. This said, an Oak stair railing still looks elegant when properly installed and finished with a couple of coats of polyurethane.

One useful stair railing idea is to use stair railing materials and stains that will complement the stair treads and surrounding wall and floor surfaces. Often architects and home designers will select the same species of wood or material for the handrails, balusters, posts and stair treads. Other times they may decide to use complementary colors, stains and paints. For example, it’s not uncommon to see clear coated oak stair treads, handrails, and posts, and antique white painted balusters.

Another stair railing idea is to use curved and/or decorative newel posts and hand rails to add a touch of elegance to the stair case.

Stair Railing Ideas

Similarly you can also choose to use custom designed wood balusters with various patterns or shapes carved and/or milled into them.

The use of wrought iron spindles and handrails is another stair railing idea. Wrought iron stair railings are often seen in high end custom homes. You can also choose to mix and match wrought iron with wood. For example, you could elect to use wood newel posts and handrails and wrought iron balusters or spindles. Wrought iron spindles can be crafted in to an infinite amount of design options and many wrought iron manufacturers are more than willing to accept custom design ideas.

Before actually designing and installing a stair railing it’s wise to check with your local building inspector to understand what the stair railing height and baluster spacing requirements are for stair railings in your town or state. Also, again don’t limit yourself to the few stair railing material options at your local home improvement box store. There are many stair railing manufacturers listed online that offer a plethora of stair railing ideas, materials, and designs.

When it comes to installing stair rails one word of advice I highly recommend is to fasten the balusters into a bottom finished trim plate, versus directly into the subfloor.

If you fasten them directly to the subfloor your flooring options become limited to carpeting as it is the only flooring material that can be installed around the balusters, and even at that it never looks that great.

So before just accepting a standard blah stair railing, do your homework first, and explore all the stair railing ideas and options available to you. Your stair railing should be viewed as serving a functional purpose as well as providing a touch of artistry and elegance to your home.

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