Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Step Railing Ideas

Step railing ideas are only limited by the designer's creativity.

The step railing and steps work together. Step railings consist of various components that fit together to give the rail its look, including top and bottom railings, balustrades, newel posts, newel caps and other accessories. The combination of these components limits or enhances the attractiveness of a staircase. Designers have numerous options for material, including wood, metal, steel and wrought iron. Does this Spark an idea?


Top rails and bottom rails accent the railing's balusters -- the vertical piece fixed between the top and bottom rails. For exterior steps, many people choose cedar or pressure-treated wood for decks and porch systems because of their resistance to rot, insects and water. Galvanized or powdered-coating iron railing systems make good choices for concrete steps. These materials are durable, come in a variety of traditional and contemporary designs, and install easily. Builders can also purchase components separately to create their own designs. This includes the top and bottom rails with the baluster already attached.

Many people select hardwood for interior stair systems. Some suppliers offer over 30 species of wood, including beech, cherry, fir, pine, mahogany and oak. Most interior railing systems consist of separate parts combined to create the rail. Suppliers offer a variety of hardwood railing profiles, such as straight, bending, return, mitered and other options, to create traditional and simple or sophisticated and elegant winding designs. Many hardwood species are adapted for exterior use.


Most balusters (spindles) inserted in railings have a width of 1 1/4 inches or 1 3/4 inches. Nonetheless, balusters allow for creativity, employing a combination of width, style and materials, when designing interior or exterior railings. Often, homeowners building or restoring an old house purchase balusters from specialty shops, or have skilled carpenters customized the components according to their desired style or dimensions. A popular design idea entails combining iron balusters with wood top rails. Instead of adding the tradition bottom rail, installers fit the balusters into a decorative iron or aluminum shoe, which attaches directly to the stair tread.

Newel Posts

Perhaps the most important component for a step rail is the newel post. It sits at the top of a landing or at foot of the stairs. It provides support for the rest of the staircase. Newel posts add balance and stability to the railing system. The two basic types of newel posts -- box or turned -- have been around for many years. Box newels consist of hollow wooden boxes topped off with a wooden cap molded at the top of the post. Turned newels are made of solid wood and are "turned" into decorative shapes or have intricate carvings. Today, many manufacturers of stair parts offer newel posts made of iron and steel.

Railing Kit

For truly unique stair railings, find a local ironworks fabricator that can make an interior or exterior stair rail kit. The kit would include all the components required for assembling the railing system. The manufacturer could come out to discuss the project and the available options, obtain the measurements and could even install the components. This has long been a popular option for creating one-of-a-kind spiral railings and staircases.

Tags: bottom rails, interior exterior, into decorative, newel posts, railing system