Stair Part Basics – The Railing System

July 14, 2015 2 min read

The railing system is the group of stair parts that collectively build and make up the balustrades. These parts are essential in not only adding design and a decorative feature, but offering safety and stability when ascending or descending your staircase.

The handrail, also known as a banister or stair railing is designed to offer support and stability.

The balusters, sometimes referred to as spindles, are the vertical posts that hold up the handrail. They are used between railing and tread to help support the staircase. Balusters come in various materials and styles. You may choose to stick to solid wood or steel designs. However, mixing up your materials will offer you more design choices. Wrought-iron balusters can provide more flexibility in style and appearance. Because of their durability, iron balusters are often used outdoors but are also a great choice for your indoor staircase.

Newel posts are the large structural posts that are used to secure the handrails. Newel posts can be shaped into a variety of designs adding individualized style to your staircase. These oversized balusters are anchored below the subfloor into the floor joists. The two basic categories of these balustrade systems are the over-the-post and post-to-post systems. An over-the-post newel system features a "pin-top" style newel and uses handrail fittings to join the handrail pieces together running over the newel post. The over-the-post system gives the staircase a clean, uninterrupted look from top to bottom. The post-to-post newel system features a newel post with a "block" top. In an over-the-post newel system, there are smaller (usually 5" to 6") block tops often called starting newels and larger block (10" to 13") tops often called landing newels or transition newels. The landing newels or transition newels allow the handrail to enter at one height and exit the newel post at another height.Half-Newels are used where a railing ends in the wall. This gives the illusion that the newel is inserted within the wall. Box newels are large four sided newels with a hollow inside used in post to post stairway systems. Box newels can really make a statement transforming your staircase. Think of them as a piece of furniture for your stairway. In a Post to Post system, handrail fittings are not usually necessary. By contrast, in an Over the post stairway system, fittings are almost always used. If you do not have space to use a box newel on your stairway, you can consider using turned newels.

Finials are the decorative cap added to the top of a newel post. This is often seen at the end of the balustrade.



Article by Amber Burkhart

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