are a prominent feature of most homes, so getting the design right is
important. A beautiful staircase can make a fantastic centrepiece to
impress your guests, as well as serving a practical purpose.
looks are only part of the story – safety is another vital issue. Many
older staircases fall short of modern standards, so replacing your stair
banisters can help bring your home up to scratch. Here are a few
decisions you will need to make:
household staircases are manufactured from wood, but metal and glass
are becoming more popular. Timber will probably still be part of your
stairs, at least as far as the treads and supporting structure are
concerned, but you may decide to combine wooden staircase components
with glass panels or steel spindles (also known as balusters) for a more
Wood is a beautifully warm,
versatile material that will suit any setting. It is ideal for a wide
range of designs, including curved stairs, turned newels and different
styles of handrail. Wooden stair spindles, in particular, can be readily
worked into all kinds of decorative shapes – or left plain for a
Which timber is best? Pine, hemlock and sapele
are worth considering if you’re on a tight budget, especially if you are
intending to paint or stain the staircase. At the other end of the
scale, ash, walnut, southern yellow pine and oak stair parts offer
premium looks and durability, but come at prices to match.
stair balusters shaped to resemble wrought iron are extremely popular
nowadays, with a wide choice of both traditional and contemporary
designs on the market. Durable and decorative, they can easily be
painted to match the rest of the decor if required. You can also get
chrome or brushed nickel effect stair spindles for an ultra-modern feel.
panels can look stunning on a banister rail, and are ideal for poorly
lit spaces as they allow light to flow freely around the room. They can
be combined with wooden or metal handrails and newels – and even glass
treads, for anyone keen to add a touch of contemporary glamour.
Which handrail design?
There are two main types of handrail system: post-to-post and over-the-post.
The strongest, most popular and economical design is post-to-post. In
this system, the handrail runs between the newels and is fitted into the
sides of the newel posts with traditional mortise and tenon joints.
an over-the-post configuration, also known as a continuous handrail
system, the rail runs over the top of the newel posts, often ending in a
decorative swirl called a volute. This design is more eye-catching and
elaborate, but a little less sturdy than the post-to-post system.
However, it can look stunning and is regarded as a sign of quality by
revamping your stairs, you can take the opportunity to bring them up to
date in terms of safety as well as style. The most important modern
regulation, brought in to prevent small children becoming trapped, is
that no gap anywhere on a staircase should be large enough for a 100mm
sphere to pass through. This applies to every stair part, but the main
thing to look out for when replacing the banisters is the amount of
space between spindles. In order to comply with the 100mm rule, the
distance between the spindles (or glass panels if applicable) must not
The measurement is taken from the smallest part of
the baluster, so if you buy turned balusters you will probably need to
order more of these than the square or stop-chamfered varieties.
Staircase manufacturers will be able to help you calculate the number
required to meet the regulations (usually two spindles per tread).
rule also applies to the space between steps on open-tread stairs. If
it is greater than 99mm, you’ll need to install riser bars at the rear
of each tread to reduce the size of the opening.