At WoodStairs.com, we understand that you have options when it comes to your new stair project. We appreciate your business and we are proud of our product. We will do everything we can to make sure that you love your new stairs.
Sometimes the vocabulary of the stair industry is unfamiliar or confusing. There are so many different styles, types, sizes, and species that the decision can be a bit daunting. Here we’ll discuss some of the terminology and theory of stair design.
Think about scale. A stairway provides utility within a specific dimension but also should contribute to the spaces it joins. The actual dimension of the material in your stairway has an effect on the way the space is perceived. While thin cast iron balusters allow almost complete transparency into the stair space, thick, blocky painted balusters partition and obscure visibility.
Think about Balance. Bold colors and rich wood may be out of place around more muted tones. Also remember that massive handrail and large balustrades require Newel Posts that are and appear strong enough to support them.
What do you like? We’ve already discussed coatings and finishes. If you’d like to see several different style options, check out our selection of Box Newels and Turned Newel Posts. Think about the other elements in your home. If you have Shaker cabinet door fronts, you might be looking for a simple Box Newel Design. We can also match your elaborate turned corner posts. The kitchen is a great place to start if you are looking for inspiration. If there’s a question about profiles or you’d like us to match something, you can send us a photo or call and ask. We can match any design in one of our 20 species of wood.
Depending on the design of your home you may have a set of stairs leading hear basement that are unsightly an may also present a hazard. This may be a great place for you to invest in the value and the utility of your home. For the purpose of this post I will consider a rough framed stairway that I would like to finish with carpet and a wall-mounted handrail.
First inspect the existing stairs notice what the wall construction looks like. Be sure that you have completed the drywall. Locate the studs and mark their location on the wallso that you can mount handrail hardware. Is there other work that needs to be completed before you finish your basement stairs? Look at the current tread material. In many cases the rough tread material was meant as a temporary and was intended to be removed.
It is important to ensure that there is as little variation as possible between the final tread riser heights. This includes the initial rise from the finished floor. This really can’t be stressed enough and is the primary rule in calculating stair stringer cuts: Every rise of every step has to BE the same. If you find yourself rebuilding an entire stair, weyerhouser sturdi step system is a great place to start.
You’ll usually encounter stringers that have been framed from one and a quarter inch rim joists or one and seven-eighths inch micro-lam beams. If you are down to bare stringers, lay out your skirtboards. Lay them on the stringers and use a framing square to mark your cuts, remember to plan to meet your baseboard. Start the cuts with a circular saw and finish with a jigsaw. They will be seen so take your time. Once your skirtboards are cut, take some measurements and plan your cuts for the risers and treads. Note any spacing blocks running past the center stringer. These can be great spots for added glue and screws or nails. The better you fasten your treads and risers, the fewer squeaks you will have.
So you’ve decided on wood balusters, you may have even settled on a design, but the question inevitably comes up: ‘Painted or stained?’ Although this typically comes down to personal preference, there are a few things you should keep in mind when you are selecting your finishes.
First, It is important to understand that the wood that is being offered as ‘stain-grade’ is generally just better. You can paint almost any species of wood- even MDF- and end up with a very similar looking baluster. This is where WoodStairs.com differs from our competition. We only sell solid wood balusters. Even our paint grade balustrades, handrail, and newel posts are solid Poplar. The difference, of course, is the hardness, durability, and quality. Consult the hardness scale found on any of our product pages if you would like to see how different species compare.
Second, nicks, dings, and dents tend to show up more on a painted surface than a stained surface. The woodgrain and texture of a stained baluster tend to hide blemishes in the wood. This apparent drawback, however is also a strength because a good painter can prepare and repaint worn or damaged balusters or just touch up trouble spots much more easily than with a stained wood surface. The final clear varnish coat on a stained baluster is much more difficult to sand, often requiring the entire baluster to be refinished, limiting your ability to perform spot touch ups.
Building or remodeling the home is a very personal experience. People who were successful in the industry understand this. Building relationships and earning referral business are part of the job. You’ll want to find someone you whom you can communicate and who can understand and realize your vision.
The right contractor will bring industry knowledge and experience to your project. There is still just no substitute for sawdust in your hair. Woodworking and Carpentry require familiarity with the material and an understanding of how wood will react once it’s installed. Due to its organic nature wood is constantly moving adjusting an experienced carpenter will be able to utilize this tiered vantage maintaining tight trends and a sturdy banister.
You also need to trust them. After all you’ll be inviting them into your home. It’s important that you find someone who will be where they say they will be in complete the work they say they will complete. Ask them if they are licensed and insured to work in your area and expect them to be able to prove it. I doing business with a reputable company you can limit your risk and protect your investment.
If you have friends or relatives who’ve recently had work completed on their homes, ask them about their experience. That way you can see some of their work and get an idea of what it’s like to business with them. Of course you can always reach out us. We will be happy help you find a qualified installer in your area.
Remodeling, updating, and re-finishing your home can be great ways to increase its value and livability. Whether you’ve just purchased your home or you’ve been in it for a while, making custom updates can be a great way to personalize your home and make it work for you. By focusing on the highly visible areas of your home, you can maximize your return on investment.
Once you’ve decided to undertake a home improvement project, it’s time to do a little research. Look around for images of homes you like, and take note of the styles, trends, and finishes you would like to incorporate in your own project. At this point, you may want to start discussions with a licensed contractor or someone who has recently completed a project that is similar to yours; they may have money-saving tips and ideas to help you plan your project.
Be sure to consider the way you intend to use the space during and after the remodel; you can replace a mantle in a matter of hours, but if you’re gutting your kitchen, you may not see a home-cooked meal for several months. It’s a good idea to discuss your upcoming project with other members of the household so everyone knows what to expect.
In addition to planning the function and design, you will want to have a clear idea of the budget for the project as well as the schedule and scope.
Sometimes it helps to think about your project in phases. By beginning with the end in mind, you can ensure that the finishes you select at the beginning of your project match the finishes that you will be selecting as you complete it.
This year, I think I’d like to start at the beginning and for us that means Starting Steps. Starting Steps protrude into a room at the base of a staircase and may be visible from several sides. We can use this added surface area to showcase material and finish of the Risers and Treads. We can also use this space as the base for Newel Posts or an elaborate Volute. Blocky stable Starting Steps can also give scale and balance to a staircase by providing a believable base for wider Newel Posts and Handrails.
Recently, we have seen Starting Steps make a resurgence in contemporary stair design. These exaggerated first stair treads are a great way to establish a tone for your stairs and to draw the eye up the Newel Post and across the entire balustrade. Starting Steps also provide utility and functionality when your stairs incorporate a landing by allowing multidirectional access to your stairs.
Starting Steps are typically described as “Single Bullnose” or “Double Bullnose.” This designation refers to the overall shape, specifically whether the step has room for a radius cap or Volute Base on one (“Single”) or both sides (“Double.”) The deciding factor is usually a wall on one side of the step. Also, notice that there are specific Starting Steps designed for use with Box Newels.
When ordering a new Starter Step, measure across the existing stairway. This will ensure the correct fit. If you have any questions, contact us here.
A newel posts is the largest single component of a staircase. Because of the size and complexity of newel posts they are also often one of the most expensive stair parts in the balustrade. It is for this reason that the newel post doesn’t always match the scope and style of the railing system. Simply put, while you do need a post, you don’t necessarily have to have a large, luxurious one. Also, because your railing system is near the end of the project if it wasn’t considered early on, you may have gone over budget on the other items and no longer had the money to spend on the balustrade.
Often builders, original owners or even we ourselves may have decided to save a little money by downgrading the newel post. Usually we tend to financially progress, so while the home we bought at the time may have been all that our budget would allow, we are hopefully in a different, better position a few years later. This means that we might be considering a little upgrading and that earlier downgraded newel post may provide a good place to start.
If your balustrade is safe and secure and was a good design to begin with then you might want to upgrade the posts now. Changing newel posts is an easy and inexpensive method of upgrading the look of your banister. The starting posts of the stair are the easiest and require very little skill to do. The existing posts are removed, the new posts are cut to length, then they are installed. They can be prefinished or finished after installation.
Today I would like to offer a simple solution to a common problem. We receive calls on a fairly regular basis from customers who want to know how to stop loose balusters from rattling. It is a common occurrence for both dowel top wood balusters and wrought iron balusters and there is an amazingly simple solution, but I’ll get to that shortly. First, let it be known that even professional installations occasionally result in a loose baluster or two, so don’t be too hard on yourself or whoever installed the balustrade. If the system as a whole is structurally sound and a quality product, don’t worry too much about one or two loose balusters. Of course that doesn’t mean you have to live with the constant reminder rattling at you every time you walk up the stairs.
Most balusters, wood or iron, are installed into holes in the floor or shoe plate and also into the handrail. This is true as long as they have a dowel top. Usually wood balusters are installed with a small amount of wood glue in the hole, then finish nailed. Sometimes the finish nail can curve up into the hole and not actually penetrate the handrail or a hard bump can even break the glue joint. The best way to fix a rattling wood baluster is to simply re-nail it. This is done by shooting a finish nail into the baluster where it meets the handrail. The nail goes through the dowel top and into the handrail on the opposite side. However there is another method if you don’t have a finish nail gun or if you have wrought iron spindles, a toothpick. Yep, that is the professional secret to securing loose balusters. Wood toothpicks are perfect miniature shims for this application.
If you are considering a wrought iron baluster pattern you may be wondering, like many of our customers, whether you should choose a full iron balustrade with handrail and posts as well as the balusters or a combination of wood stair parts with wrought iron balusters. Of course I cannot tell you what will work best for your particular project but perhaps I can help you understand the differences so that you can make the best choice.
Here I am referring primarily to interior balustrades where sun and weathering are not an issue. I think the best way to address this choice is to first consider the stylistic aspect as a whole then to delve deeper into the individual components.
So, first let us consider a full iron balustrade which includes handrail, balusters and newel posts. Wrought Iron has been used for decorative purposes since the middle ages (prior to that it was used primarily for tools and weapons). In early 1900’s true wrought iron was gradually replaced by the less expensive and more easily produced “mild steel”. Mild Steel has many of the properties of wrought iron and is what virtually all wrought iron stair parts are made from today despite the fact that they the term wrought iron was erroneously retained. I assume that this is due to marketing considerations because “wrought iron balusters” sounds more appealing than “mild steel balusters”. Anyway, as far as we are concerned here, if the architectural style of your home harkens back to an earlier period to which you want to remain true then a full wrought iron balustrade may be the obvious choice. Wrought iron balustrades in interior spaces are stronger, durable and will last indefinitely. Of course, this may only apply to the structural capacity, because aesthetically this may not be true. A perfect example is the wide spread use of wrought iron during the late 60’s and 70’s, primarily for cost purposes, that are often very dated today. The reason for this is that they were typically “cheap” designs that made little or no attempt to stand on their own creative or artistic merits. While full iron balustrades are not nearly as common today as wood and iron combinations, there are many situations in which this style is preferable. These include, as I mentioned, maintaining an authentic theme in a home where wrought iron is perfectly matched or in many contemporary designs such as modern or semi-industrial perhaps using horizontal iron balustrades.