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.
One of the most common questions our customers ask is, “Do I need a professional railing installer?” This is a loaded question based upon the complexity of your stair and railing system, your understanding of the simple mathematics and your carpentry skills. A full balustrade installation can be compared to piecing together a gargantuan jigsaw puzzle with a variety of tools and using pieces that have a specific position but require some modification to get that perfect fit. If you have zero woodworking experience then you should avoid all but the most simple of installations such as adding a wallmounted rail, etc. Unfortunately we cannot answer this question for you but help you to find the answer for yourself.
To do this you must first evaluate your particular system and the individual components that comprise it. The level of completion of specific components can vary based on the manufacturer which can make the installation more flexible for the professional but may also require more skilled craftsmanship. If you are not an expert, choosing stair parts that most closely fit your banister will make the installation process simpler. The stair specialists at WoodStairs.com are always available to help you identify the best components for your project. Feel free to call us any time 888-390-7245
Next look at each component individually and ask yourself, “Do I have the right tool for this job”. For example if you are installing wood balusters for stairs you will probably need a saw and a drill. While you may not own the specific stair installation tools you may be able to borrow them from a friend or neighbor. A large portion of stair and railing installation requires very little skill, such as screwing, plugging, sanding, etc. So, if you know someone who is skilled in woodworking and has a few of the larger tools, they can often help with the more difficult tasks leaving you with those that require less skill. Also, there are tool rental companies and many of the large home improvement stores have rental departments as well.
There are several different types of stairs that are used in architectural design. These vary for a variety of reasons, two of the most important being their visual appeal and consideration of space. Stairways can occupy a rather large footprint in a home but through some creative design this footprint can be substantially reduced when necessary when space is at a premium. Here are the six basic stair shapes and their uses in a home.
Straight Stairs are the most common type primarily because they are very practical while being the most simple and inexpensive type of stairway. A straight stair is basically one that travels from one floor to the next without changing direction or curving.
L Shaped Stairs are basically two stairs that connect at a landing or by winder treads at a 90° turn. These are most often used when space is more limited and a full straight flight cannot fit. The intermediate landing or winder tread area of the stair may be centered between the two straight flights or nearer the top of the bottom. Winder treads are pie shaped treads that increase the number of treads in the “landing area” when space is even more limited.
U or Switchback Stairs are two flights (often of differing length) that run parallel and joined at the top of the lower flight and the bottom of the upper flight by an intermediate landing. The landing itself may also be partitioned into two square landings or several pie shaped winder treads to reduce the length of the straight flights and thereby reduce the overall footprint of the U shaped stair. Ideally, there is a space between the two parallel flights to allow room for skirt boards, stair tread overhangs and clearance between bypassing handrails. This distance may be as little as 6” to upwards of 12”.
Stairs and banisters in general and stair parts specifically, compose a large assortment of terms that describe the many unique components used to create these elegant architectural features. In order to make this blog more helpful, to better assist our customers in making informed decisions and as a general information resource, we’ve created a very detailed glossary of stair and balustrade terms. In addition to the definitions we’ve also provided links to many of the items so you can see images.
Take for example one of the words I just used above, balustrade. If you are uncertain what the word balustrade means then you are not alone. This is a widely know term in our industry but is used infrequently beyond it. This is because it is very specific stair related word as you can see from the following definition as included in our Glossary of Stair Terms:
Balustrade – The combination of Handrails, Balusters, Newel Posts, and Tread Caps that serve as a Guardrail of a flight of stairs or Balcony. (Also Known as a Banister or Railing System or less accurately a Handrail)
More specifically there are many stair parts with very unique names, such as volute, easing, newel, baluster, shoe rails and so on. These terms are also relatively unknown to most people outside of our industry. Instead of asking for a part by name we are regularly asked about the “curly-q” thing at the bottom of the stair or where a customer can find the “pickets” on our website. These two terms are volute and balusters, respectively. We are hopeful that our glossary will help you find what you are looking for.