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Monthly Archives: February 2013

Stair Angles and Miters

Angle Finder

Balustrade installation requires knowing the degree of the stair and how to use this angle to determine the other stair angles and miters you will need to cut balusters, handrails, and moldings.  There is basically one number that is a constant that is very simply used to determine all of the other angles on a staircase.  Knowing the degree of the stair will make all of the cuts and miters easy to determine and eliminate a lot of headaches.

The degree of the stair can be found by using a digital level or one of several different types of angle finders.  Also, there are a number of stair angle calculators you can search and find online.  If all else fails you can use trigonometry for finding the angle of a right triangle.  This is a little more complex if you don’t know how to do and in such cases we recommend one of the previous options.

Once you have the degree of the stair all of the other angles and miters are very simple.  Since most of these angles are used multiple times throughout the installation process, we recommend that you make a cheat sheet at the beginning that you can refer to periodically as you need it.  Let’s assume a fairly typical Degree of Stair of 37.5° for the following examples.  Basically however, there are five cut angles you will need to know; Degree of Stair Level Cut, Level Miter, Plumb Cut and Plumb Miter.Diagram of Stair Angles

In addition to helping you solve for the other cut angles, the Degree of Stair is itself used as a cut angle.  For example, the tops of square top wood or Craftsman balusters are simply the Degree of Stair and the bottoms of wood balusters on a curbwall.
Example:  Of course this angle would be 37.5°

Adding a Staircase to Your Deck

Deck Staircase

Decks are often a place of relaxation. They are also often the extension of the house to the garden or backyard. Therefore, they often have to have a staircase leading to the garden below. But many homeowners are afraid of installing deck staircases because they think that it requires too much work or is very expensive.

There are ready-made staircase kits that are available in hardware stores but they can be a bit pricey. If you don’t want to spend a small fortune on staircase kits, you can order staircase parts and build the staircase yourself. The process may look intimidating at first but once you learn everything that you have to do, you will see that it is really just a simple job if you have all the stuff you need.

Installing a Deck Staircase

  • The first thing that you need to do before you start ordering materials is to measure the height of the staircase and determine the rise and run. You can do this by measuring the distance of the deck floor to the ground and divide the result by 7.5 to get the approximate number of steps.  7.5 is the ideal rise but you can go up or down slightly from here.  The maximum riser height required by most building codes is not more than 8”.   So, dividing by 7.5 gives a  good starting point.  The result will be the number of steps needed for the staircase (e.g. 92”/7.5=13 steps).
  • To determine the rise of the stairs, you then divide the height of the stairs to the number of steps that you are going to make (e.g. 92”/13steps=7.07 inches).

Spiral Staircases – Design, Ordering & Assembling


Spiral staircases are a beautiful addition to any home especially  those with small space requirements.  They are elegant pieces of fine furniture in themselves and add they character to any structure. Because of the helical design, many people think that building or installing one is very hard.  While they are difficult to manufacture from scratch, offers spiral kits that have been custom manufactured out of solid wood with wood or iron balusters.  These are not your typical cheap spiral staircase kits however but custom manufactured stairways that are completely assembled in our mill then disassembled and shipped in pieces that are relatively easy to reassemble onsite.  These kits include everything that you need, including instructions, all of the components and hardware. Hence, you can create your own wonderful spiral staircase on your own.

Ordering your Spiral Staircase Kit

Before you pick up the phone to order your spiral staircase kit, you have to take the necessary measurements so that you would know what size of staircase you need.

  • Measure the height of the staircase by measuring from floor to floor.
  • After you have determined the height of the staircase, you can now decide the diameter.  Often this is predetermined by the size of the opening if it is passing through a hole in the upper floor.  Sometimes however, the staircase will be beside an upper balcony so the diameter is up to you.  In most areas the minimum diameter allowed by code is 5’ 6” which gives you a usable width of about 2’ 6” after the center column and handrail have been deducted.
  • You should also decide what kind of materials you are going to use for your spiral staircase. You can choose wood or metal staircases or a combination of both. It is up to you. offers Solid Wood, Wood and Iron or all Iron staircases.  Our iron staircases are designed for interior or exterior use. 

Installing Plowed Handrail with Fillet and Square Top Balusters

Handrail Fillet

Square Top Wood Balusters are generally installed using a fillet system.  Plowed handrail installation with fillet and square top wood balusters is a relatively easy method that makes assembly simple with a little skill and the right tools.

Many Straight Handrails are available with a plow and fillet system.  A plow is basically a channel cut out of the bottom of the handrail and the top of the shoe rail that is the exact width of the balusters being used.  On floor level balustrades the Newel Posts, Shoe Rail and Handrail are set first.  Then, the balusters are laid out, cut to length then installed.  This is done by using a finish nailer to nail the top edge of the baluster up into the handrail and down into the shoe rail.  Then fillet pieces are added to equally space and secure the balusters in place.  The fillet fills in the plow in between the balusters in the handrail and shoe rail and covers the nail holes.  The balusters can also be laid out and fastened down to a shoe plate or hardwood flooring without the use of the shoe rail and fillet system.  In this method, the balusters are secured down first then the handrail is placed on top of them and the fillet added afterward to secure and fill the plow.

On stair balustrades, there are two methods depending on whether the stringer is open or closed.  In case of an open stringer, where the treads are notched and the balusters sit directly on top of the tread caps, the balusters are laid out, cut to length and dowel screwed into the tread first.  Then the handrail is placed on top and the fillet pieces are added to the bottom of the handrail in the space between the balusters.  If the stringer is closed then the balusters can either be screwed to the stringer or finish shoe plate with a plug in the face and then the handrail placed on top and the fillet added afterward to secure and fill the plow.  Or a shoe rail with a plow can also be used and the Newel Post, Handrail, Shoe Rail are set first and then the balusters are secured in place with fillet in between.