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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Iron Balusters: Comparing “Apples to Apples

Solid Versus Hollow Iron Balusters

Like all of the other stair parts in my “you get what you pay for” series, Iron Balusters are no different.  The quality variations between one iron baluster and another are not drastic but enough that you should understand the difference so you don’t compare the two different styles when considering price.

Iron balusters come in many designs but in two distinct styles.  These are hollow iron balusters and solid iron balusters.  The differences between the two involve more than just price.  Neither is an unsatisfactory option but the solid are definitely stronger. 

Hollow - Left Solid - Right

Hollow – Left
Solid – Right

In the past I’ve written blogs on the differences between the two and you can find more information here.  Today I want to focus more on the reasons why the two should not be compared side by side as far as price is concerned.  Hollow iron balusters are less expensive.  This is because they require less metal and because they are lighter.  They are also not as strong, but the difference is not such that they should be avoided, it just means that your balustrade will “flex” more because of a property called deflection.  Solid Iron Balusters will also flex but not as much so the railing system is stronger.  As far as aesthetics, Solid Iron Balusters have a more “hand-forged” appearance with a little more texture, sharper corners and more variations in the surface.  Hollow Iron Balusters tend to be smoother with slightly rounded corners and don’t typically exhibit the same “hand-made” look.  I want to be clear here, neither Solid nor Hollow Iron balusters are hand made these days, but the manufacturing process of the solid version does have a more authentic iron-work appearance.

Box Newel Posts: You get what you pay for!

Box Newels

As is the case with most items we buy there are occasional steals but in general when making comparisons a dramatic difference in price reflects something about the products themselves. This is to say that you get what you pay for, so although two items may appear to be the same, there are often cleverly concealed discrepancies in the quality of the materials or manufacturing or even the services or warranties offered by the manufacturer. This is true for most stair parts and today I hope to shed some light on the variations in Box Newel Posts that often makes an inferior version appear to be a steal, when in fact you may be comparing “apples and oranges.”

Newel posts are the most important structural support member of a railing system. This is due in part to their relatively large size and to the fact that they are the strongest method of securing the handrail to the floor and offering additional support to the balusters. In addition they are one of the most prominent and architecturally stunning pieces of any banister and, in fact, the home.

Box Newel Posts are available in a wide variety of styles and designs and there are several material types and methods used to manufacture them. While most methods are acceptable, it is important to know the differences so that you can determine whether or not your selection is a good deal or a “bait and switch.” I understand that not every situation demands the best and highest quality product. Appearance may be the most important factor and if you can find an inexpensive version that meets your needs it is probably a good deal. The problem that we at WoodStairs.com encounter on a weekly basis is that people believe that they are comparing two identical products (either on our site or between our site and another) that differ drastically in price. WoodStairs.com offers a low price guarantee on every product we sell so frequently we are explaining why one of our newel posts is more expensive than a competitors’. Occasionally a customer has simply found a good deal and we simply beat our competitors’ price, but as one of the oldest and most respected online retailers of stair parts our products, pricing and value have long withstood the test of time.

Comparing Stair Parts – Wood Handrail

Luxury_Verus_Economy

Perhaps even more than your typical purchase, with stair parts you get what you pay for.  The problem with this is that because of the relative simplicity of the products, the variation that effect price can be so drastic that two seemingly similar products can scarcely be classified as the “same” at all.  Consider two cars, a luxury sports car and an economy car.  While both are equally suited for their particular purpose, it is impossible to confuse one as the other and comparing them as “apples to apples” is a meaningless endeavor.  They are obviously two different products, often with two radically different price points.  One does not consider the sports car too expensive or a “rip-off” because of its comparison with the economy car alone.  It may exceed our personal budget but we understand that the differences in quality, design and performance are substantial and justify the larger price tag.

The issue with stair parts, especially those sold online, is that these differences are easily disguised until you receive them.  Here is where due diligence comes in.  I don’t want to give the impression that there are not acceptable differences in stair parts.  There are luxury and economy versions of virtually everything.  The issue arises when the parts are mislabeled or presented as the same when in fact they are not.  I plan on writing several blogs on this issue because it has become so prevalent over the last few years with the downturn in the economy and the tightening of our purse strings.  Today I just wanted to create an awareness that this issue does exist and if you aren’t educated on the potential “short-cuts” you may end up with a product that is not what you were expecting.

 

Solid Uniform Handrail

Solid Uniform Handrail

DIY Home Repair Projects that You Should Know

Woman with tools.

Home repair projects are often being shunned by homeowners because they seem too difficult or too costly. But that is not always the case. There are home repair projects that you can do on your own. These simple projects will surely save you tons of money. They are very simple in most cases so you do not have to pay for them. Calling a professional to work on these repairs is a total waste of money so try to learn these home repair projects and save yourself from the frustration and worry of having the need to cash out huge amounts of money for simple repairs.

Simple Home Repair Projects that You Ought to Know

  • Plumbing

Plumbing is not really that hard to do if you would just take some time to learn it. You should watch videos and read guidelines on how to build and repair pipes so that you can fix leaky pipes without phoning a plumber.

Of course there are large projects that you can’t do on your own. But if you know that you might be able to fix it, try to mend the problem first, especially if you know that it won’t cost you that much if you make a slight mistake.

  • Stair and Banister Repairs

Repairing stairs and flooring can be quite expensive when you hire a professional to do it – even if all they have to do are simple repairs and touchups. So, it is best if you try to learn how to do the repairs on your own. Try to know how you can fill up holes or fix the squeaking steps by watching instructional videos and reading blogs and guidelines on the Internet or on DIY books.

Remodeling your stairs on a budget

Iron Baluster Replacement

There are many ways to remodel your stairs on a budget.  While some options are more cost effective than others they depend on the conditions of your situation and what if any concessions you are willing to make.  Perhaps you  want to use your stairs to help sell your house, to simply enhance your own home or to repair or replace damaged components.  Whatever your intentions, here are some ideas for how and where to save money in your stair budget.

Adding_Iron_BalustersThe first is to determine what if any of your stair parts can be salvaged.  Often it is possible to keep the handrail, newel posts landing shoes and tread caps while only replacing the balusters.  Since balusters take up the most visible space of a railing system changing them often has the greatest visual impact of any system.  Woodstairs.com offers a simple and innovative new method for replacing wood balusters with wrought iron balusters with IronPro by LJ Smith.  This revolutionary method allows even the most inexperienced carpenter or do-it-yourselfer to accomplish this task. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA By changing the balusters alone you can transform your staircase from traditional wood to craftsman, wrought iron or contemporary.  You can also make dramatic enhancements simply by replacing only a few wood balusters with a section of wrought iron or replacing every other baluster with a more ornate wood baluster can make dramatic changes in appearance.

Repaint_StairsAnother method of changing the appearance is to simply restain and/or paint your balustrade.  For example if you have a golden brown Red Oak balustrade you might consider a darker stain on the handrail, newel posts and landing cap while painting the balusters white.  This creates a dramatic contrast that may rejuvenate your existing balustrade without replacing any of the actual parts.

Stair Parts List

ANATOMY OF A STAIRHere is a simple list of the stair parts you  will need to create your new or remodeled banister.  Balustrades can be broken down into two types that are in turn reduced into several components.  In order to determine the stair parts you will need for your specific balustrade you will need to consider each type.

The types are Stair Balustrades and Floor Level Balustrades.  Today I will break down the components of each then in a future blog show you exactly how to calculate the quantities of each.

Stair Baluststrades consist of the following components, some of which are of course optional:

  • Aprons – This includes the Skirtboard under the banister and what is often referred to as a Kickboard against the closed wall side of a stair.  Aprons may be a solid piece of wood with or without an accompanying moulding or a plywood with moulding.
  • Open Treads:  Solid Treads and Risers or False Tread End Caps and/or Wall Caps and risers.
  • Kneewall: Shoe Plate also called Landing Tread and/or Shoe Rail
  • Newel Posts – Turned or Box Newel Post which may include accessories.
  • Balusters – Balusters may include wood balusters, wrought iron balusters, wrought iron panels, glass or any combination of these.
  • Handrail – This of course includes straight handrail, bending handrail, and handrail fittings.

Floor Level Balustrades consist of the following components.  Again some of these depend on the situation or may be optional.

  • Aprons – Skirtboards only under the banisters and these again may be solid wood or veneered plywood or paint grade material with or without accompanying moulding.
  • Landing Tread, also called Shoe Plate, with accompanying moulding and/or shoe rail with fillet.
  • Newel Posts – Turned or Box Newel Posts.

Replacing wood balusters with wrought iron balusters

IronPro - Level Kit

Many customers ask if it is possible to replace wood balusters with wrought iron balusters without replacing the handrail, tread caps, etc.  While this has always been possible the process was a little tricky to insure that the previous holes were covered and that the result looked clean and professional.  Now however, one of WoodStairs.com’s suppliers has come up with an ingenious method that makes the process easy and results in a professional finish every time. 

LJ Smith’s IronPro makes replacing wood balusters with wrought iron balusters for remodel applications so easy that virtually anyone can do it.  Replacing wood balusters can completely revitalize the look, style and feel of your balustrade. IronPro - Kneewall Kit Wrought iron balusters come in a far larger variety than the typical wood designs and offer the ability to create unlimited variations and patterns.  IronPro is a wrought iron baluster accessory that enables you to replace only the balusters, potentially saving thousands of dollars, by preserving the remaining wood components.  Your existing handrail, newel posts, tread caps and moldings are virtually unaffected and completely reusable.  In fact, they don’t even have to be removed to replace the balusters. 

Additionally, with IronPro, you can enjoy a beautiful new wood and iron balustrade that can be installed in 1/3 of the time of a typical installation.  The IronPro hardware is secured to the handrail, treads and kneewall utilizing high quality, self-drilling screws or bolts that require very little skill and virtually anyone can perform.   While IronPro hardware adds to the material costs of a new balustrade installation it is an excellent choice for the do-it-yourselfer.  It makes the process so simple that the time saved, or the professional installation costs, are such that in the end it is usually well worth the cost.Wood_Baluster_Replacement

How to prevent Squeaky Stairs

Fixing Squeaky Stair Treads

Many of our customers want to know how to fix their squeaky stair treads.  While there are a couple of ways to address this issue, the best think you  can do is prevent squeaky stairs in the first place.  Today, I will try and help you with both possibilities.

Stair treads can squeak whenever there is movement and a wood on wood surface.  The movement of wood against wood creates that squeaking or creaking sound whenever the tread is stepped on.  The problem with fixing the situation is that it is sometimes difficult to determine whether it is the finished treads themselves that are squeaking or the framed rough stair treads beneath them (or both).  Fixing squeaking sub treads will require you to pull up the carpet runner or the false tread cap and screw it securely to the stringers.  It is also possible to drill through the tread cap then secure the sub tread down with a screw and then plug the finish false tread cap.  Of course this will leave a plugged whole in the top of the cap.  Sometimes the stairs can be accessed through the drywall on the under side, where they can be screwed from the stringer upward.  This will require drywall and painting repairs though, but at least it doesn’t leave a plug in the top  of the false tread.

If you have squeaking solid stair treads there are usually only two solutions to the problem.  That is to screw the treads down securely and plug the holes.  If possible you can remove a couple of balusters and screw the tread down where the baluster will cover it.  However this is usually quite difficult since it typically requires removing the handrail as well.  You can also try nailing the tread down with finish nails.  While not as secure as a screw they are far less visible and will sometimes do the job.  Sometimes a shim between the tread and riser will also help to separate the pieces and prevent squeaking.