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Monthly Archives: June 2013

Stair Makeover – Replacing Wood Balusters with Wrought Iron Balusters

Upgrading from outdated to wood iron balusters can make a dramatic visual impact.

Replacing wood balusters with wrought iron balusters is one of the most common methods of upgrading an outdated balustrade.  This is not to say that wrought iron is superior to wood in general but sometimes wood balusters may have been damaged, broken, or they are simply outdated.  You  may be able to remedy this look by refinishing which I discussed in my previous post, or you can swap out your wood balusters with wrought iron as I will described today.

There are three basic methods to replacing wood balusters with wrought iron balusters, I’ve named these the Up-and-Down Method, the Secure Method and IronPro.   There is a fourth option in which you can replace the entire balustrade with the balusters this still involves one of the three methods listed above.  In fact these three methods are the same when installing a new balustrade from scratch.  Today, I don’t intend to go through the specifics of each method but rather to consider the reasons for and the possible results you can achieve by upgrading shabby wood balusters with wrought iron.


Changing only the balusters allows you to save time and money by keeping your the wood components intact.

Changing only the balusters allows you to save time and money by keeping your the wood components intact.

If you are interested in this option and would like more information on the details I’ve written a series of articles here that explain the processes and the pros and cons of each. 

Stair Makeover: Refinishing handrail

Adding Stair Treads can make a huge difference in the appearance of your stairs.

Although refinishing your existing stair is not in our best interest it very well may be in yours.  I mean that recommending this option may prevent you from buying any of our stair parts.  However, in all honesty this is often the best solution to dramatically improve your balustrade with the least expense possible and the results can be very dramatic.

So, if you are happy with the style and design of your balustrade and it is structurally sound then this is your first and best option.  There is really no need to replace anything more than is necessary, either structurally or aesthetically, than you need to.  Not only with this option save you money but it will save time and you can most certainly do the job yourself.Before and after restaining stair railing

Basically you will need to evaluate the system as a whole then look at the stair parts individually.  I’m going to throw in a few links here to some of the most common items that may need to be replaced, but remember if they are in good shape and you like them then keep them.  If you are lucky you may only have to sand down your existing banister parts and re finish, or perhaps you will just have to re secure some of them, the last possibility is that you will have to replace some or all of the components.  In this case, you may simply have a couple components that you need to match and replace, for example you may have a couple of balusters that are too badly damaged but the rest are still in good condition. offers custom turnings and profiles in all available hardwoods and stair parts to match what you already have.  So we can make one or two balusters, a newel post or section of handrail to match your existing stair parts. 

Stair Makeover: Part 1

Stair Remodeling

You’re not the only thing that needs a makeover!  Actually, you probably don’t need one at all, but old, worn and outdated stairs can often use a little (or a lot) of freshening up.  Whether you want to make your home a better place to live or if you are trying to sell it, your stair and balustrades provide a great opportunity.  Over the next few days I plan to write a series of articles on one of the most commonly asked questions we address.  What are the best, easiest and most cost efficient methods of stair makeover?  Of course this question depends on what your existing balustrade consists of, what it looks like, what damages, if any, it has and how strong and secure it is.  While this question may be asked because a system is unsafe or insecure, it is usually one of aesthetics.  For some reason the existing stair is just plain ugly, doesn’t match new renovations or maybe it’s fine but not the work of art you know it could be.  Whatever your reasons, in order for me to help you decide what course of action you should take I have to address the different types of balustrades upon which you will be improving.  So, let me begin with a list of possible balustrade types and then today I will summarize the different techniques you can use to revitalize each arrangement.  In subsequent articles I will address each solution in detail.

All Wood balustrade
All Iron Railing System
Wood and Wrought Iron balustrade

Adding a wood handrail to your existing iron balustrade

Upgrade your full metal stair by simply adding a wood handrail.

There are several reasons that people choose to upgrade their current system by combining wood and wrought iron railings.  If your existing balustrade is all metal, the simple addition of wood handrails can dramatically improve on the existing design with little cost and simple installation.  Wood handrails are larger, warmer to the touch, often more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing and finally, they may better compliment other colors and textures in the home.  Taking these advantages one at a time, I’ll start with size.  Wrought iron handrails are typically substantially smaller and lack the available detail that is available in the wood alternatives.  Wood is warmer to the touch than the significantly colder iron, and coupled with its larger size and comfortable shape it is an overall more sensually inviting option over iron.  Personal preferences will determine whether or not you prefer the look of wood over iron, however its use often helps to better compliment the other aspects of the space such as wood floors, doors, finish carpentry, furniture, etc.  I want to be clear that there is nothing wrong with full iron balustrades.   This is primarily a matter of preference.  Look at the above pictures, you may prefer the full iron version.  There is nothing wrong with this design.  In fact, the wood addition is in this case more of a trim piece though, many prefer it for the above mentioned reasons.

Whatever your reason for wanting a wood handrail with your existing wrought iron balustrade, the process is relatively simple and inexpensive.  Often, there is no need to remove or replace any of the existing balustrade components but instead you can simply add the wood handrail over the old iron one.  Many iron handrails are square or rectangular and the wood handrail can be added on top or plowed so that the iron handrail is recessed into the bottom of it.  Even the most decorative iron handrails are typically not very large or ornate and can be concealed in a new decorative wood handrail. 

Inspirational Stair Design


Stairs and balustrades are one of the key architectural features of any multilevel structure.  As such they have experienced a long historical evolution from basic function to the artistic diversity we know today.  Their styles and designs are as wide ranging as the spaces which contain them; from the historical authentic, neotraditionalism with its borrowed themes, modern minimalism and the indefinite shades of grey in between.  This is especially true in residential applications where the stair and railing system often stand proudly in the forefront of the small handful of permanent architectural features.

Prominence, geometry, pattern, texture and aesthetic flexibility, establish a perfect foundation upon which creative expressions can come alive.  From a purely design vantage, the possibilities are unlimited.  Unfortunately for most of us there are budgetary concerns that deflate that lofty ideal.  However, within any budgetary constraint there is still always the opportunity for creativity and expression.  The trap to avoid is that of the commonplace. 

Stairs and balustrades are relatively simple, coming down to a series of steps and guardrails.  Much like a blank canvass however, the opportunity comes from your unique approach to the creation of your own masterpiece.  While the stylistic tone of the space may dictate a general direction, the specific composition of colors, textures, and patterns within this style are once again constrained only by your imagination.

Old Stair Parts

Baluster Book Shelves

If you have recently, or are soon going to, remodel your stairway or railing system you may want to consider what to do with the components you are replacing.  I hope you will decide to keep your old stair parts, which can serve a wide variety of good uses once you’ve decided to upgrade them during your renovation.  Sadly, more often than not, the old components are just thrown away to add another layer to the landfill.  However, while they may have made a poor, outdated or unsecure balustrade, there are many uses for these components and throwing them out is an unnecessary waste.

Once you’ve decided that you will do something with your old stair parts, even if you are not sure what, the first step is to remove them with a little more care than if they are going to end up in the land fill.  I think that this is one of the biggest reasons that they are so often discarded.  It is much easier, and honestly more fun, to just lay into the old system with a sledge hammer, destroying it completely before hauling off the rubble.  If you plan to reuse them in some fashion, you will have to take a little more time and care to remove the wood or wrought iron balusters, newel posts and handrails more or less intact.  Here’s where the possible uses come into consideration.