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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Combining wood stair parts with wrought iron balusters

Alder and Wrought Iron Combination Balustrade

If you are considering a wrought iron baluster pattern, you may be wondering whether you should choose a full iron balustrade with handrail, posts, and balusters or a combination of wood stair parts with wrought iron balusters.

For interior balustrades, where sun and weathering are not an issue, first consider the stylistic aspect as a whole and then delve deeper into the individual components.

Wrought_Iron_BalustradeFirst, 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 the early 1900’s, true wrought iron was gradually replaced with “mild steel,” which is less expensive and easier to produce.  Mild Steel has many of the properties of wrought iron and is what virtually all wrought iron stair parts are made of today, despite the fact that the term “wrought iron” was erroneously retained presumably due to marketing considerations: “wrought iron balusters” sounds more appealing than “mild steel balusters”.  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 and will last indefinitely.  Of course, this may only apply to the structural capacity; aesthetically, it 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 often seem dated today.  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 maintaining an authentic theme in a home where wrought iron is perfectly matched or in contemporary designs such as modern or semi-industrial, using horizontal iron balustrades.

Do I Need a Professional Railing Installer?

Wood and Wrought Iron Balustrade

 

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.

Types of Stairs

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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”.