Newel Posts are one of the most important structural members of a railing system. They contribute the largest percentage of strength and durability to the balustrade. There are two major categories of newels, turned wood newels and box newel posts also called box posts. When selecting a newel post you should consider the overall balustrade style, the size of the space in which the stair and railing system exist and the additional strength required. Turned Newel Posts are solid wood posts that are turned on a lathe to create an infinite array of profiles. These range from simple, minimalist or contemporary designs to luxurious and richly detailed traditional designs. If your preference is for turned newel posts then there are two options available, post-to-post and over the post or continuous. Post to post systems are just that, the handrail attaches to the top block of the post , which typically has a finial or post cap, rather than running over it with handrail fittings. Continuous is just the opposite, instead of the handrail terminating into each post it travels unbroken or continuously over the post. As you can see, the names pretty much define the style of balustrade. Most turned stair posts are available in both Post-to-post and Continuous options. The greater portion of the post, of a certain style, is identical and only the top varies. For continuous systems, the top of the turned post will reduced so that it will accommodate the handrail or a handrail fitting. Post-to-post newels have a top “block” into which the handrails will attach. So, which is better? That depends solely on your taste and preferences.
They are equally suitable for the job but some prefer the graceful lines of a continuous handrail while others like the additional detail of the finial or post cap rising above the handrail.
Box posts on the other hand create Post-to-Post balustrades exclusively. Often box posts are larger than the turned alternatives and create a more bold termination. Like their turned counterparts they are available in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and designs.
Most posts are perfectly adequate when installed correctly to address the structural stability of your balustrade. So in this instance you really have only one consideration, design. Newel posts are a major tone setting component and as one of the more prominent features of your banister you should give them some careful thought.
The beauty of stairs and balustrades is that they are so versatile. There are no set rules, traditional turned newels can be used with matching turned wood balusters, mission balusters and wrought iron. Box posts are similarly adaptable across a wide variety of styles and designs. In addition there are a large number of post accessories such as Post Caps, Finials, Rosettes, Drops, etc. to further personalize your design. A great place to start with your own design is to check out WoodStairs.com for a huge variety of designs in both categories, use our StairBuilder to integrate post styles with different baluster patterns or simply search for images in Google to get you started. Whatever your approach, enjoy the process and your finished product. Remember this is not your typical piece of furniture. Your stairs and railing give you the opportunity to actually design and create, from scratch, one of the most prominent and immovable centerpieces in your home.