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 Actually, you probably don’t need one at all, but old, worn and outdated stairs can often use a little (or a lot) of freshening up.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
Hopefully you’ve seen your existing balustrade somewhere in the list. If not it may be glass or cable or some other system that falls into the “Other” category. Today, I’m going to begin with the most common balustrade type of the previous 50 years, ending about 10 years ago, the full wood balustrade. The first question that you should always ask when considering how to makeover your stairs and banisters is whether or not the system is safe and secure. I am going to assume in this series of articles that the changes you want to make are all to the balustrades appearance. Of course if you have safety concerns or even small issues such as rattling balusters or creaking steps, then you should address those as well. You can find related articles on such topics by searching through this blog.
I’m not going to worry about why you want to change the look of your stairs or balustrade, instead I’m just going to give you some ideas of how to make that happen. If you have a full wood stair there are several possibilities to enhance the look depending on which of the stair parts are still usable and if in fact you want to reuse them at all. So, here is what you can do.
Re Finish It may be that your existing stair and railing system is safe and secure and a little color variation may be all that you need for a beautiful makeover. It’s amazing what a difference this simple and inexpensive solution can be to what seemed an eyesore before. Stain and/or paint can make all the difference you need without adding or replacing any of your stair parts.
Replace Wood Balusters with Wrought Iron If your wood stair parts are all in good condition but you just want to update them you might consider swapping out the wood balusters for wrought iron balusters. Balusters are the largest visual space of the banister and wrought iron offers more detail and more intricate patterns than the typical wood designs available. This is primarily because a single type of wood balusters is usually repeated throughout the system while several different iron balusters are used to create more decorative patterns. This is a large impact, low price option because only the balusters need to be replaced. The Newel Posts, Handrails, Stair Treads, Landing Treads and Moldings are all reused and usually don’t even have to be removed at all.
Replace Newel Posts It may be that you have a good overall system but you just need to spice it up a little. Often this can be done by replacing the newel post at the start of the stair with a larger more ornate one or even just a larger version of those you already have. While some people do in fact replace all of the posts in a system, this starting newel when enlarged is called a Grand Newel and its prominent position makes it distinct from others in the balustrade. So, many times just the first newel (or the first two if both sides of the stair has balustrades) are upgraded to Grand Newels.
Add Stair Treads Upgrading from full carpeted steps to solid wood stair treads or false tread end caps is one of the biggest transformations from an outdated system you can make. With careful removal, all of the existing balustrade components can be saved and reinstalled atop the new treads. This takes a little more work, because the balustrade components have to be removed and reinstalled, but the difference is amazing as you can see from the following pictures.
Add Wood Handrail to Iron Balustrade If you have a wrought iron balustrade you may want to heat it up a little with a larger, warmer, beautifully grained wood handrail. This is another inexpensive way to add some color, tie your stair design in with other wood features of your home such as doors, hardwood floors and trim and generally enhance the cold look and feel of your iron banister.
Add Paneling Sometimes the stair and banister is fine but the enclosing wall is just too plain. Wainscot paneling is an addition that can have dramatic effects to add detail to an empty space. There are several options of paneling from simply adding molded boxes to the wall, to adding paneling with molded boxes to finally adding full raised paneled wainscot. Any of these options will beautifully enhance the enclosing wall.
Risers Risers are one of the most visually features of the stair when standing at the bottom. A simple and inexpensive renovation is to replace the carpeted risers with tile, stone or wood. Even just painting solid wood risers can have a dramatic brightening affect to the stair and the entire room.
Mix and Match Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to one of the above options. You can always add stair treads and repaint or add wrought iron balusters and paneling. Identify the problem areas then you can decide how far to go in enhancing them.
Starting Over The final option for making over your stair is to rip it out and start over. Perhaps none of the components are worth salvaging because they are just too outdated or damaged. It is even possible that you want to replace a pony wall with a new balustrade. In any of these cases, starting over is the only option. Still, a well-designed and installed balustrade is well worth the cost. We’ve all heard of the importance of curb appeal. It is a well- known fact, which you know if you’ve ever seen one of the many remodeling reality shows on television, that your entry is one of the most important spaces in your home. You can think of it as the “threshold appeal”, establishing the first (and last) impression of your home’s interior. Often your stair and balustrade are a prominent feature in this space. So whether you just want to upgrade for yourself or if you plan to sell, your stairs and balustrades offer a great opportunity to set the tone of your home’s interior.