A stairway is a structure that offers function and style. Many homeowners want to renovate their stairs and rails not only for both beauty and value. If you are considering upgrading your stairs and railings, here are a few things you need to know before you get started.
Whether you are considering rebuilding your entire staircase or just want to change out the railings or balusters, hiring a qualified stairs and rails contractor is key. A contractor will guide you through the entire process that may include, but is not limited to:
- Taking accurate measurements.
- Designing a new and improved layout of the staircase.
- Presenting a wide variety of supplies and materials available in the market.
- Showing you samples of all types of wood, railings, balusters and newels, accessories and fittings.
- Exhibiting pictures of previous projects.
In most cases, upgrading a staircase requires design, custom-ordered supplies and custom building that only experienced carpenters and contractors can provide, so it’s not recommended for the weekend DIY-er.
Custom jobs, such as those that require custom-fitted glass panels, may require more than one contractor involved in the project. A balustrade installed over wooden staircases may only require the presence of carpenters, which in many cases the job is handled by the same contractor, as opposed to a balustrade installed over tile or marble staircase, which will require the presence, input and cooperation of a flooring contractor.
If you have never been involved in construction, remodeling or interior design, chances are you have never heard stairs and rails jargon. Here are a few keywords that will help you understand what your contractor is saying, or better yet, allow you to speak with confidence when you ask for a quote:
- Tread: The top or horizontal surface of a stair upon which the foot is placed.
- Riser: The vertical face of a step.
- Stringer: The inclined boards in which the treads and risers are enclosed.
- Step: One unit of a stair, consisting of a riser and a tread.
- Handrail: The gripping surface where you hold on to for support. The handrail is molded following the pitch of the staircase and connects to the top of the balustrade.
- Newels: A solid rectangular or circular section of vertical post at the center and at regular turns and junctions of the rail system. Also known as posts, they are the support system of the handrail.
- Balusters: A turned, carved and typically decorative vertical section placed between the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer, used to fill the open area between these two elements. It adds safety, support and stability to the balustrade.
- Balustrade: The framework formed by the combination of rail, newels and balusters.
- Fittings: These are the fixtures added to the sections of a handrail. Used at the beginning and end of a balustrade or wherever the handrail changes height or direction.
A wide variety of styles and materials can be combined to design and create a staircase. An image search on the Internet for stairs design styles and materials will help you get an idea of many possible material combinations. From the traditional look of wooden posts and balusters to a more elaborate approach with forged-iron balusters or contemporary glass panels, there are lots of combinations and choices for all tastes and budgets.
Some popular combinations are:
- Wooden handrail, wooden posts, wooden balusters.
- Wooden handrail, wooden posts, forged-iron balusters.
- Stainless steel handrail, tempered glass panels.
An experienced contractor can guide you through this process by showing you pictures of previously executed projects or offering you physical samples or catalogs of products.
Like any home renovation, a stairs and rails upgrade requires planning ahead. In some cases, the material needed for the renovation might be in stock and immediately available for installation, but some other jobs may need several weeks for installation and completion. Custom builders and contractors may have to obtain the material from a supplier localized cross-country or even overseas.
If you have previous experience in home renovation projects, you may be able to tackle and do your own railings upgrade. However, always make sure to take all variables into consideration in order to make the renovation process as smooth as possible without any major complications or unexpected events along the way.