Stylish Embellishments for Your Stairs

Written by  //  October 14, 2013  //  Stairways  //  1 Comment

If you are seeking to renovate your home by bringing in some styling flair, one overlooked area may be your home’s stairwell. Even in homes with sweeping staircases, there may be room for some improvement including with your choice of handrails, posts and the balusters used. Such an update can enhance the look of your stairs as well as add value to your home. We will look at the most common updates made and the options homeowners can review when undertaking this important home renovation project.

Elegant Handrails

Homes of distinction are outfitted with wood handrails, offering an elegant touch to any interior. In older homes, hand rails may be cracked, chipped, loose or broken, requiring much work to bring them back to their former look.

You may find it simply cheaper and more effective to replace your handrails with new ones made from mahogany, red oak, cherry or hard maple. Walnut, hickory, white or yellow pine, and lyptus are also available, to provide a distinctive look. 

Make a visual statement with your handrails by choosing a design the enhances the look of your home. Various styles and shapes are used including straight, rounded and block with various curves and other styling characteristics included

Wood or Iron Balusters

Balusters are what support handrails connecting with the bottom of the staircase and also serving as a protective barrier or a guard rail. They are also known as stair sticks or spindles, and may be made of wood or metal, such as iron.

Balusters typically are narrow pieces of wood or metal measuring 1.25 to 1.75 inches in diameter. The craftsmanship employed typically complements the handrail itself and sometimes offers a dramatic look that is the focal point of the stairwell itself.

Homeowners desiring to gain a unique look can have their balusters customized to suit their needs. The thicker balustrades are easily styled and offer more support. They also can dramatically complement newel posts, the main supporting post located at the top and bottom of the stairwell as well as on most landings. Consider the styles used in Greco-Roman and Victorian homes, using that look as the basis for your formal staircase.

Newel Posts

In most homes, the newel post at the foot of the stairs offers the most dramatic look for any staircase. It is also known as the center pole or the central supporting element for spiral staircases. Newels are typically elaborate and may include a finial, representing a decorative touch sitting on top of the newel.

All things considered, much attention must be given to making the newel the stand out piece for the entire staircase. If funds are limited, then your choice of baluster should be carefully considered. Like the handrails, the newel should project a stately and elegant look, one with a flair for the dramatic. 

Stairwell Considerations

When installing or renovating stairs, all safety flaws should be remedied and the staircase must be code compliant. Building codes may vary from community to community, but most staircases must be at least 36 inches wide. Most building codes require that stairwells not exceed 12 feet without a landing in place. Blueprints of your changes may have to be submitted to your town’s planning board.

Handrails are typically not allowed to project more than 4.5 inches on either side of the stairway. A minimum headroom of 6-feet, 8 inches is typically required from the base of the stairs to the ceiling. Risers should measure no more than 7.75 inches tall and tread depth should measure between 10 and 10.75 inches. Baluster height must measure at least 34 inches or at least 36 inches on a balcony. Your contractor will work to ensure that all building codes are followed and permits are acquired. A final inspection from your town’s planning board may be required.

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Arthur Salmeron is a freelance writer in Geneva, Illinois. He is an expert on all things architectural. In his spare time he for

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One Comment on "Stylish Embellishments for Your Stairs"

  1. MarkBaldwin March 24, 2015 at 10:14 am ·

    Thank you for the interesting post. Adding stylish balustrades to a staircase is definitely a striking way of creating a focal point in any room or building.

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