Sometimes people use the terms handrail and banister interchangeably. Two components make up a banister. The piece that runs across the top of the banister is referred to as the handrail. The balusters, the posts that run beneath the handrail, give it support. Banisters come in a variety of diverse styles and materials. The choice of a banister can either enhance or detract from your home's appearance.
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A banister provides safety and security when using a staircase or balcony. A person runs her hand along a handrail while ascending or descending a staircase to guide her steps. A banister used on a balcony or stair landing prevents a fall, which can result in serious injury. When choosing a banister for a high-traffic area, a durable material should be used, and the banister should be mounted securely.
Traditionally wood has been the choice for banisters in the home. Woods such as oak, cherry, hickory, mahogany, walnut and maple can be intricately carved and topped with handrails that complement the style. Concrete and wrought iron have been generally restricted to outdoor use because of their resistance to water and the elements. On occasion, in large mansions or castles, wrought iron combined with limestone and marble make for a dramatic staircase.
Since a staircase is often the first thing guests see when entering your home, it should match the overall decor of the home. A wood staircase with varnished-wood square balusters would complement a Craftsman look. A traditional staircase always looks good with painted white balusters topped by a varnished-wood railing. Some contemporary homes feature highly polished stainless banisters. A style that has been used in many new home designs is a wood handrail atop decorative wrought-iron balusters.
Prefabricated banisters of different materials can be purchased at home improvement shops. Carpenters can design and build custom wood banisters to match your decor. You can have a talented welder sculpt iron into a banister that will serve as a piece of art for your staircase. The options are endless, but when selecting, keep in mind that the prefabricated banisters cost less because they are mass-produced.
When choosing a banister for an open staircase, two banisters will be needed, one for each side of the staircase. For a banister intended for a small closed-in staircase, a simple straight handrail of wood or metal can be attached to the wall. If you cannot purchase a new banister, consider updating the one you have by changing the colour of the stain or the paint.
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