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Alternatives to traditional stair banisters

Traditional stair banisters are made from wood and tend to either be stained wood or painted. However, there are many options for stair banisters, including metal, vinyl and speciality woods, such as bamboo. For contemporary staircases, there are even more alternatives that might look great, including aluminium, a mix of wood and metal and even glass.

Types of Materials

Traditional stair banisters, both in homes and office buildings, tend to be very functional rather than ornate. While a traditional banister may be made from oak, with the handrail and balusters made from the same material, alternatives to this look incorporate different types of materials.

Oak may be a popular wood, but there are hundreds of choices in types of woods to use in staircases, and each has its own particular grain and colouring. Bamboo has recently become a popular wood for both home and commercial use, because of its interesting patterns and durability.

Another popular alternative to traditional staircase banisters is the combination of different materials that might not normally be used in a staircase. For example, wrought iron or aluminium combined with a wood handrail at the top.

Some modern stair banisters are made of glass panels on the side with a simple metal or wood handrail or a curved easing that flows from one section of the stairs to the next. Others might have no handrail at all or a metal rod suspended from the ceiling, giving the staircase a floating look.

Another option might be to paint the newels and handrail in contrasting colours. Two or three different shades can be used for a unique look.

Unusual Designs

No matter what material is chosen for the staircase, the overall design can make a huge impact in the final look of a balustrade. Even traditional wood can take on an edgy look with the many different options in newels (the rods that run vertical from the handrail down to the stair tread). Wrought iron designs can encompass anything from leaves to infinity symbols.

One of the advantages to choosing a more modern, metal railing style is that metal tends to need little maintenance. Wood may need repainted over time or polished to retain its sheen.

Unique designs can give a home or office building a custom look. It is best to use an architect when coming up with a design for a staircase and banister. Some stair designs can be dangerous if all factors are not considered, so whether only the stair railing is being replaced or an entirely new staircase being designed, consult with a professional before installing.

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About the Author

Lori Soard has been a writer since 1995, covering a variety of topics for local newspapers and magazines such as "Woman's World." For five years, she served as a site editor for a large online information portal. Soard is also the author of several published books, both fiction and nonfiction.