Big homes like balustrade systems. If you have a fine curved stairway that vanishes into a second-floor balcony, you need a balustrade as a handrail on the stairs and a balustrade to protect your family and guests from falling from the balcony. Balustrades make people feel safe and, indeed can protect them.
The Culture of Balustrades
A balustrade is a string of balusters which support a rail on top. The balusters is a curved column--classically, with flat bottoms and tops and graceful curved, lathe-turned forms in between. They are also called "spindles" or "stair sticks." The word "baluster" comes from the Italian word, "balaustra" which translates as pomegranate flower. The traditional baluster was shaped like a partially opened flower bud. The same shape could be seen in candlesticks and in furniture. Many, but not all, modern balusters still have the ovular flower-bud shape.
The balustrade is representative, and perhaps, symbolic of the world of columns. In a way, the balustrade is a line of columns that line balconies and stairways to decorate them and add a hand-hold and barrier to prevent falls. They appear everywhere where there is danger of falling from some height. They have to be well installed and able to hold the weight of people leaning on them, or even climbing on them.
In many modern designs, balustrades have been replaced by a contemporary counterpart, the banister. Banisters serve the same function but have done away with the classic row of columns design, and replaced the columns with glass partitions, wire rails, lattices (sometimes called "threads), or simple thin metal handrails with nothing underneath. There are endless variations of banisters, some balusters are not formed but consist of square wooden posts, but many balustrades cling to the classic design and their timeless classic quality.
Installing a Balustrade
Whether you call them balustrades or banisters, the stair and balcony protective barriers have to be carefully installed. In the United States, stairways are most often installed during construction of the building. In the UK, staircases are premade in a joinery chop and delivered partially assembled to the building site. Where the stairway comes from a shop, often the balustrade (or handrails, newel posts, and spindles) will be ready to assemble. The construction of the staircase and balustrade are subject to several regulations (different for residential and commercial or public buildings). Newell posts connect the railings firmly to the building structure.
Balustrades are available, ready for installation, in a wide range of materials. Metal (steel and other metals) hollow and solid balusters can be found. However, the heavier materials are usually recommended for outdoor use. Railings come in many materials as well, many recommended for outdoor use. Weathering is always a concern for outdoor railings and balusters.
Synthetic materials like polyurethane, polymers and fiberglass may represent the best choices for both indoor and outdoor balusters. They don't rust or corrode. The finishes are essentially permanent. They are tough, rigid and strong relative to their weight.
You can buy balusters pre-measured in polyurethane, polymer stone, and fiberglass for residential or commercial buildings. They can be painted or have a finish installed. The baluster systems are surrounding reinforcement made of galvanized steel pipe or tough PVC pipe to ensure that their strength meets building codes. The balustrades are to be be connected to newel posts to ensure stability. The balusters are screwed into the upper and lower rails of the balustrade.
Balusters come in a range of shapes from the classic lathe-turned look to clean round dowel shapes or square-shaped posts lined with metal.``
Rails, caps, and trim collars also come in a range of shapes from clean modern profiles to more ornate profiles.
Newel posts come as simple rectangular forms or more elaborate frame shapes.