While most of the time we spend at home is indoors, we also enjoy the fresh air outside our homes. New houses today have decks, patios and sometimes balconies like the one shown here. Where safety is a concern, building codes require the use of balustrades or railing systems.
When talking to your builder or remodeler, there's confusion about the industry terminology used to describe railings that offer both safety and decorative value.
What are Balustrades?
There are many confusing terms to describe the railing systems found on decks, porches, balconies and stairs. To understand these, let's start with the concept of a system. Just like doors which sit inside a door frame, railing systems have several components that work together:
- Vertical support balusters, spindles or pickets are decorative and functional. Building codes determine how much space is allowed between vertical support pieces to prevent a small child from slipping through and falling.
- Newel posts are heavier, vertical posts placed at regular intervals along the railing system. While balusters attach directly to the flooring below, posts support the top and bottom rails where spindles do not rest on the floor/ground below.
- Handrails are the top part of a railing system, the part we place our hands on for support. They are horizontal and/or slanted along stairs.
- Balustrades or banisters refer to the enter railing system above the stair treads and/or patio flooring. This includes the the newel posts, balusters and top handrail.
Railing Systems & Decisions You'll Make
What's outlined here are the most basic concepts and terminology used to describe railing systems. It might feel confusing but trust me, it's simple compared to the full set of 100 plus stair parts, which is overwhelming. Here are the decisions you'll make when adding/replacing stairs, decks, porches and balconies:
- Style of railing system that fits your house style and budget. This includes deciding if your balusters will connect to a bottom railing or the floor.
- Shape of individual parts from square spindles to elaborate, vase-like posts and railings.
- Materials from simple wood posts to elaborate wrought-iron or stone balusters. spindles.