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Your handrail selection for your stair provides the necessary and obvious measure of safety, but it also adds a vertical element of beauty—an upright canvas with the opportunity of expression. This canvas is topped by your handrail.

What you choose to have your handrail made out of and how you choose to have that material shaped will dramatically affect the atmosphere generated by your stair. It’s not a decision you want to make on a whim if this stair is at all going to be central to any space in your home.

So before telling yourself that railing is just railing, take a moment to consider the height, material, style, and (one could even argue) comfort options available. It will also be something you’ll have to look at and be something you’ll have to run your hand on regularly.

Material Selection
One immediate factor to consider when selecting the material for your handrail is that this component is what really creates the curved effect for a spiral staircase. That’s the most prominent aesthetic element about a spiral stair. When the eye follows that curve, it’s the handrail that will act as the focal point. This is because it has the feel of a single continuous piece that’s smooth and graceful.

The material of that line can be strictly functional, but it can also possess a mild note of style and expression.

That expression can be made with:

* Black Vinyl
* Pre-Formed Round Polished Brass
* Pre-Formed Round Aluminum
* Solid Wood (Various Species)

Black vinyl is a simplistic approach, and very affordable. It works well with minimalist stair structures in a modern chic urban setting. Aluminum accomplishes the same look on a slightly more elevated scale. Both work well in industrial and modern locations.

For a more traditional look, a polished brass handrail adds an old-world note of class and charm. The shine is very eye-catching and certain to stand out in a well-lit room.

Solid wood is also a great way to achieve that note of traditional elegance in a space with classical style décor. It contrasts well with various wood tones in a room filled with wood furniture.

Indoor and Outdoor Needs
Knowing your décor style and what materials you think would match it best. It’s also important to take under consideration where your stair, and therefore your handrail, will live.

What materials look good inside won’t necessarily look the same or as good outside. Brass for instance, while a sharp addition to indoor spaces that are well-lit, is not a suitable material for outdoor settings. Brass isn’t the most corrosive resistant metal.

Aluminum and vinyl, however, are great for outdoor rail applications that will last. Plus, aluminum has the advantage of being powder coated either standard black or white or even a custom color. So it’s very easy to custom match to your setting’s color scheme.

You may not think it, but there are even some wood rail materials that work for outdoor applications. Salter offers handrails in the materials:

* Red Oak
* White Oak
* American Cherry
* Brazilian Cherry
* Maple
* Walnut
* Hickory
* Douglas Fir
* Pine
* Alder

for indoor, and:

* Teak
* Mahogany
* Cedar

for outdoor.

The three outdoor woods mentioned above work for that application because they are naturally rot resistant. Think about it: outdoor decks are often made of cedar. So outdoor stair components can last just as long as your deck with the proper upkeep.

Style Options
For Salter, each material comes in a standard round form, it’s just a matter of what shine, finish, or polish you prefer.

Except for wood. Wood can come in different cuts and shapes to match your preferred look. The nature of the material lends itself more easily to unique shapes than do metals or vinyl. So keep that in mind if you want to select from a wider range of shapes for your handrail.

Safety and Code Requirements
The primary factor that affects code requirements for your handrail is the height.

But code standards may not necessarily be your standards. Ask yourself what you’ll be using the stair for and how often. Also ask yourself who will be traversing this stair. When you ask yourself these things, then you can determine if you feel 34” suits your purposes. You may easily need it to be higher.

Grip and Comfort Concerns
Remember, all aesthetics aside, a handrail’s primary function is to support your hand and weight. You want this support to be comfortable and reliant. So it benefits you to determine for yourself what general shape, and texture, you like the most for gripping securely underneath your palm. Something with a bead and groove shape made for easy finger sliding is worth considering.

There are some other material by location concerns. If your space is particularly cool, such as a cellar or attic, then keep in mind that bare metal might become a little cool to the touch. So wood or vinyl might be the better option. Is your stair in a particularly sunny outdoor location? Then keep in mind that vinyl can become a little warm to the touch. An outdoor wood or aluminum might be the better decision.

If tactile temperature doesn’t concern you, then just keep in mind what materials last in what locations.

Structural Methods
One important factor to keep an eye out for in your railing is if it is a single solid piece. There are kits out there where the spiral stair railing is cut up into several sections that are then assembled. This creates a disjointed look in the lines of the stair and is much less solid structurally speaking overall. And your railing is not an area where you want to sacrifice structural solidity.

You also want to ensure your handrail connects to your spindles in a seamless and solid way, so the surface of each spindle is completely flush with the underside of the rail. Points where the connection isn’t flush will lead to a loose feel, which will lead to overall loosening of the handrail overtime. So check into the kind of connections used and how they’re engineered.

Cost Range
Whatever handrail you go with, just be conscious of the fact that different materials will have an influence over your final cost. And if you go with wood, different species and cuts will also have an influence over your final cost.

Before you do anything else, try to come up with an estimate of your budget. Don’t get hung up on an exact number. It’s better to create a working range with reasonable margins so you can be flexible. At the same time, though, know where you’re willing to flex. If it has to be wood it has to be wood, but you can pick less or more expensive species with similar finishes or grains that can be custom stained to have the look of more exotic species.

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