The coolest option is for your local woodworker to build and install custom railings. Wouldn't we all like that? I've priced out this project with local craftsmen, and while I believe the cost is worth it, I'm not ready to pay that price.
What about staircase railing kits? You'll find no shortage of railing kits for exterior (decks), but a far smaller pool of products for interior. Here are the fruits of my labors:
(See Bottom of Page for Stairs Terminology)
The beauty of Axxys and similar kits is the pivoting connector for the balusters. This helps you avoid the difficulty of drilling angled holes in the base. It's also one of the weak points: the connectors are unattractive and plastic. It doesn't help that the balusters are hollow metal.
Yet if you want quick, simple railings, StairSimple may be the way to go.
RailPro has a bit more flexibility: you can order hemlock or oak, traditional or contemporary styles, 4" or 6" baluster spacing, and two different heights.
RailPro is a more elegant offering, in my opinion, than Axxys. But it's more difficult to obtain. While you can pick up StairSimple online or at Home Depot, RailPro involves a convoluted ordering process through L.J. Smith. RailPro's ancient brochure attests to the fact that they seriously need to update their offerings.
The real highlight of RailPro is the way the balusters invisibly attach to the base/shoerail. They nearly look like they were built in place by a carpenter.
The infill part of the railing is what distinguishes Prova from other railing systems: tensioned cable, tubes, or clear plastic acrylic panels.
Prova advertises that its systems help to show off the view behind the railing. While this may be true, I believe that you install a cable, tube, or glass railing system in order to show off that system. You really have to like shiny stainless steel, because that's the only kind of post (newel) they offer.
Prova's poor website instills zero confidence in ordering direct from that manufacturer. No fear: Lowe's carries Prova products. While Prova is not at Lowe's stores, you can find it on Lowes.com. Bonus for U.S. homeowners, on Lowes.com you pay in dollars, not Euros.
Arke is mainly about spiral and modular stairs, but they have a number of stair railings, too. Named Lan, Nik, and Inox, their railings sound like something you would buy at IKEA.
If you like Prova's cable or tube infill design, but don't want the shiny steel, Arke's Inox line, with its brushed satin steel, might be just the ticket.
Stairs TerminologyNote on stairs terminology:
- Railing: The long part that you hold when walking up or down the stairs.
- Balusters: Vertical posts that rest in the base at bottom and railing at top. Balusters do not provide substantial structural support for the railing. Rather, they are intended to prevent people or objects from
- Base or Shoerail: Long section at bottom that parallels the railing. Balusters set into the base.
- Newel: Large vertical support posts at the end of a staircase railing.
- Infill: Not commonly used, this general term refers to the sections between newel posts that prevent people or objects from falling out. Usually balusters are infill, but horizontal cables or tubes, or clear acrylic, can be used as infill, too.