Welcome to our guide to stair railing ideas for interior designs. Below we share a variety of stair railings including contemporary, traditional, rustic and modern designs.
For homes that have more than one level, stairs are important to make the house accessible. Just because they serve a specific function, however, doesn’t mean that they aren’t an important design feature in the home.
Stair railings in particular come with many options for materials and designs that you can use to set the tone for you house. Below, we are going to share our stair railing interior design guide to help you understand and choose from the best options.
Stair Railing Design
A beautiful stair railing should compliment the overall theme of your home and make a great first impression for guests as they enter. The most common design themes are modern, contemporary and traditional/rustic.
Modern stair railing follows the same prospects of other pieces of modern design. It is focused on a sleek, minimalist design. These types of railings usually aren’t very ornate and they don’t take up any more room than they absolutely need to.
While contemporary design sounds very similar as modern design by the definition of their names, there is a key difference. Modern design is more focused on sharp, defined corners whereas contemporary design uses softer, more rounded edges. In other words, a stair railing that curves into the wall rather than ends at a 90-degree angle would be a more contemporary design.
Rustic design is focused more on using the natural beauty of the world around you instead of leaning toward an industrialized design. So, if you wanted a rustic style home, you would probably lean toward solid wood instead of a metal or glass railing.
When you are installing railing in a basement, you should consider the function of your basement. If your basement is refurnished for regular occupation, you should look into railing like you would use anywhere else in your home. If it is simply for storage, a simple, inexpensive railing for safety and not looks is often used.
Many people choose a railing that is pre-made by a manufacturer, this isn’t your only choice. You can also work with a contractor to create a custom railing that complements your home specifically. In doing so, it’s important to note that you will accept an extra cost.
Types of Indoor Stair Railings
One of the most important details of a beautiful staircase is a well designed hand rail. Not only is a handrail essential for safety, it can become a focal point of your home’s foyer and contribute to the overall theme of the design. The most popular types of handrails currently being used today are wood, wrought iron, glass, and metal.
When referring to types of stair railings, many people are referring to the style of the railing. Oftentimes, style choices are influenced by the types of stairs you have – such as traditional or spiral – as well as the material used for the railing.
Wood is a classic choice for railing but the market has expanded over the years to include contemporary materials such as glass and a variety of different metals. Below we will take a deeper look into each of these materials.
Metal Stair Railing
Metal stair railing has become a popular choice but “metal” in and of itself is not very specific since there are several types of metals that might be used.
The first option you have is wrought iron railing. These are a popular option as wrought iron is often used for ornate designs. You can depend on wrought iron to stay well-kept throughout the years, since wrought iron is often coated to keep out dirt and moisture.
The next option is stainless steel railing. This is popular because it is one of the most inexpensive types of metal stair railing. Despite it’s relatively lower price, stainless steel is still strong and stylish.
Cable stair railing is another commercially leaned upon option thanks to its durability. This type of railing is characterized by its horizontal “cables” instead of vertical posts like traditional stair railings.
Of the three primary types wrought iron is more expensive than stainless steel or cable stair railing.
Wood Stair Railing
Wood stair railings are one of the most popular types of railings. They are typically associated with a regal, traditional look as in many libraries and historical homes. Because of this, wood stair railings are often used in government buildings and homes that want a higher-end design.
It is important to note, though, that wood railings don’t have to be ornate in their styling. If you would prefer a simple wood railing, they can be made without excessive detail or superfluous design. The material they are made of is usually what sets a regal tone, not a complicated design.
As far as the materials used in wood stair railing, oak and cedar are most popular. Behind that, teak and mahogany are popular substitutes.
Painting a wood railing is an effective way to brighten a space or to match trim, wainscoting and moldings in the space for a cohesive design.
Glass Stair Railing
A newer idea for stair railing is glass railing. This type of railing is a little different than other types. Instead of being made with vertical posts of glass like you might see with wood or metal railings, glass railings are usually made with panes of glass.
These are an interesting choice because they are often used to give the appearance of there being no railing while still providing the same safety features of other materials. The major drawback to this type of railing, though, is the cost.
This modern transitional kitchen and dining room features a floating frosted glass baluster staircase with chrome hand railing.
A unique option for stair railing can sometimes depend on the stairs themselves. Spiral staircases, for example, are a particularly distinct design that are often used for smaller rooms that can not accommodate large staircases. Pretty much any design that can be used on a standard staircase can be used on a spiral staircase although the labor for installation may command a higher cost.
Spiral staircases often feature two interesting elements called cut stringers and winders. Cut stringers are the open sided carriage that is the main framing member running diagonal to support spiral stairs. Winders are steps which are narrower on one side than on the other which are commonly used in a spiral design. A set of winders form the circular steps for a circular staircase.
The cost of a spiral staircase depends on its size, material used and quality. However, as a generalization you can find spiral staircases for as low as $600 up to $20,000.
Stair Railing Height
When it comes to measuring your stair railing, you should take a look at the building codes for stair rails. While many of your home projects such as simple paint jobs or changing the flooring don’t concern building codes, jobs like installing stair railing or plumbing do. So, here’s a quick guide to help you get started.
The first thing that needs to be defined here, though, is stair railing versus stair guards. Simple stair railing has to do with the railing that works on an incline that you might hold onto to help go up and down the stairs safely. Stair guards or guard railing, on the other hand, is usually installed on flat flooring such as a landing.
As far as height, the handrail should be 34 to 38 inches high. This measurement is from the stair nosing to the railing. The stair nosing is the typically defined as the front of the stair step or tread on the edge of the step.
The railing shouldn’t protrude from the wall more than 4 ½ inches. This is important because you don’t want your railing to take up space in the walking path of your stair railing. This can prove to be a safety hazard, especially in instances when someone is carrying items with them up and down the stairs.
However, the stair railing should be no less than 1 ½ inches from the wall either. This number comes from the fact that you have to make sure that someone using the stairs could run their hand up the railing the entire way. Once again, this is to ensure safety on the stairway. While it isn’t a part of building code, most homeowners choose to place handrail brackets in such a position that they get in the way of hand movement on the railing.
If you have railings on either side of your stairs, you should make sure they are no closer than 27 inches apart. This, much like the conditions for railing distance from the walls, is to ensure that the stairway does not become too narrow for safety. The minimum railing distance if you have one railing and an opposite wall sits at 31 ½ inches.
Finally, the guard railing height has a minimum of 36 inches. This measurement is to ensure that people on the landing of the stairs don’t fall and injure themselves. If the landing on your stairs is more than 30 inches off the ground, a guardrail must be installed.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Stair Railing?
When you decide that you want to replace your stair railing, you will need to know how much of an investment this is. Typically, the cost of installation is paid per hour and installation takes about a day of work. The average cost of labor is situated from $60 to $100 an hour. The cost of labor can differ depending on the rate of the company you work with and how difficult the installation is. As expected, more manually difficult installations will cost more.
The rest of the cost of replacing a stair railing is dependent on what material you use and how much of it you need for the railing. A wood stair railing is on the lower scale of costs with the cost of 50 feet of material being as low as $750. Glass railing can be the most expensive choice for stair railing with the same amount of material costing up to $40,000 for a custom design.
Stair Railing Kits
If you are interested in DIY stair railing, you might want to consider a stair railing kit. These are particularly good for homeowners who are interested in installing their own stair railings but aren’t interested in or don’t know how to build your own from scratch. Each kit comes with everything you need to install and instructions.
Aluminum handrail kit – See at Amazon
We will take a look at some simple instructions to install stair railing below.
Stair Railing Installation
When you want to install stair railing, the first thing you will need is measuring tape. This is, of course, because you want the stair railing to run the length of the stairs. The best way to do this is to hook the tape measure at the bottom of the stairs and measure the distance following up the steps. Since railing doesn’t usually stop and begin exactly at the end of the stairs. It is best to add 6 inches to your measurement so you have a 3-inch buffer at each end of your stairs.
You will also need a stud finder. This is because to hold your railing up, you will need to install handrail brackets. These handrail brackets should be, at most, 48 inches apart but you can usually find a specific recommendation on the hardware you are using. Make sure to mark where you find these studs.
Next, you will want to find the bracket height. To do this, you will want to lean the railing upside down up the stair. This way, you can line the railing up with the stud marks. Then, you can use a carpenter’s square to make sure you line up the screw holes on the bottom of the railing correctly. Be sure to measure the length the bracket and mark that many inches below the handrail height so once you screw it in, you’ll have the height you desire. If you use single-hole brackets, you will have an easier time installing them.
When you are ready to put the railing on the wall, it’s important to make sure that everything lines up correctly. A good way to do this is to take each area you marked earlier and highlight it by using plenty of tape. This gives you a clear indicator to ensure that your measurements match up the way you need them to.
From here, you can simply start to drill the railing into the wall. Of course, this is only a basic guideline. If you are looking to install a customized railing, for instance, the process might differ. Your best bet is to double check with any manufacturer’s notes that might come with your stair railing before you get started.
How Many Stairs Before a Handrail Is Required?
A handrail is required when you are working with a staircase with four risers or more. It’s important to note that this say four “risers” not four “steps.” This is crucial because it means you need to count the level of the next floor as a step.
As a general rule of thumb hand rails should be between 34” and 38” inches. To get this measurement you can measure from the edge of the stair straight up to the rail. Measuring further in toward the step may provide an improper result.
The stair rail should also project no more than 4 ½ inches from the wall that it is mounted on. The minimum distance a rail should have for clearance between the rail and wall is 1 ½ inches to provide adequate room for holding the railing.
Furthermore the minimum distance between two railings should be no less than 27 inches. This provides adequate room for a person to climb the stairs while carrying items without hindrance. If your staircase only has one outside rail and a wall on the other side the minimum distance should be no less than 31 ½ inches.
For outdoor landings, balconies, porches or decks it’s necessary to have a minimum height of 36” inches for guardrails when a drop off is more than 30” inches in height. For exterior decks or landings with less than 30” of height it is up to the builders discretion as whether or not to build railings. However, it is advisable that guardrails are added to avoid potential injury.
Painting Stair Rails
The first thing you should do when you are painting railing is to put primer on it and let it dry. Then, you should sand the railing down to ensure a smooth surface for the paint. Make sure to clean the dust from sanding before you paint.
Watch this video on how to paint stair railings:
Once you start painting, you should be as thorough as painting anything else and just as careful – using drop cloths and the like to prevent messes.
Below we share our gallery of interior stair railings including all types of materials and styles.
Contemporary Metal Railing
This contemporary foyer features a staircase with black metal railing and silver cable supports. The stairs themselves utilize the same hardwood floor and carry it upstairs. Another interesting feature is the frosted glass & wood front door with horizontal slats.
Modern Glass with Floating Steps
This modern house showcases floating steps with glass balusters as the room’s focal point. The living room with porcelain tile flooring throughout offers an abundance of natural light with floor to ceiling windows.
Wood Handrail with White Balusters
This traditional formal living room with hardwood floor features a staircase with wood railing and white balusters and carpeted steps.
Decorative Wrought Iron
This contemporary entryway shows off a gorgeous wrought iron staircase railing with black granite steps. The room itself shows a bit of glam with silver patterned wallpaper and white porcelain floors with hanging mirrors and leather furniture.
Here is the second floor with closer detail on the wrought iron metal railing with decorative glass art deco chandelier.
This decorative steel railing has a wood hand rail.
This Mediterranean style loft bedroom has a wrought iron railing with wood steps leading up to a second floor sitting area.
This contemporary living room features a modern wrought iron railing with detailed support balusters. A portable home bar cart takes up the space against the stairs wall. Check out this page for more under stairs ideas for storage and decor.
This grand entryway showcases a beautiful wrought iron staircase with a matching double front door.
Wrought Iron & Wood Railing
An elegant luxury home foyer with a curving staircase with metal and wood railings leading to a second floor landing.
This foyer leads to a carpeted staircase with metal balusters and polished wood handrails.
Iron with Wood Support
Dual Staircase with Decorative Wrought Iron
Modern Solid Glass with Tree Design
Vertical Metal Supports
Traditional Staircase with White Balusters
Wrought Iron Spiral Staircase
Stainless Steel Stair Railings
Stainless steel railings are an attractive option for a variety of home styles. Often used outdoors due to their weather resistant qualities, stainless steel is durable and looks stylish. The cost of stainless steel stair railings are around $110 per linear foot not including installation.
This contemporary staircase with stainless steel railings has impressive looking wood floating steps. The steps tie in perfectly with the wood accents found in the support pillars, foyer flooring and kitchen island facade.
Spiral Staircase in Library
Modern Metal Railing Designs
Metal Balusters & Wood Steps
French Provincial Railing with Travertine Staircase Steps
This beautiful foyer features a French Provincial style staircase railing with travertine steps.
Chain Link Staircase Railing
Wood Top Rail
This staircase has a wooden top rail with crisscrossing wood supports and a metal wire railing system.
Custom Disney Mickey & Minnie Mouse Stair Railing
This custom Disney inspired stair railing features Mickey and Minnie mouse. Perfect for a kids game room or family room, a custom stair railing can bring in your own personal flair and add character to a space.
Log Cabin Staircase
Rustic Wood Staircase Railing
(1) Tuscan Estate from Vimeo (Creative Commons License)
(2) Tuscan Estate from Vimeo (Creative Commons License)
(3) Penthouse from Vimeo (Creative Commons License)
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For more pictures of staircase railings, visit our gallery of foyer designs for more ideas.