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Wood Banisters

Wooden railings and handrails can be used on the exterior and interior of buildings to form banisters that surround balconies, serve as staircase railings, and make up balustrades. The railings are sometimes plain squares, but they are frequently turned on a lathe to form a wide variety of decorative designs that give the banisters a distinctive architectural quality. Specialty manufacturers make these banisters, which are usually installed on site according to the length of the railing required.

If you are thinking of buying wooden banisters, consider the following:

  • Interior banisters can be made from high quality pine, especially if they will be painted. Cheaper synthetic woods are also available. You may want to consider other woods if the banister is to be stained or clearcoated.
  • Better quality banisters are made from a single piece of wood, not from two pieces joined together with finger joints.
  • Wooden banisters produced for interior use are generally not suitable for exterior locations. Exterior banisters need to be protected from the damage caused by rain, the sunís ultraviolet light, and temperature changes that will otherwise cause the wood to deteriorate over time. Exterior banisters should be made from rot resistant woods such as cedar, oak, teak, ipe (Brazilian walnut), mahogany, or pressure treated lumber. These woods will eventually weather to produce a pleasing patina, or they can be painted or sealed for even more protection.
  • Thinner banisters are suitable for colonial style houses, and these are frequently painted. Tudor and Victorian style buildings often have thicker, more elaborate banister turnings made from woods such as oak, which are stained with a natural wood finish. Rich looking mahogany is a popular choice for grand mansions. Contemporary style structures often have plain banisters that can be combined with metal for a robust, natural look.

Manufacturers carry a wide range of banister styles in stock patterns, but it is also possible to order custom made designs that can include special decorative symbols. If you are restoring an historic building, it may be necessary to commission custom work in order to duplicate the banisters that already exist in the structure.

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