When you are building stairs and need a railing for the staircase itself, as well as for landings, balconies, and other peripheral areas, often the only option is for a craftsman to build custom railings. While this would undoubtedly give your house instant charm, for most homeowners the cost is prohibitive. But there is an alternative that is less expensive and, in many cases, can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer. This is a pre-configured option called a stair railing kit.
While you will... find no shortage of railing kits for exterior decks, there is a far smaller pool of products for interior staircases. These products range from simple, less expensive kits like the hemlock wood StairSimple, on up to the metal, more expensive Euro-styled products like Dolle USA's Prova and Arke's Inox or Nik lines. With prices ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to thousands, stair railing kits provide all the materials needed to rail stairs and balconies, keeping users safe and adding a distinctive design element to your staircase.
- Railing: Railing is the long part that you hold when walking up or down the stairs.
- Balusters: Balusters are vertical posts that rest in the base at bottom and railing at the top. Balusters do not provide substantial structural support for the railing. Rather, they are intended to prevent people or objects from falling through.
- Base or Shoerail: This is the long section at the bottom that parallels the railing. Balusters rest in the base.
- Newel: Newels are vertical support posts at the end of a staircase railing. Newels are both functional and decorative. Newels represent one of the strongest points in the staircase railing.
- Infill: 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 also be used as infill.
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Axxys kits consist of a run of hemlock railing, a base, metal balusters, pivoting connectors, and handrail connectors. Available from Home Depot, as well as other home centers, Axxys is one of the easiest to purchase and least expensive stair railing kits.
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. But the pivoting connectors are also one of this kit's weak points, as they are fairly unattractive and plastic.
Still, if you are in the market for staircase railings that you can put up in a day, StairSimple Axxys may be the way to go.
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Dolle USA's Prova staircase system is a line of slim, sleek Euro-styled stainless steel railings appropriate for both exterior and interior. The infill part of the railing is what distinguishes Prova from other stair railing kits: 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, another reason for installing a cable, tube, or glass railing system is its sleek, gleaming ultra-modern appearance.
This type of railing and infill system is especially valuable if you have a home with a view. Vacation houses, lakeside homes, seaside cottages, and mountain cabins all can benefit from having this style of railing on exterior decks.
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Arke stair railings can be obtained from US distributors, though its products are styled and produced in Italy. Arke is the US subsidiary of Albini & Fontanot.
Arke is mainly about spiral and modular stairs, but they have a number of stair railings kits, too. Named Lan, Nik, and Inox, their railings sound like something you would buy at IKEA. Lan is the most bargain-friendly offering from Arke and is a smooth, continuous railing system that can parallel any staircase configuration. The Nik is a more premium line that uses aluminum balusters, steel cables, and a wooden handrail. Nik is meant only for straight stairs or balconies.
If you like Prova's cable or tube infill design, but do not want the shiny steel, Arke's Inox line, with its brushed satin steel, might be what you want for your house. The Inox line's round balusters are joined with parallel tubes.