Guide to stair layout considerations, stair design and handrail options.

If you are reading this then you are likely looking for a continuous handrail along your stairs and landings, with free flowing elegant transitions and terminations.

Stair layout considerations

For the stair layout the first consideration is often the feature termination on the ground floor, unless the balustrade starts at a lower level and flows onto the ground floor. For a nice flowing termination scroll, or volute, it helps to have a generous first tread. This can be achieved by making it wider than the subsequent stairs and it can be enhanced by making it a bit deeper, either overall or by coming back to overlap with part of the footprint of the second tread. We can fit a flowing volute on most layouts but the extra bit of space helps with the natural flow and creates room for a generous feature newel post or spindle layout. For very complex layout requirements please see our complex steel stairs section.
To facilitate flowing transitions further up the stairs it helps to have some radius on any sharp changes of direction. On stairs with a rectangular layout his can either be achieved by not sitting the balustrade too close to the edge or by making sure that there are no spindles right on the corner. For stairs with a round or oval layout this is obviously not an issue.

Open or closed treads, core rail and handrail construction

Another big decision is whether to go for open or closed treads. Open treads tend to work well with individual spindles or balusters, whereas a closed tread or stringers will often work well with a more flowing balustrade design. On cast concrete stringers we will often supply a flowing base rail for you to plaster up to to ensure that the flow at the top and bottom of the balustrade work in harmonie with each other.
Most of our balustrades are built with a steel core rail along the top of the balustrade design that has been chosen. Apart from being far stronger than relying on the strength of a timber handrail alone, it also allows for very tidy engineered connections between the balustrade and the handrail. This core rail is then capped by the handrail you have selected.

Handrail material options

Moving on to handrails, the cheapest option is obviously to have straight handrails between timber newel posts. For flowing handrails the cheapest option is to have steel handrails, followed by stainless steel and aluminium handrails. In both cases the choice of handrail profile is limited to what is available off the shelf.
For the best choice of profiles and finishes we recommend timber or brass handrails. Both tend to come out at a similar price, although we can be a bit more flexible on the brass option as they are produced in-house.

Timber handrail details

For flowing timber handrails we work with a number of specialist sub-contractors. They can be produced in a range of timbers and the final finish can be matched to other items in the house if required, there is a profile library of popular shapes and bespoke profiles can also be accommodated. Survey, manufacture, installation and finishing will be after the balustrades have been installed which adds 3 to 6 weeks to the build time.

Metal handrail details

We hot set steel, stainless steel, brass, manganese bronze and aluminium profiles to follow the flowing core rails already produced, which means that they can come to site at the same time as the balustrades. The brass handrails can be supplied with a mirror polished finish or with a variety of patina finishes ranging from antique brass to aged bronze.
There are a number of smaller brass and manganese bronze profiles available off the shelf, these will be joined with joinings sleeves which will sit proud of the handrail. We have developed a range of attractive, more substantial, solid profiles up to 66×32mm which can be joined by our proprietary clamping system. This allows for clean joins without any ridges.
Should you want a different profile to the ones we already have tooling for we can have a bespoke profile extruded especially for your project.

Bespoke bronze handrail profiles

Bronze handrails and bespoke steel or stainless steel profiles: these can be accommodated but the profile will have to be machined or hot forged, both of which are significantly more expensive than any of the options outlined above. We are aware of some companies advertising bronze extruded handrail profiles but as far as we can tell these are high tensile brass rather than any of the true bronzes.