Stair Detail

Stairway balusters first hit the scene back in the 16th century.

They got their name because one type (seen above) looked like an unopened flower and became known in Italy as a “balaustra” which means “pomegranate flower.”  

Back then, balusters were made out of marble or bronze, whereas today they’re usually wood or some kind of stone. Looking at a baluster is a great way of figuring out when a structure was built since their sizes and styles have changed so much over the years.

Today, there are two types of baluster installations: tread-oriented or rail-oriented. In the first case, the balusters are placed corresponding to the tread. This makes any ornamental sections sit level to each other.

In a rail-oriented installation, the baluster is placed parallel to the handrail instead, which means the decorative areas are at a slope.

For this project, the homeowner wanted a tread-oriented installation.

Finally, some stairways have two balusters per tread, and some have three. Either way is fine, but most codes mandate that balusters must be placed no more than 4” apart. This is to prevent a young child’s head from becoming caught in the space. 

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