Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Stair Railings: The Gateway to Your Home

Are the stair railings or hand railings in your home portraying a beauty of craftsmanship and functionality as they are meant to?
Take a good look when you walk into your home. If you have a stair railing going to another level in your home more times then not it is the first thing people will see when they walk into your home. The craftsmanship of a wood stair railing often tells the story of quality for the finish carpentry work throughout the house. Like it or not sometimes this craftsmanship and quality is compared to the type of person you are by some people the same way as being judged for the tidiness of the house or yard or even the type of car you drive. I would venture to say pride means a lot to the vast majority of us and we like to be judged favorably no matter what it is.
Safety First
With all the ways people are being sued these days safety of a hand railing is critical. The railing first needs to meet some standards of strictly enforced codes. These codes are set and enforced by OSHA. OSHA stands for: Occupational Safety and Health Administration and its role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health.

I recently wrote an e-book on how to build your own handrail and these codes are outlined with formulas and techniques that are easily understood to meet these OSHA codes in the process of building a hand railing.

A few of these important OSHA codes that you could easily check with your stair railing to be sure it is in compliance are the height of the railing and the correct spindle spacing. Let's say for example a railing which is built next to a stair way. OSHA wants the very top of the hand railing to be no lower then 36" and no higher then 38". The way to measure this height is to put the start or end of a tape measure at the very outside point of a stair tread next to the railing and measure exactly straight up from that point. Be sure to be going up exactly straight or plumb and the use of a level is recommended to get an accurate reading of the tape measure for this distance between the stair tread and the top of the railing.

The next code that is critical and should not be over looked and also is strictly enforced is the spacing of the balusters or spindles. This is an important one especially if there would be little kids around. OSHA wants these balusters or spindles spaced at no more then 4" apart. For turned or round spindles that means 4" between the skinniest part of the spindles.

Another safety item would be to make sure the stair railing is sturdy and not wobbly. Unfortunately this is not as easy to fix as one would think. Depending on the situation with a little understanding of how a railing is built and a few strategically placed screws you can get it firm within reason regarding this aspect. The use of the right sized screws and how it is screwed is also important in this situation. Sturdiness is one reason why the use of glues and construction adhesive is used in the process of building a hand railing today.
Craftsmanship and Beauty
To enhance the beauty of your stair railing there are a few things you can do. A real easy way is to clean the wood with Murphy’s oil. Furniture polish will also work well just be sure the wood is sealed and the directions are followed with these products.

Another way is to give the wood another coat of varnish. There are many types and brands of varnish out there and different application methods. It would be highly recommended to do some research or just talk to people who sell or work with products in the painting industry. These people are usually pretty knowledgeable and can help out tremendously for the correct amount to buy and the application method for your particular situation.

Other things you may run into with your hand railings are small gaps at the joints of the railing. An example of this may be where the hand railing meets the newel post or other various joints throughout the railing. These small gaps are a result of a multitude of contributing factors and not necessarily bad craftsmanship. To get a better understanding of these factors I recently wrote an article about understanding wood shrinkage and this explains some of the variables which concern these problems. To fix these little imperfections I recommend a wood filler that matches the stain of the wood. The right color wood filler makes these little imperfections virtually invisible.

In conclusion, stair railings create the flow that leads into your home. Be creative while giving attention to the beauty and safety of your hand railings and your efforts will be appreciated and felt for years to come.

Pat Fisher is a professional carpenter and woodworking craftsman. For more information on finish carpentry and household carpentry projects, visit and pick up your free eBook.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Building Hand Railings; The DIY Trap

Finish carpentry and building hand railings has given me some interesting and some times humorous experiences. I call this the DIY trap. With my experience the trap usually occurs with more advanced trimming projects like a hand railing. I have rescued a few homeowners out of this trap and here is one experience of the DIY trap.

I received a phone call one afternoon. It was a friend of mine he was very persistently asking me if I could help him out this week-end. We traded favors back and forth all the time so I agreed. The story goes; his dad who is retired and is a modest DIY’er that had pretty much built his own house from the Finish carpentry and building hand railings has given me some interesting and some ground up actually needed the help. One of the last projects in this house which never got completed for years was the hand railing going up to the upper level.

One day his dad spotted a picture in a magazine portraying a beautiful elegant hand railing and decided that this was the one to build in his house. Being the DIY’er he was he promptly started ordering all the materials with out doing any research or asking for help or advice. The materials for this hand railing came at a hefty price, as this was going to be a higher end railing but his mind was made up.

Soon the materials started arriving. He was extremely anxious to get started and had two weeks to finish this project before leaving on a vacation. What happened in the next two weeks is typical of a homeowner relying on common sense to carry him through a project that requires research and knowledge that goes beyond common sense.

Now I know this man fairly well and he is the type of person who rarely loses his temper over anything. Needless to say my friend explained the atmosphere around him over the past two weeks went from one extreme of being happy and determined to a more tense and apparent aggravated state to a quiet period and finally to utter misery, uncertainty and just pure disgust.

The DIY trap got him. He didn’t know what to do. He did not know how or even if he could move forward with the project yet he would not go back and redo what he did. He was extremely upset and disappointed by the time he and his wife left on vacation with expensive hand railing parts laying all over and worse yet an unfinished hand railing without knowing how to proceed.

My folks are gone and I want this to be a surprise my friend explained. I was actually pretty excited to do this project. I could save his dad from a lot of anxiety and I knew I could build exactly what he had pictured in his mind provided he had the same and right materials according to the picture.

I arrived on site, walked in the door to meet my friend and take an assessment of the situation. It was instantly apparent to me that his dad had struggled quite hard with what was done with the railing. String lines were put up apparently where the top rail would go, papers were laying around with math figures scribbled on them which I believe was him trying to figure out the angle of the stair way. Two newel posts were mounted that were not sufficiently solid and sturdy yet had as many as 10 screws in each one. Other obvious evidence told me of the anxiety he must have gone through.

Unfortunately everything had to be undone and starting over was essential. Obviously he had no prior knowledge of this type of project nor did any research before or during the process. Let me see the picture I said.

Next we did an assessment of all the hand railing parts. Everything seemed to be there and match the picture also we were able to reuse almost all the materials. Almost is the key word. Unfortunately a critical error was made when he was measuring for the top rail and he cut it too short for the span we needed to cover. No wonder he was upset. Off to the lumber yard we go to see if we could match this certain style of hand railing as I don’t believe a wood stretcher is invented yet.

Yes, we were able to get a close match but it was a costly mistake. This particular piece of top rail was $85 for the length we would need. This was at the time a style that I had never built before. It had a variety of different decorative iron balusters with a wood top rail and of course wood newel posts. We went back and built this hand railing and it turned out extraordinarily nice. It was almost a mirror image of the railing in the picture.

My friend and I were extremely happy with our work when we were finished. I had to stand and look at it for a while as it never ceases to amaze me the feelings of pride and accomplishment every time I build one of these. More importantly was the feelings I got when I ran into his dad shortly after. He could not say thank you enough and I had earned a type of respect and friendship with him that is indescribable. All in a days work helping people out of the DIY trap.

Pat Fisher is a professional carpenter and woodworking craftsman. For more information on finish carpentry and household carpentry projects, visit - Also available is a comprehensive eBook for building hand railings

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The DIY challenges of Building an Interior Hand Railing

The concept of building an interior wood hand railing is almost always misinterpreted by the do-it-yourself homeowners out there. The idea and concept is great, the challenges are sizable and often times misjudged and the room for mistakes is significant, and expensive. Are you thinking of building a hand railing? A good understanding of the concept is the first and foremost part of the project.

The first challenge is understanding all the wood parts that make up a handrail. Doing research and just looking at other handrails can give you an idea although there is nothing like a how to manual that explains all the parts of a handrail and how it is built to understand the full process to be successful.

Your unique and particular situation of where you are building this handrail may or may not include all of these parts. You may even elect not to have some of these more elaborate parts depending on your budget or just the appearance you are looking for.

After you have figured out all the parts of the hand railing required for your particular project, the next thing is working out the amounts or quantities of each certain part. An example would be figuring the distance between newel posts or walls to calculate the number of balusters or spindles needed to fill this space legally per OSHA codes.

Getting accurate measurements for the length of the rails and newel posts is also crucial because of the OSHA codes and the cost of these materials. Knowing and following these OSHA codes is critical for your own protection as well as others. Here is where investing in a manual for building handrails will help out tremendously and possibly save some serious money due to miss cuts and mistakes while in the process of building.

Once you determine what parts you need for your particular hand railing then you can decide on how stylish or simple it will be. Some of these choices will include the style you prefer and a few different sizes, as well as wood species, which these handrails come in. The variety of styles will include each particular part. An example would be choosing between a square or a turned newel post and square or turned balusters.

The next challenge is having all the right tools for the project. Having the right tools is a huge factor for quality. Poor tools can some times produce poor quality. Poor tools can fuel aggravation. So be sure to buy, borrow or rent the best tools you can. Knowing how to use these tools safely and effectively is also a must. Practice a while with these tools on some scrap wood to familiarize yourself with them.

Another challenge is figuring out the proper steps to take as you go. If this would be the first hand railing you are building research is critical. This trim wood that makes up a hand railing is expensive and one easily made wrong cut could be disastrous. Then off to the store you go to buy this particular handrail part again. Again, an inexpensive manual on building a handrail is invaluable for saving time and instruction on where and how to start and these expenses can be easily avoided.

The last challenge that is equally important is your attitude and mood. I have built hundreds of these hand railings and I know for a fact that your mood, attitude and general mind frame directly affects the quality and performance of your work. You need to be at the top of your game for optimal performance to achieve a professional and quality built hand railing. For a good understanding of getting the right mind set for a project like this I wrote a short article which can help out tremendously before you begin your project. This article is titled “Getting the Mind Set for Finish Carpentry.”

These are just a few of the challenges you will be up against while doing your project. There will undoubtedly be others as there are so many different scenario’s and different situations of where handrails are built. Every single hand railing I have ever built posed its own unique little challenge. Building a hand railing is like building your own personal master piece. Finishing the project successfully will bring you quite an intense feeling of satisfaction and gratification. Even after building hundreds of these I still enjoy those great feelings.

Pat Fisher is a professional carpenter and woodworking craftsman. For more information on finish carpentry and household carpentry projects, visit - Also available is a comprehensive eBook for building hand railings

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Household Stair design - defining your living style

Author: Anirban Bhattacharya

When talking about stair design, there could be as many kinds of designs as there are houses. A staircase is an essential ingredient of a home and decoration of a staircase very much influences the look and appearance of a house. The design and look of a staircase depends on the overall look of the house and nevertheless on the taste and preference of the inmates. Stair designs could be of various kinds. For instance it could be Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian or even contemporary. Each unique architectural style enhances the look and feel of your home and helps you make a definite fashion statement. Staircases could also be made from solid glass, aluminum, timber and even stainless steels. These materials are mostly used in case of contemporary stairs which lets sophistication define the style. Some users prefer stair designs devoid of clich├ęs so that they are easy to clean and could be maintained better. In some cases, the materials are combined together which would compliment other materials as well as the design of the home. A number of users prefer stylish spiral staircases. The balusters of such staircases are normally made of iron or wood. In most cases, architects prefer using pure timber handrails that goes well with the iron balusters giving a unique rustic look to the whole ensemble. A staircase could be steep or gradual, narrow or wide depending upon the space and choice of the householder. The design and appearance of a staircase is directly dependant on its functionality. For instance, a stairway located at the main entrance of a house would need to be wide and obviously sturdy, other than being stylish if budget allows. The same in situated at the basement can work even being narrow. The stair design should be made keeping in mind of the rules governed by building codes of the locality that earmarks the stipulated heights, depth and width of each step, placement of handrails and more. These standards should be abided by to ensure more protection of the house and its inhabitants.

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About the Author:
The article is contributed by a professional content writer, having experiences of working in different industries. For further information on stair designs and balusters please visit

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Stair handrail designed to look attractive

Author: Editor123

One of the easiest ways of remodeling your house and giving the interiors a new look is to replace your existing stair parts with new ones. While the normal wear and tear of stair parts may necessitate their replacement, more often it is a question of getting over the boredom and monotony of having to look at the same old staircase day after day. While house remodeling usually involves redoing the porch, introducing new rooms in the household, extending the living space and so on, one should not overlook the exciting possibilities that come with replacing stair parts, especially handrail brackets. Home remodeling with stairs is all the rage these days. And with a wide range of excellent stair parts that are available today, with their many designs and wide range of prices to fit every budget, house remodeling with new stair parts was never easier. Of all the parts that are replaced, handrail brackets are particularly popular. Handrails are among the most conspicuous of stair parts and most often, all you have to do is replace just the handrails to give a totally new look to your stairs. Among the most popular choices in this regard are handrail brackets made of wrought iron and wood, with matching box newels and color matched treads. These days, using sophisticated computers and advanced designing and manufacturing processes, virtually every kind of wood species can be made into a stair handrail. What’s more, most professional stair re-modelers would spoil you for choices when it comes to choosing a design and style for your new handrail brackets. Some would also work with unique designs supplied by the customer. However, it is worth remembering that stair remodeling, especially those involving intricate curved parts, requires a very high degree of expertise and a close attention to detail. Therefore, one is well advised to trust only reputed home remodeling professionals to do justice to such intricate designs.

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About the Author:
The article is contributed by a professional content writer, having experiences of working in different industries. For further information on handrail and handrail brackets please visit

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Using clamps in finish carpentry is pretty important. Use them when you can for glued joints and you will be amazed at how strong these joints are after the glue dries. A good set of different sized clamps can be used for many different things. After I bought a few sets I wondered how I got along without them.

Monday, January 12, 2009

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