Stair railing

In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of stair railing and handrail and their applications, materials, advantages, and disadvantages.

The handrails and railings on a staircase are one of its primary safety features because they reduce the risk of falls and injuries. These stair parts can be constructed from a variety of materials, including metal, wood, or glass, to create different aesthetic effects. The types of handrail and stair railing that are used will also affect how the staircase looks.

Difference between a railing and a handrail

Handrails and railings are two staircase components that are frequently confused.

A handrail, also known as a banister, is the component of the staircase that people use for support when going up and down. The handrail must offer support and a constant path along the stairway. Handrails can be made from a variety of materials. It can be attached to a wall, extend from the stair rail’s side, or sit on top of the balusters (vertical posts) on the open side of a staircase.

A railing is a barrier that keeps people from falling down the stairs. A railing must be strong enough to withstand breaking if someone falls on it or pushes against it. Additionally, railings can be fashioned in a variety of ways, from a series of simple vertical posts that serve as a balustrade to contemporary cable railing.

Also Read: Concrete Stairs Reinforcement Details | Types of Stairs 

Different types of railings for stairs

There are many different materials that can be used to create staircase railings, such as metal, wood, and glass. However, stair railing designs range from the traditional picket railing to more modern cable railings or panels.

Multi-line stair railing

Multi-line stair railings are made up of horizontal rods or tubes that extend from railing post to railing post. To achieve the desired appearance, the rods or tubes can be of various styles, sizes, and materials.

Multi-line stair railing


In commercial and industrial buildings, multi-line railings are commonly used for egress stairways and equipment access stairs.


Multi-line railings give egress stairs a neat appearance.

It is simple to modify the rods and tubes used for multi-line railings to suit the design requirements of various projects.


Due to children’s ability to climb them, multi-line railings may pose a risk to their safety. Picket railings are a more preferred option for public access areas because of this, even though they may not be permitted by all local building codes.

Panel stair railing

Panel stair railing, like wire mesh infill railing, has been installed in sections into the railing system.Panel railing is most commonly made of glass, but it can also be made of open metal bars.

Panel stair railing


  • Glass panel railing is commonly used outdoors, but it can also be used indoors. There are many different residential and commercial applications for metal panel railing.


  • When used outdoors, glass panels offer a great view and can also shield users from the wind.
  • Metal panels can be made in a variety of designs to create a unique appearance.
  • Panel railings are generally simple to maintain, regardless of the material.


  • Compared to other types of railing materials, glass panel railing typically costs more up front.
  • Unless frosted glass is used, neither glass nor metal panel railings offer homeowners or businesses privacy.

Picket stair railing

Picket railing is made up of vertical posts that hold the handrail in place. The posts are connected to the base rail or stair treads at the bottom. Pickets can be made out of metal or wood. They can be plain or have intricate designs.

Picket stair railingApplications

Picket staircase railings are the most commonly used type of railing and can be found in a variety of settings, including industrial plants, commercial buildings, and residential homes. Picket railings can be used both indoors and outdoors.


  • Picket staircase railings are simple to install and inexpensive to produce.
  • Picket staircase railings are typically low-maintenance once installed, requiring only a quick wipe down every now and then.
  • Picket railing can be found in a wide range of sizes, designs, and colors to complement almost any environment.


  • The main disadvantage of picket stair railing is its common and dated appearance.
  • A picket railing cannot serve as an entirely closed side barrier. A person falling through a picket railing is unlikely, but smaller objects can be dropped through the pickets.

Wire mesh infill stair railing

Wire mesh infill railings are made up of wire panels that are welded to a four-sided frame. These panels are then connected to the railing system. Metals used to make wire mesh infill railings include stainless steel and aluminum. This type of railing is usually custom made to fit the desired mesh or opening size, wire diameter, and panel size.

Wire mesh infill stair railingApplications 

  • Wire mesh infill railings are commonly found in industrial settings as well as high-traffic commercial areas such as stadiums, colleges, and shopping malls. Residential deck stairs can also use wire mesh infill.


  • Wire mesh infill railing provides a strong, effective barrier while also allowing visibility and ventilation.
  • Staircases with wire mesh infill railing practically never need to be maintained.
  • The infill for wire mesh can be either painted to match a specific space or made of natural metal.
  • To achieve a sophisticated appearance, use high-end materials like copper.


  • Because it’s frequently made to order, wire mesh infill railing has a tendency to be expensive.
  • The mesh can be harmed if it is not handled properly during installation.

Different types of handrails for stairs

Handrails can be made of different types of materials, including wood and metal. However, there are only two types of handrail designs: integrated and wall-mounted.

Guardrail-mounted handrail

A guardrail-mounted handrail is a handrail that attaches to the guardrail and extends out into the egress path to provide a support for the user to grab onto that is separate from the guardrail.

Guardrail-mounted handrail

The open side of the staircase is equipped with a guardrail-mounted handrail. They can be used on either or both sides of the staircase.

Wall-mounted handrail

As their name suggests, wall-mounted handrails are used in place of integrated handrails with railings and are attached to the wall. Typically, round tube or pipe is used to create steel wall-mounted handrails. Two popular wall-mounted handrail designs for wooden handrails are pigs ears and mopstick. Pigs-ear handrails are mounted directly to the wall without brackets and have an ear-like shape when viewed from the side. Brackets are used to fasten mopstick handrails to the wall and have a more decorative nature.

Wall-mounted handrail

Wall-mounted handrails are installed on the closed, or wall, side of a staircase. They may be used on one or both sides of a stairway.

Integrated handrail

Integrated handrails are installed on top of the stair railing and serve as part of the balustrade. A newel post is supported at each end of the handrail. Wooden integrated handrails can be grooved or ungrooved. When the handrails have grooves, the railing is positioned inside the groove. With handrails without grooves, the railing is bracketed or fastened to the handrail with screws.

Most building codes, including IBC, ADA, and OSHA, no longer permit integrated handrails and instead call for a separate guardrail-mounted handrail.

Integrated handrail

On a stairway’s open side, where there is no wall, integrated handrails are used. A staircase may have integrated handrails on one or both sides. Most building codes no longer permit integrated handrails.

Material for stair handrails & railings


Steel is a popular material for commercial egress stairs and industrial staircase handrails and railings. Stair stringers made of steel are also a fantastic option. Rust-prevention techniques usually employ stainless steel or galvanized steel. Zinc is applied to galvanized steel as a protective layer to shield the steel underneath from corrosive substances. In order to increase the corrosion resistance of stainless steel, it is mixed with chromium, nickel, nitrogen, and molybdenum.

Steel handrail Applications

In almost any environment, steel handrails can be used. When prefabricated industrial stairs are being used and the other parts are made of steel, a handrail made of powder-coated or galvanized steel is a popular option. Stainless steel handrails offer a sleek, contemporary appearance for residences and commercial buildings. To create a contemporary design, stainless steel handrails can be combined with railings made of other materials, like glass.

Steel stair railing applications

In addition to industrial, commercial, and residential settings, steel railings can be used in a wide range of other applications. Steel railings are more useful when used in commercial settings. Stainless steel railings offer clear lines and a modern appearance in homes and offices. To achieve the desired effect, they can be used with a variety of handrail materials, such as wood.


  • Steel is one of the safest materials to use for handrails and railings because it is incredibly strong and is renowned for its durability.
  • To enhance steel’s performance, use primers, liquid paints, and powder coatings.
  • Stainless steel and galvanized steel can be maintained with a minimum of effort and are easily cleaned with a sponge and a non-abrasive cleaner.
  • Steel is a material that can be used both inside and outside and is adaptable and resistant to weather.


  • Steel can weaken and buckle in extremely hot conditions.
  • Steel handrails and railings may be more expensive than those made of other materials, such as wood.
  • Due to its weight, steel may be a difficult material to work with for a DIY project.
  • Due to its weight, steel is also challenging to install and requires specialized tools for on-site adjustments.


Aluminum is a naturally occurring element with a lower density than other metals, making it lighter in weight than steel. Aluminum is highly reflective and has a silver appearance. Without any special treatment, aluminum is naturally resistant to rust and corrosion.

Aluminum stair handrail applications

Aluminum handrails are used in a wide range of applications. They can be utilized inside and outside of residential structures, business establishments, and industrial settings.

Aluminum stair railing applications

Aluminum stair railings are frequently used outside for entrance steps and decks. They may, however, also be found indoors in any kind of structure or establishment.

Advantages and disadvantages of aluminum stair handrails and railings


  • Aluminum can be used to build a very safe environment because it is extremely strong and long-lasting, similar to steel.
  • Aluminum is resistant to even the most severe weather and requires little maintenance.
  • Aluminum is more suitable for DIY projects and easier to install than steel because it is lighter.
  • Aluminum is easier to cut and form than steel because it is lighter in weight. As a result, there are more designs and patterns available.
  • The handrails and railings made of aluminum can be powder coated in a variety of colors.


  • Aluminum is more expensive than steel, which is the main drawback when using it for handrails and railings.
  • Aluminum handrails and railings are more prone to dents and scratches than steel.

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is a low-carbon iron alloy. The demand for this malleable material, which was commonly used to produce a highly decorative effect, peaked in the mid-1800s. Although wrought iron is no longer produced on a large scale, it is still produced for restoration and replication of historical work. Most modern products that resemble and are described as wrought iron are made of mild steel with a low content of carbon.

Applications for wrought-iron stair handrails

Indoor and outdoor staircases in residential and commercial structures can both use wrought iron handrails. Straight and curved stairs can both use wrought iron handrails.

Applications for wrought-iron railing

Private homes and commercial buildings both have decorative wrought-iron stair railings. Both interior and exterior applications are possible for them. To create a sophisticated and dramatic effect, wood handrails are frequently used in conjunction with wrought iron balusters.

 Advantages and disadvantages of wrought iron stair railing and handrail


  • One of the most significant advantages of wrought iron is its versatility. Due to its malleability, it can be shaped into an infinite number of different looks, from a sleek modern look to elaborate leaves or scrolls.
  • Wrought iron gives staircases stability and strength because of its strength.
  • Powder coating in a variety of colors is an option for wrought iron handrails and railings.


  • Wrought iron is typically more expensive than other materials, owing in part to the fact that it is frequently made to order.
  • Wrought iron can be challenging and time-consuming to install due to its weight, increasing labor costs.
  • Wrought iron exposed to the elements may rust if it is not properly cared for.
  • Wrought iron requires periodic recoating and painting to prevent rust.


Wood is the most common and traditional material for handrails and railings. Red oak, which is easy to stain, sand, and finish, and white oak, which is harder and more water resistant, are two common woods. Handrails and railings for staircases can be made out of a variety of woods, including mahogany, ash, cypress, and cherry.

Applications for wood stair handrails

Wooden handrails are commonly found in homes and residential buildings. Decks, garage stairs, and sweeping staircases in older homes are just a few places where wooden handrails are used. However, wooden handrails can be combined with more modern railing materials, such as metal or glass, to give them a more beautiful look.

Applications for wood stair railing

Typically, traditional homes and buildings have wooden railings, often in the entranceways. They are frequently used inside, but with the right care, they can also be used outside on decks and other exterior structures. Wood railings can be used in combination with other materials, just like wooden handrails, to create a staircase that is more modern.

Advantages and disadvantages of wood stair handrails and railings


The natural beauty that wood handrails and railings bring to the environment is one of their main benefits.

Because wood can be shaped into any shape, it can be used to create a variety of appearances. Additionally, wood can be painted in any color you like or stained to match your décor.

Wood is a common material for DIY remodeling projects because it is typically inexpensive to buy and install.

Handrails and railings made of wood are simple to maintain and keep clean.


Interior wood handrails and railings may appear outdated if not combined with more contemporary materials, such as glass or metal.


Glass is actually much tougher than it seems, despite the fact that it may not seem like a very safe material to use in stair design. There are many different types of glass, including clear, semi-transparent, tinted, frosted, and etched.

Applications for glass stair handrails

Glass is not typically used as a handrail for stairs. Typically, handrails with glass railings are made of other materials, such as metal or wood.

Applications for glass stair railing

Modern homes and commercial structures frequently have glass railings, which can be used inside or outside. The stair railing’s glass panels can be completely or partially framed with stainless steel or aluminum, or they can be left unframed.

Advantages and disadvantages of glass stair handrails and railings


  • Glass railings serve as a safety barrier while maintaining visibility.
  • Glass railings can amplify the feeling of space in a room because they let in natural light.
  • Glass railings can serve as a wind barrier when used outside.
  • Glass railings are easy to clean.


  • Although glass is simple to clean, it needs to be done frequently because dirt and fingerprints can become visible quickly.
  • Transparent glass railings are more vulnerable to collisions with birds, animals, and even people.
  • Glass is fairly heavy and, if not handled properly, can break during installation. Therefore, having a professional install it is probably best.
  • Glass railings used outdoors may deteriorate and cloud over time.