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REINFORCEMENTS—BALUSTRADES

 

Balustrade systems usually combine balusters, cap rails, and base rails fashioned to provide an inviting elegant entrance way, and interior staircase, a ground level surrounding fence for a backyard or atrium, a decorative addition to your parapet walls, second level railing, and more.

 

Cap rails are available is three styles – bullnose, cove, and crown. Based upon economical reasons, cap rails are usually ordered in thirty-six inches and forty–eight inches in length depending on the design of the project. The installer can then cut the lengths to fit the particular need, per plans, while out on the job site.

 

Base rails are also available in three styles – cove, classic and beveled. As with the cap rails, the base rails are usually ordered in thirty–six inches and forty–eight inches in length and field cut per the drawings. The installer will usually cut the base rail to match those cuts of the cap rails so the seams and joints of the rails are at the same point within the balustrade system.

 

Not all balustrade systems require a base rail. Those balusters that climb stairs can have either a specially designed base rail that climbs the stairs with them or the balusters may fit directly onto the stair itself.

 

Lug balusters are balusters that have an additional length added to both the top and bottom sections. These sections allow the installer to do field cuts to position the baluster at the correct angle and height, depending on the stair, or slope of the balustrade system, so they fit both the cap and base rails appropriately.

 

Are Balusters made to fit?

 

Balusters can be made to fit. Accurate field dimensions and setting plans must have strict measurements which will cost more and increase your lead time. Additional molds may have to be constructed with additional block out costs. It is more practical to plan that the mason or installer field cut the balusters, cap rails, and base rails at the job site. One would want to confirm that the mason working on your balustrade and stairway system is familiar with the intricate angles and cuts that will be required for the balustrade system as a whole.

 

How does one design the corner, or ends of the balustrade system?

 

Balustrade systems can simply end with a straight or finished end. A small portion of the cap rail can be designed slightly past the last baluster with the flared finished look, blending into the style of the cap rail or can be blunt flat sided based upon the architect’s design of the system. The balustrade system can have a turned out corner or spiral look, called a Volute. Both the cap rail and the base rail spiral out giving the welcoming open look to the balustrade system or stairway.

 

Balustrade systems can also tie into walls or newel piers to finish the ends or designate stylish corners. Newel piers are designed to have a decorative recessed panel siding on those sides that do not connect to the balustrade system or butt up against a wall or structure. Newel piers are usually topped with a stylish pier cap. Options styles available are bullnose, cove, and crown.

 

How are Balusters Attached?

 

Balusters are attached to the base rail and the cap rail with a steel dowel pin (usually three inches long). Dowel holes are usually drilled on-site. Mortar or construction epoxy is applied to the dowel hole and then the dowel inserted. The joints between the flooring and the base rail, the baluster and cap rail are usually all three-eighths inch mortar joints. Base rails and cap rails are joined together with a horizontal dowel pin to hold the alignment of the rails as they are installed.

 

How many balusters do I need?

 

The total number of balusters required is determined by the spacing of the balusters. Balusters may be spaced from 7.5 inches to twelve inches center to center for ground level conditions. Center to center means that the distance between the balusters are measured from the centermost point of the top of the baluster to the centermost point of the next baluster.

 

An important note to remember is that local building codes do vary, and you must conform to their height and spacing requirements for your local area. A good rule of thumb for any railing that is used as security or for a second story railing, balcony railing, staircase railing, and more should have no greater spacing between the closest most points in the balusters than a four-inch gap or space. As a protection to younger children and infants, local building codes may be stringent in their allowances for particular uses. Please make sure that you check with them before initiating your design for your own protection.

 

REINFORCEMENTS — BALUSTRADES (PDF)

 

The information within this and all our bulletins has been provided as a guideline and based upon statistical data and prior uses. We always suggest that you consult with your engineer, architect or contractor for the best design and use of cast stone for your project. Our design team is always available to answer any of your questions. We do not accept any liability from damages resulting from your interpretation of the data contained within.