Need basic information & resources re: stair rails

lindykNovember 1, 2004

We need exterior stair rails and have just started getting estimates. The first guy said he can make "whatever you want." Well, we're not sure exactly what we want, but we know that we don't like the standard hand rails and twisted posts we see everywhere in our neighborhood. When we asked about other options for the hand rail, we got the impression that they're only made in one or two styles. So, before I waste any more time - can someone please explain to me how this whole process works. Is there a primary source for the basic parts that the ironworker then welds together? If so, is there a catalog, or some place I can look at the choices? Is there a good resource for me to look at finished stair rails that are a bit out of the ordinary? (We want simple, clean lines - not scrolls and twists). Any help will be greatly appreciated!

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If you want simple, ask him to make rails with half or three quarter inch uprights of square tube with one and a half inch channel iron top rails and one and a half inch flat bar bottom rails. this would be very simple looking. Hope I've helped.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2004 at 10:48PM
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Thanks, Mike. I think we're ready to hire someone for the job - it will have square uprights, with rings at the top, just for a little interest and style. So now I have a question about painting - he says he'll prime and paint it black. Do I need to know anything more. I've seen references to powder-coating. What's that, and do I want it? Thanks in advance.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 2:07PM
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Powdercoat really looks good, but we have metal(iron) chairs for our patio that are powder coated and after three years the paint is peeling off and it takes a cup brush on a grinder to remove what's left. After our experience, I think primed and painted black would be best for your rails.When they need repainting the preparation wouldn't be so tough.
Mike A

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 6:14PM
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Hi, I have a couple of thoughts for you. I fabricate gates and small railings on the side, so I do have some experience in the matter.

First off, yes, most fabricators order the pickets and other components from one of a few places and assemble/weld to suit. Two of the main places to find these components are Architectural Iron Designs, Inc. ( and Kind Architectural Metals (; check out their websites to see some of these components for yourself. The only other possibility is if you are hiring a blacksmith to custom make each picket, but I doubt you are unless you plan on spending a lot of $$$.

Secondly, on the powdercoating subject it's a form of finish that is applied as a powder and then baked on. It comes in most colors and finishes (gloss, seim, matte) and is extremely durable. It will hold up much better to the elements than paint. Here in NC it costs *about* $10 per foot to have a standard (36" or 42" high) railing powdercoated. Usually about 2-3 times more expensive than paint, but well worth it. With paint it is impossible to get in every crevice and especially around the welds......if you have any rain or humidity you will see rust within a month based on what I've seen. Your fabricator should be able to take care of having it powdercoated, just tell him the color/finish you want.

Hope this helps, David

    Bookmark   November 6, 2004 at 6:24PM
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HI David,
I read your reply and wondered if you might know how I should approach a problem. We hired an iron worker who had done some beautiful jobs in our neighborhood.. Our job was to design a new railing for our front steps/walkway and then morphed into adding gates and short fencing for our two side yards.
We specified a powder coating. The front railing design looks very unique, which was our aim. Part way through the fabrication he told us that his powdercoating resource didn't have an oven that would accommodate our curved stairway. He assured us that he would prime it and paint it well.
Fast forward to the first rain- it's Los Angeles, it doesn't rain much and now we have some areas which are rusting. I asked him to come back and now he's saying he'll send his guy to touch it up. His guy "touched it up" when they installed it. It was already chipping. That's not what I paid $$$$ for. Stupidly I didn't check his contractors license number. I took the referral from our neighbors...sigh.
My question is where should I go from here? Let him "paint" it or do I bail and find another iron guy to dissassemble the railing, sand, strip and repaint or powder coat it at another shop?

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 2:17AM
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