There are various types of materials that are used in handrails and balustrades. If the balustrade is used externally like fencing, bridges, terraces or any open space then the suitable material to use is concrete. Concrete can stand up to the harsh weather elements and will not be destroyed easily. There are many different designs used to make balustrades. The balustrades are normally cast in shapes using moulds. This is performed so that all the balustrades resemble each other. A rail is usually fixed on top of the balustrades.
If the balustrades are to be used indoors, like staircase lining then different materials can be used.
Wooden balustrades are common. Wood is a less expensive material that is very easy to fabricate into different styles. The balustrade can be made as simple as a plain spindle capped by a flat board or as complex as carved balusters that are topped with highly polished handrails. A lot of wood balustrade styles are quite simple and homeowners can fabricate and install them without help. Wooden balustrades can be carved with designs on them or they may just be straight planks. People usually have wooden handrails and balustrades on the porch of their house.
Usually hard wood is used on the balustrades that line staircases. The handrails are also made out of wood. One disadvantage of balustrades made of wood is their lack of permanence; they are usually vulnerable to harsh weather elements and even liquid substances like water may need periodic replacing or maintenance. The wood used in handrails and balustrades has to be well seasoned and shouldn’t warp or cracked or get misshapen. Wood has been the material which has been widely used for internal handrails and balustrades in homes. However, the use of wood in making balustrades is reducing. Today, people are becoming more conscious about taking care of the environment and therefore some people frowned upon the use of wood.
Another material that is used to make balustrades is wrought iron or cast iron. Balustrades made from wrought iron or cast iron has fancy designs. Wrought iron balustrades usually use a pattern of angled or curved pieces of steel, making very sturdy and strong railings. Aluminum is a good replacement for cast iron, as it can copy many of the same shapes but doesn’t have the drawback of rusting.
Lace balustrades are a type of ornamental railing that incorporate panels of elaborate designs set between the solid newel posts. The panels are made of cast iron, cast aluminum or wrought iron. Brass and bronze have also been used to make balustrades. They require regular cleaning and polishing and are quite expensive. Brass is normally used in handrails as they have a shining golden color. The design is usually chosen by the architect or by the homeowner and the design depends on the building’s theme.
The use of polymers and polyurethane to make balustrades has also increased. These materials are cheap and can be developed into great designs for balustrades. Many modern structures have polyurethane balustrades to match the design of those structures.
Stone balustrades include those that are made from quarry stone, marble or limestone. Experienced craftsmen carve the raw stone to create different shapes and the assembly of the components usually takes place on-site. The stone balusters are heavier and wider than those made using other materials. This type requires a great balcony support. Even though stone balcony balustrades are usually very labor intensive and costly, they last long and virtually maintenance free.
Nowadays polyurethane is also used to make handrails and balustrades. Plaster, polymer stone and cast stone are also used to make handrails and balustrades. Marble has also been used in some structures to make balustrades. Marble is an expensive material and is only used in palatial structures. Some balustrades are usually painted with a motif so that they can look interesting and break the monotony.
The design of the handrails and balustrades depends on the architecture and design of the house or building. Property owners usually do not give much attention to the design of balustrades and handrails and the selection of the design is normally left to the architect.