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  • Pinto Carpentry

Carpenter's Corner: An Indoor Handrail Guide for the Homeowner

Updated: May 9

We’ve covered lots of ground on the Pinto Carpentry blog the last few months when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of stair and railing carpentry. We want you to feel confident in navigating these tough areas of home improvement and renovation, so take it from your friendly neighborhood railing installer: it’s not as scary as it sounds. We understand that not everyone is familiar with industry lingo, so our Carpenter’s Corner segment aims to enlighten and educate to make navigating convos with your contractors a breeze!


Today, we’re going to continue that education and share some helpful terms and phrases you may hear from your railing or stair professional.

a couple hugging in front of a staircase


Here are some important words or terms you may hear during your consultation appointment for an estimate, or during the process of selecting materials followed by the actual installation:


Baluster/spindle - These are vertical pieces which line the staircase and connect the baserail to the handrail of a balustrade. Balusters usually rest on a footing such as a step or floor, while spindles are supported by horizontal rail at the bottom, attached to posts. Many people use the terms interchangeably, as spindle is the term most are more familiar with. These may be made of wood or metal, and come in a range of styles from traditional to carved geometric or ornate decorative styles.


Fillet - This is a small piece of wood from the same species as the handrail, which gets inserted into the underside of a grooved handrail. Its purpose is to conceal the top of the balusters or spindles. It helps mask the appearance of the groove for a more seamless look. It will fill the plow between balusters if you’re using plowed handrail and shoerail.


Shoerail - This is the plowed bottom rail of your balustrade system in which the bottom of your wood balusters will be mounted to shoe plates, hardwood floors, and stairway knee-walls. The simplest explanation is that it is a horizontal molding where posts and balusters may be attached.


Baserail - This is sometimes also known as “Bottom track” and it runs parallel along your staircase from the top to the bottom and along the landing if applicable; its purpose is to support or hold the balustrade, securing wooden or metal spindles/balusters, or decorative panels in place.


S-Turn - This is a turn in the wood to extend the handrail so it turns around a wall or some other obstruction so that it may remain a continuous handrail


Horizontal Rail Supports - These supports are attached to rail posts and used to hold the balusters in place. This can help attach to walls, staircases, and ramps.


Top rail - This is the uppermost component of the railing which runs between posts, also sometimes known as a cap rail it will connect the infill (balusters, pickets, spindles, etc)



Balustrading - This portion of the railing system that supports horizontal rails, and presents people, small kids, and even pets from falling off the edge, and also sometimes the overarching term used to refer to the completed assembly of a handrail system (rails, newel posts, balusters, etc). In areas of a home or building where someone will be able to access stairs or a balcony, the balustrade is required.


Continuous handrail - This means a single handrail must run from the top riser to bottom riser of your staircase, and also that a person should be able to maintain grasp of the handrail all the way up or down easily.


Handrail - A long narrow bar of wood or metal which is used to provide hand grip for safety or support; it may be wall-mounted or it may be integrated and extend from the side of stair rail, or sit atop posts and balusters on open sides of a staircase. Handrail can be crafted from a wide variety of materials


Bracket - a piece of metal used to attach the railing to a wall, most generally installed every 3 to 4 feet depending on specific building codes; the width of the handrail used will determine which size of bracket is required


Newel - This functions as an anchor pillar for a railing and staircase. It is the post at the head or foot of a staircase which supports the handrail, also sometimes referred to as a central pole or support column. Additionally, it may also refer to the upright post which supports and/or terminates the handrail of a stair banister.



If you’re looking to update your home, school, or business’s handrail,, or you’re a home builder with new construction and need a railing system installed, we would be thrilled to work with you! Just give the crew here Pinto Carpentry a call at 908-922-1778 and request a consultation for a custom estimate. We bring more than 20 years experience to the table, and would love to guide you to a safer, more beautiful indoor railing system to suit your home or business!

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