A baluster is the pillar or column that offers support to a structure such as a rail. Though balusters began as a support for windows and balcony railings, modern thinking tends to classify balusters as the decorative pillars that lend support to a stair’s handrail.

The history of balusters
Bas-relief artwork shows the use of balusters in Assyrian palaces as support for window ledges, though Greeks and Romans were unfamiliar with their use. The use of balusters on balconies and stairways became popular during the 16th century. Balusters became a prominent feature on 16th century stairs and balconies.

Two particular balusters were used during the Renaissance period. The first was a symmetrical baluster, while the second was vase-shaped. The vase-shaped baluster, also known as the dropped baluster, gave the design feature its name. Since the dropped baluster resembled an unopened flower, it was referred to as the French “balustre” or Italian “balaustra” which translates to “pomegranate flower.” The single support is the baluster, while multiple balusters are collectively referred to as the balustrade.

Early balusters were made from marble or bronze. The most common balusters found today are made from lathe-shaped wood or stone. Some balusters are created from poured concrete while some balusters can occasionally be found made from cast iron, wrought iron, plaster, or plastic.

Purpose and Structural Significance
Balusters serve both ornamental and practical purposes. As a wide range of baluster design options exist, balusters often add to the design of a space. Balusters also act as a safety feature on stairways since the spacing of the balusters can prevent children and pets from falling sideways off the stairs. Balusters provide some structural support for stairway handrails, although generally the posts supply more support than the balusters.

Baluster Designs
Because different styles of balusters have been popular at varying times throughout history, balusters are often used to help determine when the structure was built and/or renovated. Balusters are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and styles, from simple to ornate. The two most common kinds of balusters are square top and taper top. Likewise there are two kinds of baluster installation. Tread-oriented baluster installation is the most common kind of installation. In this installation, the balusters are placed in correspondence to the tread. Rail-oriented baluster installation means that the baluster is oriented parallel to the handrail instead of the tread.

Options for Replacement/Repair/Upgrades of Balusters
Although baluster design is used as a design element, baluster spacing is a safety feature regulated by building codes. Therefore, maintenance and upkeep of balusters is important to ensure safety. The most difficult part of baluster repair can be finding a replacement baluster that matches the missing or broken baluster. It is sometimes necessary for a professional to recreate the original with a lathe in order to correctly match the wood and material. Replacing, repairing, or upgrading balusters can be accomplished by handy homeowners, but because of building codes and safety considerations, many opt for professional installation.


Metro Atl. Floors creates beautiful custom staircases and balusters for clients throughout the metro Atlanta area. We can work from a picture or match existing styles. We have many affordable staircase options and also can even install custom rod iron balusters upon request.
Stair Baluster Options
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