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Should Handrail Match Floor?

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For most homes, the stairs is the first thing people see when entering the doorway. That's why a stairway that does not appear to fit in with the interior design of the house could ruin the intended ambiance. But don't worry! We have done the research to provide you with all the information you need to create a beautiful stairway.

Your stairway handrails should match your floors. This does not necessarily mean that you have to choose a single color to apply to both. By picking two colors that complement each other well, your handrail will match your floor, and in turn will give your space a natural, harmonious look.

There are a lot of other components that go into deciding how your stairway and floor should appear. While designing a home is subjective and should ultimately be left up to the preference of the homeowner, we still prepared a few recommendations to help you realize your dream home. Read on as we discuss everything you need to know when matching your handrail and floor.

Hard wooden flooring for a living room and a staircase leading to the second floor, Should Handrail Match Floor?

How Do I Match The Handrail And Floor?

Whatever material you chose for your handrails, matching it with your floor can be easily done with stain, paint, tint, varnish, or polyurethane. Again, there's no hard rule as to what colors actually match each other. A simple, harmonious look can be two different tones of the same color.

Second story of a house with wooden flooring, white painted stair banisters and dark handrails

Metal Handrails

Metal handrails can be made of steel, aluminum, or iron. These types of handrails are usually seen in outdoor settings and commercial buildings, but they can also be used in residential areas. To match this type of railing with your floor, you can apply the appropriate amount of primer and paint coats until you can achieve the desired effect.

Glass Handrails

Glass handrails can be transformed with tint. These handrails are typically used for modern designs and can execute different modes of aesthetics. Although it usually comes with a steel handrail, there are glass staircases where a visible handrail is forgone and the railing in itself serves as the handrail.

Wooden Handrails

Wood is the most traditional material used to make indoor handrails and you can use paint to color it too. Although, most homeowners and contractors prefer to choose a wood with enough color that they would only need to enhance the preexisting shade of the material.

With this method of color enhancement, stain, varnish, or polyurethane can be used. All of these are helpful options if you are already satisfied with the appearance of your wood. If you think that the color of your wooden handrail complements the shade you chose for your flooring, you can proceed to apply a clear, protective top coat to sustain the color.

What Is The Effect Of Staining Wood?

Staining highlights the color of the wood by making it deeper and more vibrant. Contrary to paint which covers only the top layer of the wood, stain will penetrate the wood to preserve the original color. However, stain gradually fades over time and requires re-coating for maintenance.

If you are debating whether to paint or stain your wood, a good way to decide is to find out the type of wood you are planning to revamp. Painting is an easier, cheaper process and it adds a layer of protection to the timber.

A process of staining wood of a wooden deck in the backyard

However, if your wood is porous, like oak and cedar, it's best to stain it in order to achieve a more sophisticated look. Avoid staining expensive woods like walnut and cherry because these types already have a refined appearance and only require a finish.

What Is The Effect Of Varnishing Wood?

While one of the main purposes of varnish is to protect the wood, it still has an effect on the material when applied. The difference is not too obvious, but it will change the appearance of the wood by giving it a glossy sheen. Much like staining, it also deepens the color, although it does not penetrate through the surface.

What Is The Effect Of Polyurethane On Wood?

Applying polyurethane or poly on wood will protect the timber from obtaining scratches and your usual wear and tear. It has the same effect as varnish, as an oil-based poly will also enhance the color of the wood after a number of coats. You can avoid this result by switching to a water-based poly which will give you a clear finish.

What Is The Best Material For A Handrail?

The type of handrail you choose depends on the location of your project. If you are building a balcony or a deck where your handrail will most likely be exposed to different weather elements, it's best to choose metal so it can withstand damaging conditions.

A wooden staircase leading to the second floor of a house with wooden handrails and white painted walls

On the other hand, indoor railings are traditionally wood which is slightly more sensitive than metal. Below is a list of the different types of handrails and their benefits to help you decide which handrail suits your needs the best.

  1. Stainless steel
    • does not require a lot of maintenance
    • can withstand harsh climate
    • can be painted on, but does not require it
  2. Cast and wrought iron
    • best to use for ornate, personalized designs
    • very durable and can be tough to break
    • resistant to shock and vibrations
  3. Mild steel
    • budget-friendly, and much cheaper than stainless steel railings
    • easy to shape for any design
    • can be easily cleaned and maintained
  4. Concrete
    • sturdy and resistant to corrosion
    • like wrought iron, concrete is commonly used for ornate, personalized designs
    • fire-resistant
  5. Aluminum
    • light-weight and easy to install
    • resistant to harsh weather conditions
    • does not rust
  6. Glass
    • popular with a sleek modern look
    • does not rot, rust, or decay
    • adds space and facilitates light flow
  7. Wood
    • different types of woods can create various designs
    • affordable and can be purchased to install
    • easy to maintain and clean

Should I Match Stair Tread To Floor?

Much like the matching handrailings to the floor, this decision is up to the aesthetic preference of the homeowner. Everything simply needs to be coordinated and does not literally mean that they should be the same shade of the same color.

A luxurious marble entryway for a modern and luxurious mansion with huge classic chandeliers and wall lamps on the side

But if you do choose to use the same color on your stair tread and floors, a popular style incorporating this uses a solid color to emphasize the space between each stair and the floor. If you are using light-colored wood for treads and floors, a solid white would compliment the design well.

Another style completely omits using a solid color to emphasize space and uses actual distance to separate the treads. This style is called 'open riser variety' or 'floating stairs' and it's fairly common in modern, contemporary residential designs. 

And another design most commonly seen in grand staircases does not use space to suggest length. Instead, it uses the same color or identical material from the steps down to the floors in order to accentuate the actual size of the staircase. 

Is It Ok To Have Two Different Woods For Stairs and Floor?

It is okay to have two or more different types of wood in your house. If it is your preference to match them, it's best to use species of woods that have shades that are close to each other. Oak, maple, and cherry woods are popular choices for flooring since most of these are readily available for installment.

A huge classic themed living room with beige painted walls, carpeted stairs and light brown painted handrails matching the flooring

One way you can match these woods together is by applying stain. You can order an unfinished wood flooring and accomplish the staining on site if you are planning to match a different wood to another that has already been installed.

If it is not your preference to match the floor, you can purchase materials that offer a nice contrast to each other. Below is a list of woods that go well together.

  • walnut and maple
  • white oak and walnut
  • cherry and maple
  • red oak and white ash
  • mahogany and cherry
  • mahogany and curly maple

To Wrap Up

Hard wooden flooring for a living room and a staircase leading to the second floor

The stairway and flooring of your home are important components that can complete the whole aesthetic of your house. A good eye is needed in order to figure out which colors go together, or if one color can provide a harmonious look for your living space.

In this article, we discussed all the details you need to know when figuring out how you can successfully match your handrail to the floor. Although in the end, everything is still up to the preference of the homeowner, and different styles work when executed well.

Made it to the end? Check out some of our other related posts here.

What Height Should Handrail Be On Stairs?

What Is The Best Paint For Indoor Stairs?