Spindles vs Balusters—When It Comes to Understanding Stair Parts, Which is Right? What’s the Difference?
Understanding stair parts begins with knowing the different parts of the stair system.
Walking into the front door of a house, nothing catches the eye quite like a beautiful staircase. From handsome newels, to hardy treads and breathtaking rail, a good looking staircase sets the first impression of the entire home.
But…rewind. Stop. What about the stair posts? Don’t those matter to the attractiveness of a staircase as much as—maybe more than—the other stair parts just mentioned?
Iron or wood… those are the two most common materials for those stair posts or—as they are known in the stair parts industry—stair balusters.
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term—baluster? Maybe you’ve always heard those stair posts called “spindles?” Which is correct? What is the difference?
If you don’t know the difference, don’t feel bad. Many use the words interchangeably, not realizing or caring that one is technically correct, while the other is not.
As we mentioned above, in the world of stair parts—among stair parts manufacturers, stair parts suppliers, contractors, and stair installers, etc.,—“baluster” is the name that wins!
What about “spindles”—where did that term come from and how did it get confused with balusters?
Let’s start with the big picture—the balustrade.
The balustrade is a group of balusters equally spaced and joined to a handrail (top rail) and base rail (bottom). Usually, people refer to the entire stair railing system from top to bottom as the balustrade and it can include post caps and finials too.
At the base of the stairs and at the very top are newel posts.
There are a few different types of newel posts but newel posts are not balusters. They are larger and serve a different purpose.
Balusters are the stair posts in the balustrade.
Almost exclusively, balusters are made from wood or metal. For many years wood was the most popular. Then, people began to clamor for iron balusters—in newly built stairs and in stair remodeling.
Today, the preference for wood balusters or iron is generally split about 50/50.
And again, while the words “spindle” and “baluster” are sometimes used to mean the same thing, spindles are really something different altogether.
Very generally, a “spindle” is something akin to the form and function of a baluster, but is used in furniture.
Therefore, the primary difference between stair balusters and spindles is simply where and how they are used. Of course, if you use the term stair spindle, most people will almost certainly know what you mean.
But there is one caveat to all this though…
There is a baluster called a spindle baluster that is “twisted” or “turned.”
Thus, if you want to make nice with your stair installer or contractor, using the correct name will likely garner you more respect and help ensure you get exactly what you’re looking for in your stair design.