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Handrail vs Balustrade – Which Is Which and What Do I Need?

When it comes to your home’s staircase, many elements come into play to make it both functional and stylish. Two important elements of any staircase are the handrail and balustrade. But what’s the difference between the two?

What Is a Handrail?

A handrail is a rail that is designed to be grasped by the hand to provide stability or support when walking, climbing stairs, or descending slopes. Handrails are commonly used in public buildings such as schools, hospitals, and private residences. In some cases, handrails may also be used as a decorative element.

What Is a Balustrade?

A balustrade is a railing supported by posts or columns, especially one forming an ornamental parapet to a balcony, bridge, or terrace. In architecture, the term is also used to describe a decorative railing built around the edge of a mezzanine, loft, or staircase.

What Are the Differences between Handrails and Balustrades?

There are a few key differences between handrails and balustrades that are important to note. First, handrails are typically installed on staircases and provide support and stability when going up or down the stairs. Balustrades, on the other hand, are installed on balconies, decks, and other elevated areas and are primarily used for safety and to prevent falls.

Another key difference between handrails and balustrades is the material they are made from. Handrails are typically made from wood, metal, or glass, while balustrades are usually made from metal or stone.

Finally, the installation process for handrails and balustrades is different. Handrails are typically mounted to the wall or to the side of the staircase, while balustrades are usually mounted to the deck or balcony.

What to Consider When Choosing between Handrails or Balustrades?

There are many factors to consider when choosing between handrails and balustrades. Here are just a few:

  1. The Function of the Railing

Do you need a handrail to provide support when climbing stairs, or are you looking for something more decorative? Balustrades are often more ornate, while handrails are more functional.

  1. The Material

Handrails and balustrades can be made from various materials, including wood, metal, and glass. Consider the look you want to achieve and the maintenance required for each material.

  1. The Budget

Handrails and balustrades can vary widely in price, depending on the material and the complexity of the design. Be sure to get a few quotes before making a final decision.

  1. The Installation

Some handrails and balustrades are easier to install than others. If you’re not experienced in home improvement projects, it’s best to choose a simpler design.

  1. Building Regulations

There are building regulation requirements for handrails and balustrades, so check with your local building department before making a final decision.

Take your time in making a decision and consider all the factors listed above. With a little research, you’ll be able to find the perfect handrail or balustrade for your home.


It is important to note that there is a difference between handrails and balustrades. Handrails are primarily used for gripping, while balustrades are primarily used for decoration. That said, both can be used for either purpose, depending on the design. When choosing between the two, it is important to consider the intended use and the space’s overall aesthetic.

If you need balustrades or handrails installed, you can hire us at Bear Metals. We are award-winning manufacturers of balustrades, handrails, balconies, canopies, and more. Get in touch with us to learn more about our products and services.