ornamental metalwork

Metal Stairs & Railings

In these lists, you'll find suppliers of everything from inexpensive spiral-stair kits for residential uses, to metal foundries that will custom-cast a magnificent bronze stair for a new hotel or restaurant.

Click here for suppliers of metal stairs
Click here for suppliers of railings
Click here for suppliers of wood stairs
Click here for suppliers of stair parts

Metal stairs can be anything from a simple fabricated steel spiral stair ordered from a catalog to a custom-cast bronze stair created for a hotel or state capitol.

STAIR SHAPE & STYLE. The shape of the stair you specify -- spiral, straight or curved -- is usually determined by the geometry of the space into which it must fit. Sometimes, a curved stair is specified, despite its higher cost, because of the sweep and grandeur it imparts to a space. The style of the stair, however, is dictated by the rest of the interior architecture and is determined primarily by the design of the balustrade you call for and the material of which it's made. For example, curving, delicate acanthus leaves create a sophisticated classic European feel, while roughly hand-hammered copper might be used in an Arts & Crafts environment.

THE HANDRAIL -- A CRITICAL COMPONENT. On many stairs, the handrail is the most visible and important element, both from the way a stair looks and the way it feels. The handrail thus deserves special attention from the designer, taking into account such factors as the basic cross-section profile, the width and the depth. If the stairway is curved, the smoothness and regularity of the handrail curvature are critical. We've all seen curved handrails made by shops that were in over their heads. The result, often, was a rail with flat spots, abrupt changes in curvature or both.

METAL SPECIFICATION. Typically, you'll find metal stairs made from mild steel (bear in mind that "wrought iron" today is really just mild steel), cast iron, cast aluminum, bronze and sometimes stainless steel. Besides appearance and initial cost, your choice has to also bear in mind the different patinas, metal coatings or both that each metal (except stainless steel) may require -- because the finish is an important element of style. Wrought iron, for example, can take paint, wax or a chemical patina.

CUSTOM VS. STOCK. For applications where it's appropriate, the spiral stair is often the most economical choice. Spiral stairs range from plain, functional, mild steel units -- sometimes available in kit form -- to ornate Victorian styles in cast iron. On projects with some design flexibility, it's often most economical to select a stair of standard design and dimension and then design the rest of the space around it. For high-end jobs, where something grand is desirable, you may wish to have an all-custom stair fabricated to your specifications. Just be prepared to pay a premium for it.

STAIR GEOMETRY. Stair layout involves complex geometry, and very few architects these days try to do the actual detailed stair layout. Shops that specialize in stair work usually have computer programs that will generate layouts and shop drawings from the architect's general dimensions and specifications.

SELECTING A SHOP. You'll find three basic types of companies: (1) Custom metalworking shops that can engineer and fabricate one-of-a-kind stairs from your architectural drawings; (2) Suppliers of standard-design cast-iron and fabricated-steel straight and spiral metal stairs and (3) Suppliers of stair components -- railings, balusters and the like -- that can be incorporated by local metalworkers into moderately priced semi-custom designs. Your choice will be dictated by the scope of your project.