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How to Lay Out the Balustrade

In order to lay out the balustrade, follow these steps:

  1. Find the baluster line and mark baluster positions: The baluster line defines the centerline of the entire balustrade. Newels, balusters and handrail will eventually be centered on it.Traditionally, the balustrade centerline should allow the outside face of the baluster to line up in the same plane as the finished surface below the tread, i.e. sheetrock or skirtboard. Therefore the centerline location (measured from the outside edge of the tread return) should be equal to 1 /2 the thickness of the baluster plus the overhang dimension (as shown below)

Another way to describe the baluster line is that it represents the centerline of a row of balusters whose outside faces line up with the finished wall, or skirt board, below the tread. Mark the baluster line on the first tread, and each succeeding tread in the flight.

NOTE: If the handrail is to terminate against the end of a wall, the baluster line should be centered on the wall to allow for symmetrical mounting of a rosette or half newel (see figure below). Remember to maintain appropriate stairway width for compliance with local building code requirements.

Now find the location of the first baluster on the tread. It will be on the baluster line, and the leading face of the baluster should be in line with the face of the riser beneath the tread (see figure below).