Designing Stairs

Ask any design graduate about staircases and they will likely tell you that drawing and planning them was the hardest thing about design school. What does this mean for the weekend handyman? If you’re thinking of anything besides a fresh coat of paint and a new carpet, staircase renovation is a job for the pros. Providing structural support and a visual focal point, stairways are one of the most important functional and decorative elements in your home. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Hand Rail

Just swapping the handrail along the wall up your staircase can make a big difference, and these are easy to find at any hardware store.

Newel Post Topper

The newel post is the first, central support column of a railing. Search antique, salvage and vintage shops for crystal orbs and decorative finials to add to the top of the newel post.


Arguably the easiest and most affordable bang for your buck, beware that painting stairs is still a big job. Allow yourself more time than you think you will need, especially if you are doing the risers and treads different colours. Painted stairs are slippery and do eventually chip, so consider adding a runner.


Swapping hardwood for old carpet is the most common type of staircase improvement and does not require a building permit. If you are contracting yourself, search for hardwood floor experts as they usually do stairs as well.


Any staircase renovation that will involve removing or relocating steps or railings and a banister requires a building permit so contact your municipal office for information. If you are acting as your own contractor, search for “staircase specialists” or “staircase renovation” in your area. You can buy modular stair kits, which will save on the design and materials, but these should also be installed by a professional. Visit Stairs By Design for more information. 

Here are some nationwide specialists to get you started. Know of a good staircase source we missed? Please let us know! Email gmcauley [at]

Nova Scotia:

Scotia Stairs

Pine Stair Parts  


Design D’Ici Signature


Art Stairs

Finishing Touches Stairs & Railings

Steptoe & Wife Antiques

All Home Supply

Reno Build 

Roes Stair Company

Royal Oak Railing & Stair 

Stair World

Simmonds Woodturning

Coey & Stairs


Spindle, Stairs & Railings


Prestige Railings & Stairs

Signature Staircase

Spindle, Stairs & Railings  

Timber Tech Stairs 

British Columbia:

Custom Ornamental Iron Works

Kallweit Graham Architecture

Rick Vanderheide Renovation Specialist