Frequently Asked Questions

What are mountain laurel handrails?

Mountain laurel handrails are a traditional form of artistic expression that I discovered while living in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. These handrails use the branches of the mountain laurel tree which are naturally curved in wonderful shapes.

How are they made?

Handrails are typically made with a red cedar 2×4 board on the top and bottom. Mountain laurel sticks are fastened to these boards and woven together with each other.

What are preassembled handrail sections?

Preassembled sections arrive ready-to-install. The handrail sections are one side of boards with the mountain laurel sticks attached. The boards on the other side and the top handrail are installed on site. This is so that your installer can hide fasteners in the railing. Click here for a deck railing architectural drawing.

What information is needed for my order?

For a preliminary quote, please provide your total railing length and a zip code for delivery.

To complete your order, please provide:

A phone number for delivery is needed so that the delivery driver can schedule delivery.

Do you deliver?

Yes, delivery is available nationwide. Delivery is made via a full-size 53′ tractor-trailer. Please ensure that your address is accessible to a vehicle of this size.

Delivery is usually to a residence. Larger orders can require access to a loading dock and forklift or orders may be picked up at a local freight terminal.

Delivery cost varies with the size of the order. All shipping crates are custom built to fit the specific order.

For large orders of more than one crate, I recommend receiving delivery at a location equipped with a loading dock and forklift. This will give you time to dismantle the crates at your leisure. Delivery can also be received at a local freight terminal if you have access to a trailer.

Before signing to accept delivery, please inspect the contents of your package carefully. If there is any damage, document it with multiple pictures showing the delivery truck if possible. Make sure that the driver notes the damage on the receipt before you sign. If you believe the damage is irreparable, please call immediately before taking any other action.

How much do your railings cost?

Each railing order is unique. Cost depends on many variables including quantity, delivery destination and optional upgrades. Contact me to get started on your order.

What is the payment policy?

Payment in full is required before beginning work on all orders.
Accepted payment is check by mail, credit card by phone, or paypal online.

What is the return policy?

Due to the custom nature of the work, no returns are accepted and there are no refunds.

How long does it take to receive my order?

This depends on the size of the order, current production schedule, and other factors like special order lumber or paint/stain. A minimum on any order is two to three weeks from receipt of payment to shipment.

Who does the installation?

Your handrails arrive ready-to-install. Installing wood railings requires basic carpentry skills like cutting boards and driving skills. Installation is best performed by a skilled carpenter. We work closely with your chosen installer to ensure a perfect fit!

Are there installation instructions?

Click here for installation instructions.

Does the railing meet building code?

Building code varies by jurisdiction and can be very different from one place to the next. All railing sections are built such that no opening is greater than 4″ sphere, a common building code requirement. Sections are also built to withstand a 50 pounds/square foot force, another common code requirement. Typical section height of 31″ plus 3.5″ clearance from floor plus 2×6 top plate yields 36″ finish height.

What sort of maintenance is required?

The railings require little maintenance. The branches will weather to a silver color that is similar to a piece of weathered cedar. If you want to preserve the original reddish color of the sticks, we can apply a natural stain to the sticks here in the shop. This is a clear, penetrating stain and sealer and is different than varnish or poly which is not recommended.

Will this product hold up to harsh weather?

I started building handrails with mountain laurel in 2004 after seeing installations that were 25+ years old. Laurel is a dense wood that handles weather well. I prefer mountain laurel to rhododendron since it is denser and stronger. The area where this style originates, in and around Highlands, NC, is considered a rainforest for an average 90″ of rain per year.

Can my railings be painted or stained?

The 1×4 boards that hold the mountain laurel sticks are usually painted or stained to match your requirements but can also be left unfinished. Here are some common stain colors on pine and cedar lumber. Though generally left unfinished, railings can also have sticks painted or stained as an optional upgrade.

What about a sealer, like poly or varnish?

I generally recommend against using any kind of poly or varnish on the sticks outside. The finish will always start to weather well before the sticks. First it yellows then it starts to flake and peel. If you want to maintain the natural red color of the sticks, we can apply a natural stain in the shop. This is a clear stain that is also a penetrating sealer. Stain will have to be reapplied to maintain the color.

What type of wood do you use?

1×4 boards at the top and bottom are usually western red cedar, smooth surface. Multiple different options are available: rough sawn cedar, rough sawn pine, cypress, oak, yellow pine, black locust, barn wood, ipe, teak, pretty much any wood that is available as a board can be used in the typical design.

Branches are usually of mountain laurel but may occasionally be rhododendron. Mountain laurel has a somewhat rougher and darker reddish/brown bark. Rhododendron has a smoother bark that is a lighter brown color. All orders are of mountain laurel unless otherwise specified

Are there other options?

The top and bottom pieces can be round logs and the mountain laurel branches can be fastened to the round logs by either mortise and tenon joints or by flush cutting the sticks and nailing. Common wood species for the round logs include pine, poplar and black locust. Mortise and tenon joinery is recommended for interior use only to avoid collecting water in the bottom mortises. See here for more Mountain Laurel Handrail designs.

What other products can you make?

Mountain Laurel Furniture comes in all shapes, sizes and styles including: framed mountain laurel art pieces, rustic headboards, coffee tables, side tables, end tables, sofa tables, framed mirrors, benches chairs, magazine racks, and pretty much any item you can think of. We’ve made a custom nightstand that is also a dog bed.

How do I measure for stair railing?

The best way to measure the height of the stair railing section is to have the posts installed. Clamp a 2×4 to the level sections with the top at the bottom of the top 2×6. Mark the newel post on top of the stairs. Set a 2x on the leading edge of the tread. Measure the height from the board to the mark. Use this number and measure and make a mark on the bottom newel. Use a framing square to measure perpendicular to the angle of the stairs, either to the leading edge of the tread or the side of the stringer. Use the 2x set on the leading edge of the tread to measure the section length and angle in degrees.

Are there CAD drawings or symbols to use in architectural plans or renderings?

Yes. Click here for CAD drawings.

Can I buy mountain laurel branch material for railing parts?

Yes. Click here for more information on mountain laurel branch material for railing parts.

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Updated on April 23, 2015 by jimmypader

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12 Responses to FAQ

  1. Brenda norts says:

    I am looking to get a price for a wood railing t
    For for my existing stair railing.

  2. Dave says:

    Do you have a store or showroom in Franklin? I live close by and would love to see and talk in person. If so, what are your typical hours that you are open?

  3. Martha Slager says:

    Can you build custom panels as short as 12″H? Want to use these as art affixed to fencing panels.

  4. Michelle George says:

    Could you please send us a quote for two 29′ railings for two lofts and two 9′ sections for two sets of stairs?

  5. Michelle George says:

    Hello—the railings are beautiful. Do they meet the code requirement of 4 inches?

  6. Is mountain laurel a fast growing species that can withstand being harvested in mass quantities? My customers want to make sure that I am not buying a product that is not rapidly renewable.

    • wood railing says:

      Unfortunately, there’s not much data on mountain laurel like you would be able to find for more familiar species like pine or oak. This is because, historically, mountain laurel has had very little commercial value. That being said, mountain laurel is endemic to the Appalachian Mountains and grows in a this range from Georgia to Maine. Much of the lumber that we use comes from land clearing activities where the wood would otherwise be burned as waste. So, there is definitely a green side to repurposing this lumber.

  7. Rhea Busick says:

    if we wanted to have these installed at a business, would they pass safely codes? For example, I know we were told rails had to be vertical and not horizontal.

    • wood railing says:

      Hi Rhea, Building code varies by jurisdiction and can be very different from one place to the next. All railing sections are built such that no opening is greater than 4″, a common building code requirement. Sections are also built to withstand a 50 pounds/square foot force, another common code requirement.

  8. Jonathon says:

    Great FAQ. Covers just about everything and very informative.