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Quick q .... drywall vs railing for stairs

robo (z6a)
last month

Are drywall balustrudes definitely a no go/dated? Or do they feel contemporary?



oak cap stairwell drywall - Google Search · More Info




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Stairway Railing Ideas | Better Homes & Gardens · More Info


Comments (33)

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    When i looked at your pics, I was all set to like the drywall... till I saw the third pic.

    So here is my vote. Drywall only if you need the wall space created. Otherwise, you can never go wrong choosing something that creates more light.

    But gee, can they make it so the railing can be switched in and out? Like some sort of snap-in system? Railing styles time stamp a house so much! JK

  • aprilneverends

    Depends on a house

    Also, each has pros and cons. Some, more or less universal. Some-to you.

    For me, non-drywalled would give airness. But drywalled might give me more sense of stability on the stairs.

    Also, sometimes an additional wallspace is welcome for a furniture layout.

    In short, "dated" wouldn't enter my decision, but my house and needs of my family would.

    I have not the slightest idea about their datedness either-and I'd know given the amount of stuff about what's "in" what's "out" I read. I even stopped reading, frankly. They seem to be very confused. I'm confused myself, can't get too overwhelmed lol.


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  • Bunny

    I kinda like the drywall. The last photo looks noisy and busy/cluttered.

  • Fori

    I love the first one (in the right house of course) but it looks like it would function poorly as a railing. Of the 3 posted, I'd want that with the actual grabby railing of photo 2 tucked inside.

  • justerrilynn

    You could do both. Have more wall with a bit of openness.





  • robo (z6a)

    JT I've DEFINITELY been considering that! The wall space would be useful in my dining area (if that's the plan).


    Thank you all so much for the input! I actually wouldn't do horizontal rails anyway because, toddler. But vertical can also look very cool.

  • sheesh

    I think that toddler would love sliding down the oak cap in the first pic when he's tall enough! What a fast blast!

  • OutsidePlaying

    If there is a break in the stairs, doing both for noise reduction with drywall on top and a rail below. I was like Mtn, liked the first one, not so much the second and did I’ve love the last one where can see the transition has the railing going on up. That is where you could put drywall if desired.

    Emmett would also love sliding on his butt down those hardwood stairs.

  • czarinalex

    I have both in our house in Pennsylvania. Before we remodeled, this staircase was totally sheetrocked. It was dark and claustrophobic. We needed the wall space for our TV, but I wanted some of the staircase to be open and light. This is the best picture I could find on my computer.

  • nini804

    I personally do not like the closed in feeling of sheetrock on both sides of a stairwell.

  • 3katz4me

    I also don't care for the sheet rock look. I've had a variety of railings and I get the dated problem with them. Fortunately I don't care too much about that - if I like the looks of it I go with it. In my last house the wrought iron railings were dated when I moved in and back in fashion when I moved out.

  • tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

    My stairs are a combination of dry wall with latillas inset. The one thing I can say for sure is if you go for drywall, absolutely have a cap on top. I would also have the lip extend past the edge of the dry wall. Even if you have a hand rail, the dry wall will get absolutely filthy without the cap. It is something I hope to add to our stairs this year for that very reason.


  • lakeaffect

    I had the drywall in my first house, a cape, and it was claustrophobic, but, the stairs were dead ahead when the front door opened into the small LR, so there were many reasons for feeling boxed in. It’s not too bad in the first pics you posted, but I still think the railings are a more fresh, contemporary look. And don’t many too many deco decisions based on the age of your son, he will be out of toddler stage - and confidently striding up the stairs two by two (just because he can) - before the house is finished.

  • sheesh

    Though I prefer railings, I don't understand "claustrophobic" with sheetrock. What makes the room claustrophobic that ordinary walls in rooms don't? I can't even see it in czarinalex's picture! It's a beautiful room!

  • czarinalex

    sheesh... the stairway was closed off on both sides with sheetrock. Here is a before pic looking up the stairs. The dark panelling didn't help. (this was in the whole house)

    And here is a better pic of the current stairs right after it was re-built.

  • Fori

    If you do railing and need to kidproof it, and don't have cats :), it can be wrapped with mesh or fabric or something until the danger has passed. I'm pretty sure you can buy material for just that, but I think with common sense one could DIY it with a preferred fabric.


    Czarina's staircase was a dark hole for sure. But we're talking about a halfwall of drywall, not making the whole thing a cave, right?

  • sheesh

    Thanks, czarina. You improved things a thousand times!

  • lakeaffect

    Tishtosh, that’s lovely, I’ve never seen that look before, it has that cool, NM vibe.

    Czarinalex, that’s exactly what the stairs in the cape I had ages ago looked like, right down to the paneling. I never removed the drywall, but I did paint the paneling cream and replaced the brown shag rug with a cream Berber (it was the 80’s, what can I say) so it felt more like a cream colored hole.

  • localeater

    I went the combination route like JT showed. My builder/designer didnt agree as he thought I would regret not having the openness of a railing above the stairs. My DH argued too. Ultimately they have all agreed it was the right call for the space.

    I dont have a good picture, this one shows the closed wall between the posts, to the right of the post is where the railing starts.

    Here it has been painted.

    I really love the way it turned out.



  • localeater

    Am adding another post because I dont think I really answered your question. I dont think a dry wall balustrade is dated at all. And definitely shouldnt be considered a no-go. I do think that it is important to strike the right note for the space. As Mtn pointed out you also should consider furniture and art placement.

    Czarinas original staircase was fully enclosed on both sides for the whole staircase, it felt claustrophobic. My staircase is fully enclosed for about 3/4's when viewed from the first floor, but the landing on the second floor is a large loft area and these factors create openness.

    In the third picture you posted, the railing provides architectural interest. It is however a picture of the railing. If we could be in that room, with the railing or with a capped 1/2 wall what would are impressions be? Personally, I might not like the railing. It's a lot of stripes. I probably would rather have negative space to rest the eye and draw your eye to things that I create or place.


  • nini804

    Yeah, I‘m probably weird bc I really like staircases aNd want to SEE them, not hide the wood treads behind drywall particularly if the stairs are the main staircase, and in the foyer or visible to public spaces. Plus, I’m addicted to light, and balusters allow light to penetrate, obviously. But if the drywall suits the aesthetic of the home, and works functionally for you...go for it!


    Yes, Sheesh, like Czarinalex illustrated....a staircase closed like that just looks like a tunnel to me. It really does trigger my claustrophobia.

  • Oakley

    Robo, don't get horizontal railings like the picture above, kids are notorious at climbing them and I think some codes don't allow them. Czar has the right idea.

    If you get drywall over railing expect to wash it constantly as your son gets a wee bit older, and then expect to repaint it sooner rather than later.

    My vote is for a railing because they're just prettier & add a little more detail, and they're safer to use in case of a slip down the stairs. Our arms automatically grab for the side of a railing but if you have drywall, then the person is S out of luck. A railing saved my life many times growing up. :)

    Have you thought about stainless steel railings?

  • robo (z6a)

    Thank you all so much for the really interesting feedback! Just wait until I make a new thread for every single detail I have a question about.... j/k?

    If we did do a drywall balustrade we would add a railing at the appropriate height. In fact I don’t know if we could do otherwise, but especially with the kid it’s mandatory. Half height for drywall.

    I really don’t know what the builder has on offer for railings, they tend to do hardwood.

  • justerrilynn

    This is going to be fun to follow. I’ve only built once and it was long ago. My husband and I have been talking about maybe doing it again. We both really like that house I posted on your other thread, except smaller and with an elevator.

  • robo (z6a)

    That white cross gable house? That made it into my houzz ideabook :)

  • justerrilynn

    Robo, I want that house : )

  • blfenton

    What lakeffect said. I am claustrophobic and could never do drywall.

    Having said that, when we tore apart our house we were back in it for 5 months before finally choosing railings. I finally designed them myself from a compilation of styles and had them custom made and still love them. The style at the time was the knuckle railings which I detest.

  • Joaniepoanie

    In our old house we had drywalled stairs save for the bottom 2-3 steps with a rail on one side. I always meant to have solar tubes put in but never got around to it. It was low priority since no one spends any time on the stairs, they are just a passthrough. But a bright stairwell is nice if you can do it.

    In our current home, it is also a drywalled stairwell, with a half, slanted wall at the first four steps on both sides...painted trim on top. We could probably open it up another 4-5 steps but it’s not worth it. Fortunately there is a big window just to the left of the stairwell at the top, so it is not dark like the last house.

    I agree that if you don’t need the wall space to keep it as open as possible.

  • bpath reads banned books too

    Localeater, your banister at the bottom is awesomely cool and minimalist! I hate to ask, but is it to code?

  • robo (z6a)

    I love that bannister too!

    Whether I did drywall or rails I think the stairwell would still feel quite light because it is a narrow house, so the stairwell is against an exterior wall and there will be windows right in the stairwell.

  • localeater

    Thanks BPA and Robo for the compliments on my railing. It is to code. My builders actually had it pre-approved by the code officer before it was made because they had just had an issue on another house. One of the fun things about it was meeting the maker and hearing his story.

    This was my inspiration picture.

  • mtnrdredux_gw

    OMG Local, that is very cool. TBH I was actually a little confused by it -- I wasn't sure if I was looking at the finished product the way you described it above. Now that I see the other image, I get it!

    From the angle shown, I'd swear yours has a cupholder. ; )

  • Joaniepoanie

    Very cool localeater.

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