Working with a manufacturer is a partnership. Manufacturers want to bring your dreams to life as much as you want your new project in your home or office. Working together, the two of you can create a hand-crafted piece that exceeds all expectations. To ensure that both of you are on the same page and that you have the same understanding of the amount of quality expected in the finished product – ask these five questions.
1. WHAT WOOD SPECIES CAN BE USED?
The type of wood used on your project should be the first thing you and a manufacturer talk about. Wood species can vary in color, grain, and hardness – each type has characteristics of their own that need to be considered. When choosing a wood species for handrails, balusters, and newel posts, you have multiple options. These parts do not get as much traffic as the “flat” parts of a staircase do (i.e. treads and risers), allowing you to choose a soft or hardwood species.
Pines (softwood) low/mid-range
There are many varieties to choose from in the Pine species – more than 100 in the world! Pine is a sturdy but lightweight wood that tends to have a yellow tint and is easy to work with.
Red Oak (hardwood) – mid-range
This light to medium-brown hardwood tends to have a reddish tint and is used for a traditional design aesthetics.
“American” Cherry (hardwood) – mid/high-range
Commonly mistaken for “Brazilian Cherry”, American Cherry is a domestic hardwood whose color ages beautifully from a pink to reddish brown with time. Its all-around great qualities make it a commonly used wood for small specialty items, cabinetry, and turned objects.
There is always a story with wood! When you ask the manufacturer what types of wood species they offer, also ask where the wood is sourced from and how old it is. You’ll have a better understanding of the history and quality you’ll get with that wood species.
2. WHAT DOES YOUR PROCESS LOOK LIKE?
Some manufacturers may have a stock or inventory of railings, balusters, and newel posts for you to choose from. Their options will be featured on their website or through a catalogue they offer. The benefit of choosing this process is that your piece has been made previously and the creation timeframe will be quicker. However, you won’t get a hand-crafted quality piece that is one-of-a-kind.
Customization, however, is a whole different ball game. If you decide to go with a manufacturer who customizes staircase parts, you should know the process will be completely different. Customization means you get to bring your design dreams to life. Here is an example of the custom process you and your manufacturer might go through:
Step 1: You provide a picture, drawing, or actual part of what you want
Step 2: The manufacturer gives you a project quote
Step 3: You approve the pricing
Step 4: They create a custom drawing and send it to you for approval
Step 5: You approve the drawing
Step 6: They bring the drawing to life and create a custom project for you
When you customize a project with a manufacturer, there are no third parties involved in the process; there isn’t a middleman to negotiate with. What they sell, they provide, and their promise will be crafted/manufactured from their facility, every time. That’s the best benefit of a custom staircase project.
3. WHAT WORKS BEST IN MY STAIRCASE DESIGN?
Before meeting with your manufacturer you could do some research on staircase designs that appeal to you on websites like Pinterest and Houzz. This way you will have pictures that show your manufacturer the styles and designs that appeal to you most. Knowing the type of staircase you want for your project will help your manufacturer recommend staircase parts or create custom drawings and mock-ups.
The best part about working directly with a manufacturer is the partnership you will develop with them. Manufacturers will learn about your style and preferences and be able to tell you what the best staircase designs are for your project. Their expertise ensures that the staircase part will compliment the overall design. Looking for some inspiration? Check out these attractive wooden staircase designs here, here, and here.
4. WHAT ARE YOUR TOLERANCES?
A tolerance is a set of specifications to which a product should be made. They can vary for each project, each product, and each manufacturer. That narrows it down, right? For example, if OSHA allows a one inch tolerance for the height of a stair rail, your design is allowed to be one inch above or one inch below the building code requirements they set. Manufacturing staircase parts requires the same knowledge of tolerances. When you receive your staircase parts from your manufacturer and complete your staircase project – you will want everything to fit together seamlessly.
Your local building code will have minimum tolerances for your project that you will also want to discuss with your manufacturer. They have the ability to control their tolerance levels to a degree that will meet your staircase building needs. Knowing how your manufacturer builds their products and what the tolerances are is essential to your project. It ensures that your end product is of a quality that meets your design requirements and is up to code.
5. HOW CAN YOU FUTURE-PROOF MY STAIRCASE PARTS?
If you’re customizing a staircase, or staircase part – you want it to look sharp and perform well. The best part about getting a custom piece manufactured is knowing who made it. You’ll want to ask your manufacturer questions that help you understand how your staircase part was created. This will ensure that you are getting a quality made product that was constructed without glue, staples, or nails.
While some manufactuers will stain, finish, or paint your wood project – others might craft the wood parts and ship them “raw.” Remember, they are the experts. Find out which stains would be the best to use and why. Get their insights on how you should be taking care of it in the future, beyond dusting, polishers, and cleansers. Take this as an opportunity to learn the most you can about the wood being used and how to take care of it.
A good, quality-made staircase is one that you will want around for years. By discussing the small details that go into manufacturing your new project, you’ll know how to make it last. Trust us – you won’t regret it.