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6 Problems with Wood Handrails: Choosing a Better Alternative

Choosing the perfect handrail for your home or business means sifting through lots of options. From a variety of profiles to the choice of material, it’s important to choose materials that will allow your handrail to stand the test of time, maintaining its function and beauty.

Handrails come in a variety of materials, including aluminum, wrought iron, and wood. Wood is a commonly used material, but wood presents many issues not found in alternative handrail materials.

1. Often Made of Cheap Materials

Wood handrails are often made of softer woods like pine to cut down on cost. Unfortunately, this also cuts down on strength and durability. Cheaper wood materials are prone to denting and scratching, requiring additional effort and maintenance to keep them looking nice over time.

2. High Warping Probability

Wood is a hygroscopic material, meaning that it is altered by the amount of moisture in and around it. When it loses moisture, it shrinks. When it gains moisture, it swells. Dry or humid air, even indoors, can affect wood handrails, causing them to swell, shrink, and warp over time. Once a handrail is warped, fixing it is very difficult, if not impossible.

This tendency to warp means that the majority of wood handrails are not suited for use as exterior wood handrails, though pressure-treated handrails can be used as deck railings.

3. Have to Cut/Miter 

For safety, stability, and to be in compliance with ADA standards as well as commercial and residential building codes, a continuous handrail is necessary. In order to make a wood handrail continuous, special joints are needed along with cutting 45-degree angles and matching the cuts to turn a 90-degree corner.

4. Reliable, Elegant Hardwoods are Expensive

If you choose to use wood for a handrail, there are more reliable options, such as maple or oak. These hardwoods are more expensive than the softer woods, though they are more durable. Another factor besides price is that they create a look that is desirable for certain design aesthetics, namely traditional. 

They generally don’t provide much in the way of structural improvements and because they are mostly found in a pinch grip profile, they lack adequate handhold requirements and do not meet ADA guidelines or building codes.

5. Have to Drill in Brackets

One of the most pressing concerns for wood handrails is the installation process. Brackets and hardware must be attached to the wood handrail itself. This presents a number of challenges. The screws themselves have to be fairly short so they don’t puncture the top of the handrail. Because the screws are short, the brackets have a tendency to loosen over time, creating a handrail that doesn’t provide the level of safety necessary for those using the stairs or ramp.


Another challenge for installation comes when measuring for bracket placement. Because the brackets are screwed into the handrail, measuring the locations of the studs and lining up the location of the brackets on the handrail needs to be precise. If you mismeasure, the brackets need to be removed and repositioned, leaving holes in the handrail.

6. Requires Sanding, Sealing, and Staining

Many options for wood handrails come unfinished. While this does mean that you can customize the stain to match existing woodwork or current design, it requires a substantial amount of work. 

To stain a wood handrail, you should first sand it to ensure there are no blemishes, which creates dust and mess. After sanding, staining requires a well-ventilated area and the possibility of multiple coats. Finally, the wood handrail should be sealed to help it maintain its appearance over time. 

Even after all of that work, a wood handrail runs the risk of warping, scratching, or denting. This leads to repairs or replacement down the road, translating to more time and money spent.

Why Promenaid TrueWoodTM is Better than Traditional Wood

Luckily, there is a better alternative to wood handrails. Promenaid offers TrueWoodTM handrails that are far superior to traditional wood handrails. TrueWood handrails are created by manufacturing a thin layer of genuine Red Oak or Black Walnut wood that is then bonded to Promenaid’s aluminum handrail. This creates a handrail that will never warp, is as hard and durable as aluminum with the traditional beauty of real wood. 

Unlike traditional wood handrails, a TrueWood handrail has the benefits of aluminum, greatly reducing the risk of denting or cracking while maintaining the beauty of wood. This genuine wood handrail uses 1/50 the amount of wood that a traditional wood handrail uses, making it a more sustainable option.

Installation is fast and easy as a result of our patented channel grip that allows for adjustable bends and clip-in brackets. This means that measuring for bracket placement becomes substantially easier than if the brackets need to be screwed directly into the railing. In the event that you mismeasure the bracket placement, you simply turn  the twist-lock bracket 90-degrees and slide it to line up perfectly with the stud everytime.

Promenaid’s TrueWood handrails can also be custom cut to whatever length you need, to the inch, in contrast to traditional wood handrails that come in pre-cut sections and must then be cut to length. However, if you need to cut a TrueWood handrail on-site for installation, it can be cut with a standard miter saw as easily as cutting a 2 x 4 wood stud. Thankfully, we’ve created a series of educational training videos to help you better understand the simplicity of Promenaid handrail installation.

Choosing a better alternative to traditional wood means cutting down on installation time and maintenance over the life of the handrails. Beautiful and durable TrueWood handrails will meet all of your needs and look incredible doing it.

Contact a team member at Promenaid today for more information on the best wood handrail solution.

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