When specifying handrails and balustrades, many architects and designers favour the traditional style of wood. Its natural beauty and rich texture is often the ideal choice, especially for the refurbishment of older buildings, and nowadays a timber handrail is often enhanced with a contemporary twist when combined with metallic rails and stanchions. That said, age-old natural problems persist when using real wood handrails and balustrade – they require ongoing treatment to maintain their aesthetic, prevent absorption of bacteria and control infection.
More easily damaged than other materials, timber is prone to surface damage and deterioration which can reduce its comfort and safety to the touch, compromising the primary attribute of any handrail. These environmental, hygienic and maintenance concerns are unavoidable, yet designers still see them as a price worth paying to enjoy timber’s undoubted aesthetic virtues.
The alternative is metal handrails and balustrade in a wood-effect finish, but in the past these types of products have suffered from a credibility issue – put simply, they didn’t look real enough. The untrained eye may struggle to tell between genuine and fake fur, but in the eyes of many architects and interior designers, the same doesn’t apply to wood handrails. What can be created on the flat surface of wood-effect floorcoverings is far more difficult to achieve on the bends and contours of handrails and balustrade.
Thankfully, with advances in coating technology, the distinction between real and fake has become considerably harder. The better manufacturers have developed more sophisticated powder coating techniques which are able to reproduce the intricate detailing of natural wood grain. In the case of the best products on the market we have reached the point that, to the naked eye, the wood-effect is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Aluminium is an ideal metal for wood-effect – it readily bonds to powder coating to provide a smooth finish which, whilst similar in appearance, offers several contrasts to real timber: it is non-absorptive, warm and safe to the touch, extremely durable and non-chip. When you choose a wood-effect specification over real wood, you get peace of mind knowing that the installation is maintenance-free – no more repairs, no more site visits, no more expense.
At neaco, we identified oak as the most popular wood for handrails and developed a system called Timberline. We invested resources in a reproductive coating process for two forms: dark oak and light oak, available in a matt or gloss finish.
The response that we have received since Timberline’s launch has been a revelation – architects, designers and a number of building contractors have now abandoned their preconceptions about the credibility of wood-effect. Their loyalty to the real thing – and all of its attendant drawbacks – is now a real thing of the past.