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What are Porch Spindles?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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Porch spindles, sometimes called porch balusters, are small, decorative columns that are lined up at the edge of a porch to support and adorn a railing. These columns can contribute to the overall look of the porch and are often made in attractive shapes and colors; they also serve the practical purpose of shielding the porch from the street and keeping people from falling off the porch. As such, spindles typically are both pleasant to look at and strong enough to fulfill their primary functions. While porch spindles are very similar to the balusters used on indoor staircases to support railings, porch spindles are intended for outdoor use and are built to stand up to harsh weather. These items can be made of any strong substance, but wood and iron are the most common materials.

Symmetrical, smooth spindles are frequently found on porches. These columns are usually made by shaving away sections of spinning wood, producing fully symmetrical designs. Other common designs involve straight poles, iron bars, twisted iron strips, or even decoratively curved wooden planks, called pregnant balusters. Many craftsmen that produce these items can match existing porch spindles if provided with an example.

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Porch spindles are often stained or painted to compliment the colors of the house. They usually match the railing used on the porch — sometimes railings and spindles are even sold as a set. Paint helps to protect the spindles from weather, so it is important to use a paint intended for outdoor use. Usually, porch railings and spindles do not require professional installation, but this may be beneficial if there is a question of safety or if one is unable to achieve a straight and even look. People often lean on porch railings, and while the spindles are not the only thing keeping the railing up, defective spindles could still potentially result in a person falling off a deck.

In the event that a porch spindle is broken or otherwise damaged, it is not usually immediately imperative that the single broken spindle be replaced because the railing typically can function without the spindle. This provides time to carefully choose a matching porch spindle to replace the broken one. It is usually considered important that all spindles match perfectly, not only because this is considered more attractive by most people, but also because the spindles need to fit together in order to work properly.

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