September  2002

Shelter's Product

Solving Problems

Building Codes Prompt Stair Parts Manufacturer to Invent New System

by Samantha Carpenter

Crown Heritage Stair Co. of North Wilkesboro, N.C., has developed an industry-first, patent-pending stair system that perfectly aligns standard balusters with the rake of the rail and the tread—something no other traditional stair system has been able to achieve in a 34-inch rake-rail height.

What prompted Crown Heritage to manufacture such a product? There have been two principle changes in building codes: the height of the hand rail went from 30 inches to 34 inches and the minimum opening that you can have between balusters (sphere rule) went from 6 inches to 4 inches. Those two changes in particular drove the need for the Crown System, “said Bob Green, vice president of the company.

With traditional balusters, the base of the baluster lines up with the tread. Any architectural element, whether it’s a square top or whether it’s a ring, should line up with the rail. “Over the years there has been a lot of compromise by our competitors and also by Crown Heritage up until we patented this system,” said Green.

The Crown System provides the geometrical solution to the stair system industry’s problem of uneven alignment. When building codes changed the rake-rail height to 34 inches, most stair parts manufacturers continued to offer the same balusters, without making the needed adjustments to properly align. Building codes mandated a change, but the problem of alignment remained.

“Crown Heritage designed the Crown System to comply with the new building codes,” said Green. “Crown Heritage is proud to have provided our customers and the industry with the solution for perfect alignment.”

Customer Opinions
Why would a jobber want to use the Crown System? “In the past, dealers who did installations on a daily basis had the problem of not knowing whether they were to use a 34- or 36-inch baluster in the front. There was no way for them to know because every product line, even within one manufacturer, was different. Now they don’t have that problem because we offer the 35-inch baluster,” said Green. 

Mike Walsh, president of The Radford Co. of Oshkosh, Wis., has been selling stair parts from Crown Heritage since the early 1990s. He said he really likes the system because it is correct architecturally and meets all the building codes in his area.

Jerry Evans, manager of the millwork department at Kansas City Building Supply of Overland Park, Kan., said, “I think the Crown System is a wonderful system for people that like that look. That look is part of the traditional style of stair systems, where the top of the baluster follows the rake of the rail. In the past to make it work, the trim carpenter always had to cut it. It was always difficult to make it work that way. It was a lot more time consuming before, and it was almost impossible to do.”

The Crown System perfectly aligns standard balusters with the rake of the rail and the tread.

Differentiating Itself
What else makes Crown Heritage different from its competitors?
Crown Heritage as a company has more product groups than any other company in the industry, said Green. The company also stocks everything it operates. “If you find it in our price book, then it’s a stock item. A standard manufacturer would typically try to stock 25 to 30 percent of what it offers. Crown Heritage maintains about 90 percent of its products in stock,” said Green.

Crown Heritage also prides itself in having top-notch customer service. Since working with Crown Heritage, Walsh says it’s been a good relationship. “Bob Green has been a good guy to work with and the company has been a good company,” said Walsh.

“Bob Green took back any and all of my stock that didn’t match the new system. They sent two representatives from their office in Lenoir, N.C., to work all day in our warehouse to pull out my old stock and put in new. That’s almost unheard of. That’s one reason we do business with them; they take good care of us,” said Evans. 


Samantha Carpenter is the editor of SHELTER magazine.



© Copyright Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.