A baluster supports the coping of a parapet or the handrail (also known as a bannister) of a staircase. Multiplied in this way, they form a balustrade. The term is an Italian derived from the French word balustre. The shafts are sometimes moulded, square or lathe-turned, standing on a unifying footing.
There are two common types of balustrade featured on Australian Terrace Houses – stone (or stucco) and cast iron lace.
The most common turned balusters are in the form of a row on a parapet, which is a nod to classical architecture. Different patterns of parapet balustrades, such as linked rings were sometimes experimented with in the 1870s and 1880s. As these were semi-load bearing they were often the first elements to crumble, as a result, some builders deployed “blind” or false balustrades in order to keep the decorative motif but improve the longevity of the balusters. These typically only involved rendering the outline shape of the front half of the baluster. When used on the verandahs of Australian terraces it is typically a sign of great wealth, especially when using carved stone and therefore rare and usually combined with an Italianate arcade.
Iron lacework panels are more commonly used on terraces with verandahs of two or more storeys and are a distinctive feature of the Australian terrace house. These are typically flat panels of cast iron joined in rows and secured to a wooden or metal handrail.