Stair Terminology Glossary
Angle Newel: The longer of the central supporting pillar of a winding/spiral staircase (see Newel). It is used at landings and upper levels where a rake rail changes direction and continues. These may be two, three, or four risers high in their base length.
Baluster: A vertical piece, plain or decorative, that is used between railing and tread or floor. It adds support, safety and stability to the balustrade. (Also known as Spindle, or Picket.)
Balustrade: A term which refers the system of balusters and hand rail on a particular stairway.
Box Newel: A large square hollow newel, used in post to post balustrades.
Box Stair: A stair where the stringers (see Stringer) house the treads (see Tread) and risers (see Riser), forming a box-like system.
Bracket: A scroll shaped ornamental portion of support usually attached at the angle between a riser and its tread.
Cap: A round over-the-post handrail fitting, which is installed over a newel post for continuous or smooth handrail.
Cove Moulding: A decorative mould that is curved inward; used to finish off the joint formed when the face of the riser meets the lower face of the tread.
Curtail Step: A rounded step at the bottom of the balustrade; usually accommodates the volute.
Easing: A class of handrail components; often a curved, connecting piece used to change the angle of the handrail, i.e. when the handrail leads to a landing or makes a turn. (Sometimes called easement)
Flared Stair: A stair that curves out at the start.
Fillet: A thin, finishing moulding that is fitted into plowed hand rail and shoe rail between the balusters.
Finished Floor to Finished Floor Height: The total rise of the stair, the height of a spiral staircase.
Flute: A decorative vertical groove in a baluster or newel.
Freestanding Stair: A stairway that is not supported by walls.
Glue Block: A wooden block that can be square or triangular, glued underneath the step. They are used where the tread and riser form an inside corner on the underside of each step and provide additional support and strength to the area.
Gooseneck: A rail fitting that permits a change in direction, used where rake rail rises vertically to a balcony or landing.
Gradient of a stair: The ratio between the stairs' horizontal and vertical distance.
Half-newel: A newel post that is typically cut vertically and mounted against the wall, used mainly for aesthetic purposes.
Hand Rail: The railing used as hand support in complete stair systems.
Header: A floor framing piece that the top riser of the stair is secured to.
Landing: A large horizontal platform between the flights of stairs. Landings allow for directional changes in stairs.
Landing Tread: A part used at the top of a staircase or beginning of a balcony that allows for transition into the landing.
Left Hand Stair: The rail fittings on the left hand side of the stairs.
Level Quarter-turn: A fitting that permits a 90-degree turn. It is usually used to meet with a handrail around the corner of a wall.
Level Rail: Handrail used on the landing portion of a balustrade.
Lineal Nosing: A finish trim piece that attaches to the front-side of a tread.
Newel: Also called a central pole, it is the major supporting pillar of a balustrade system, typically located at the bottom and top of a stairway, or at a turn in a handrail. .Although its primary purpose is structural, newels have been adorned with decorative trim and varying designs. (May also be called a Post.)
Nosing: (Also referred to as Bull-nose) The rounded front or outside edge of the tread. (see Tread.)
Open Stair: (Also called Open-flight) A staircase style in which the treads are exhibited from the side; with or without a wall on one or both sides of the treads.
Over-the-Post: A balustrade system which uses rail fittings on top of newel posts to constitute a continuous hand rail.
Parapet: A small barrier constructed for safety purposes.
Pitch: (See also Rake.) The angle of the staircase as determined by the vertical and horizontal distance.
Pitch Block: A block of wood that is made according to the pitch; subsequently used to facilitate where to precisely cut.
Platform: See Landing.
Plow: A handrail that has it's bottom grooved out for the ability to receive a a square topped baluster.
Plug: A circular piece that covers a hole that has been drilled to attach fastening hardware.
Post-to-Post: A style where the handrail is cut to attache to the sides of newel posts.
Rail: The hand support in a stair system.
Rail Bolt: A two ended, threaded steel stud with nut, washer and wood plug. A concealed fastener used to at- tach hand rail to fittings and newels.
Rail Fitting: Fittings are assembled parts that match particular hand rail patterns. They allow for directional and vertical changes with the hand rail in over-the-post balustrades. Some fittings may also be used in post-to- post balustrades.
Rake: The angle of a set of stairs. (See also Pitch.)
Rake Rail: Hand rail used on the ascending section of a balustrade. It follows the pitch of the stair.
Rail System: The upper part of a staircase system, which includes the balusters, hand rails and newels. It does not include the lower portion of the system, i.e. risers, threads and other related pieces.
Return Nosing: A rounded molding material used to cover the exposed edge of a tread to make the system more aesthetically pleasing.
Right Hand Stair: The rail fitting on the right-hand side of the stair.
Rise: The vertical distance between two consecutive treads.
Riser: The vertical plane of a stair that faces each step between stringers and tread.
Rosette: An embellished finish piece that may be round, oval or rectangular. Its function is that of an anchor for the railing.
Run: The horizontal distance between two consecutive risers.
S-fitting: A handrail fitting that winds left or right around a wall.
Shoe Moulding: An inside corner finishing piece that have a curved exterior, generally applied where bottom riser meets the finished floor.
Shoe Rail: A plowed mold designed to receive a square-bottomed balusters; it is often used at the base of a starter step.
Skirt Board: The decorative board that fastens along the wall on the open side of the staircase.
Soffit: The underside of a staircase.
Spindle: (See also Baluster.) A vertical, carved baluster placed between the handrails.
Spiral Staircase: A type of stair system that is circular. (Also called Helical Stairs.)
Start Easing: A straight and ornamental handrail fixture.
Starter Step: The first step of a stair system. It tends to be ornate and is typically wider than any of the other steps.
Steel Insert: A small piece of hardware that is inserted into a newel hole. This method strengthens the joint more significantly than a bolt-only approach.
Stringer: The structural component that supports the treads and risers. There are two stringers on a staircase typically, one on either side of the stairs.
T-shaped Stair: A single staircase that then splits off into two separate stair systems.
Tapered Step: A step on a winding/curved staircase.
Treads: This is the portion of the step on which you place your feet.
Turn out: An ornamental item that usually flares left or right and attaches to the beginning of the rail.
U-shaped Stair: A stair system that that changes direction 180 degrees and consists of at least two flights.
Volute: A fancy spiral formation found at the bottom end of the handrails.
Walk Line: An imaginary line that anticipates the path of people who will be ascending the staircase.
Wall Rail: A handrail fastened directly to a wall.
Winder: A special kind of tread for a turning staircase. The inside run of this particvular stair is much narrower, while the outside run is much wider.