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The A to Z of Stair Parts Terminology: A 100-Term Glossary for Homeowners and Professionals Alike
Are you a professional joiner looking for high-quality timber stair parts that are easy to install and add a touch of elegance to any home? Or are you a DIY enthusiast looking to upgrade your staircase with durable, long-lasting parts? Either way, Staircase Parts has the perfect solution for you. Our timber stair parts are designed to withstand daily wear and tear, and they are sure to impress with their sophistication and durability. So, whether you are a professional or a DIY enthusiast, our stair parts will meet your needs and exceed your expectations.
Find our extensive glossary of common terms below to help you navigate the terminology and understand the different parts of a stairway:
An apron is a fascia of the landing floor that is adjacent to the bottom of the landing balustrade. It covers structural components exposed by stairwell openings, including floor joists. An apron can be plastered and painted, or it can be made of the same material as the rest of the staircase.
A baserail is a bottom rail that runs along the top of a closed string. A groove can typically be found on the topside to accommodate spindles or glass panels.
A baluster (also known as a spindle) is a closely spaced, vertical support post fixed between the handrail and baserail (or tread) to form part of the balustrade. They are typically made of timber, including oak and pine, and metal. Besides safety, balusters offer aesthetic features with plain and decorative designs available to suit various interiors.
A balustrade is an entire assembly of handrails, baserails, newel posts, newel caps and spindles. They provide safety when ascending and descending the stairs by enclosing them along their edges.
A bowed tread is a tread that curls or bows forward. A good tread would also cause the riser beneath it to bow. Bowed treads often begin at the bottom of the stair and can bow one to three treads. These can be use on the entire staircase.
A stairway bulkhead is a boxlike structure built over an opening, for example at the head of a staircase.
A bullnose (also known as a bullnose step) is a step at the bottom of the stairs with a rounded corner on one or both ends.
A closed string is a type of string that contains the treads and risers whilst hiding the profile of the steps.
A closed tread refers to a tread with a riser that seals the gap between the treads, creating a closed staircase.
A continuous handrail is a handrail that fits over the top of newel posts. It comprises straight lengths of handrails joined at turns with handrail fittings, including ramps, creating an uninterrupted, continuous run of the handrail.
Cover moulding is a plain or decorative moulding that covers the intersection of the plasterboard and the apron.
A curtail (also known as a curtail step) is a step at the bottom of the stairs that extends beyond the width of the staircase to accommodate additional features, such as a volute newel.
A helix extending outward from a centre void is referred to be a helical or curved staircase. Helical stairs can be designed to form an oval or an elliptical shape arrangement, if necessary, although they often form a continuous "C" shape with a larger, constant radius.
A cut string (also known as an open string) is a type of string with an upper edge cut to the shape of the treads and risers, exposing the profile of the steps.
Cut String Nosing
A cut string nosing is the side edge of the tread extending beyond the face of the string. It covers the end grain of the tread whilst providing a decorative element.
A D-end step is a step at the bottom of the stairs with a fully rounded corner that continues and joins into the side of a newel post.
A downstand (also known as an upstand) is a vertical surface of a step that attaches to the bottom of the tread to reduce the gaps of an open staircase. It is typically made of timber to match the other components or, in some cases, glass. Newly-built staircases with open treads must be fitted with downstands (also known as upstands) to comply with the current building regulations.
False Tread Cap
A false tread cap is the piece attached to the end of a rough tread to simulate solid wood treads, usually with a carpet runner down the steps.
A feature step is a step at the bottom of the stairs designed to stand out from the other steps of the staircase. It may feature decorative elements or a different shape or size to provide a functional or visual contrast.
A fillet strip (also known as an infill strip) is a thin wooden strip that fills the grooved space between spindles when fixed into the handrail or baserail. The timber of the infill strip is typically matched with the timber of the handrail of the baserail installed.
A finial (also known as a newel cap) is a decorative component that covers the top of a newel post. Unlike a newel cap, generally, a finial is more likely to feature a carved, shaped or turned design, such as ball and acorn profiles, to add elegance and refinement to the overall design of the staircase.
A flight is a series of uninterrupted steps connecting landings. The steps in a flight may be uniform in size and shape, or they may be arranged in a series of different sizes and shapes to create a functional or visual effect.
Floor-to-floor height is a vertical distance measured from the surface of the floor on one level to the surface of the floor on the next level.
A flute is a decorative groove or channel carved into a surface of a spindle or a newel post.
A freestanding staircase is a staircase that is not attached to a wall and is supported by its own structure. Freestanding staircases are often used in open-plan spaces and can serve as appealing focal points.
A glass panel is a transparent sheet of glass used as part of the balustrade as an alternative to timber or metal spindles. Glass panels allow more natural light to pass through, creating a sense of openness and spaciousness. They can be embedded into the groove of the handrail and baserail or fixed using glass clamps with an ungrooved handrail and baserail.
A glue block is a small triangular or rectangular piece of wood used to secure treads and risers together. Glue blocks are applied to the back or the side of the stair parts and then glued to the adjacent part to provide additional strength and stability.
Going of a Step
A going of a step is a horizontal distance between each riser measured from the edge of one riser to the edge of the next.
Going of a Flight
A going of a flight is a horizontal distance between the face of the first riser to the face of the last riser.
A gooseneck is a handrail fitting consisting of an up ramp and a vertical turn designed to elevate the handrail to the required height to meet the newel post.
Gradient of a Staircase
The gradient of a staircase is a slope or incline of the staircase, usually expressed as a ratio of the going of a flight (horizontal) to the rise (vertical). A staircase with a higher gradient has steeper steps and is generally considered more challenging to climb. In comparison, a staircase with a lower gradient has more gradual steps and is typically easier to climb. In addition, the gradient of a staircase can affect factors such as the height of handrails and the size of the treads, making it an important aspect to consider for both safety and accessibility.
A guardrail is a railing that is intended to stop people from falling from elevated surfaces like balconies and decks. A guardrail, as opposed to a railing, is a life-saving tool. Guardrails come in a variety of designs, but they are always made with safety in mind.
A half landing is a smaller landing that connects two sets of stairs on different floors of a building.
A handrail is a moulded or turned protective rail that follows the pitch of the staircase or, in the case of a landing, sits horizontally, typically forming the upper edge of the balustrade. A groove can typically be found on the underside to accommodate spindles or glass panels. Alternatively, some handrails can be mounted directly onto the wall or by fitting complementary handrail brackets.
Handrails are attached to walls, posts, or pieces of glass using handrail brackets. They uniformly disperse the weight along a handrail's length to prevent it from being concentrated at any one spot. This is what ensures the stability and structural integrity of a railing.
Handrail Bracket Arm
A handrail bracket arm is either a straight or L shaped section of steel that connects the saddle to the wall plate.
Handrail Bracket Cover Plate
A handrail bracket cover plate is a decorative covering that hides the wall plate/exposed screws.
Handrail Bracket Saddle
A handrail bracket saddle is a curved or straight piece of metal that is used to attach a bracket to a handrail.
Handrail Bracket Wall Plate
A handrail bracket wall plate is a large plate used to attach the bracket to the wall. This section cannot be removed and is necessary to the stability of the bracket.
The handrail height is the vertical distance between the top rail's upper surface and the tread's leading edge or the finished floor.
The headroom on a flight of stairs is the vertical distance, accounting for any bulkheads, between the pitch line (or nosing line) and the ceiling.
An infill strip (also known as a fillet strip) is a thin wooden strip that fills the grooved space between spindles when fixed into the handrail or baserail. The timber of the infill strip is typically matched with the timber of the handrail of the baserail installed.
An inner string is a string that faces the stairway.
Joists, or trimmer joists, are the joists that receives the end of a header in floor or roof framing in order to leave an opening for a staircase or chimney etc.
Landings are level areas that can be found at the top or bottom of stair flights. Where there is an intermediate level, a change in the flight of stairs' direction, or a long flight of stairs, intermediate landings may be found halfway up a flight of stairs.
Landing nosing is a narrow tread nosing that runs along the top edge of a balcony or landing or above the top riser. This gives the appearance of tread at the top of the staircase.
Level Quarter Turn
A level quarter turn is a 90-degree turning level handrail fitting.
A newel base is the square section at the newel post's base. It has a pre-drilled 50mm hole with a contoured top. This hole accommodates the newel post's 50mm diameter peg. Don't cut a newel post too short if you're reducing its length because newel posts have predetermined lengths.
A newel cap is a decorative component that covers the top of a newel post. It is often carved, shaped or turned with designs ranging from ornate, traditional ball and acorn profiles to simple, modern, flat or pyramid shapes.
A newel post is a vertical structural post that supports the handrail either mortise and tenoned into it or affixed to the top in the case of a continuous handrail. Depending on the layout of the staircase, they are fixed at the bottom, top and turns of the staircase. Besides safety, balusters offer aesthetic features with plain and decorative designs available to suit various interiors. A newel post is either a complete, one-piece component or a collection of several parts, such as a newel post base, newel post turning and newel post cap.
A newel turning is the centre section of a newel post. It comprises a square section at the top for the handrail to be fixed to or, in the case of a continuous handrail, a spigot at the top to fix into a handrail fitting. The bottom of a newel turning features a large spigot for secure fixing into the newel post base.
A nosing is the front edge of the tread extending beyond the face of the riser. It is typically rounded or bevelled to provide an overhang that helps to prevent people from slipping or tripping.
A nosing line, also known as a pitch line, is the notional line connecting the nosings of all treads in a flight of stairs.
An open riser staircase is one that has an unobstructed view through the treads and an open, vertical area between each step. The open riser's minimalist look is created by its straight and open design. They therefore frequently go well with open-plan homes.
An open stair is a stair where the riser and treads are visible due to openings on one or both sides.
An open string, sometimes known as a cut string, is the opposite of a closed string. Here, the string's upper edge is trimmed so that the side view of the stair profile is now possible. A cut string makes it possible to employ brackets and tread nosing, which can be used to add an extra creative touch to your staircase.
An open tread refers to a tread without a rise to seal the gap between the treads, creating an open staircase. Newly built staircases with open treads must be fitted with downstands (also known as upstands) to comply with the current building regulations.
An outer string is a string that faces away from the stairway.
Over the post is a variation of balustrade system where the handrail runs over the post and is uninterrupted.
The pitch is the angle formed by the pitch line and the horizontal (or the stairway's gradient)
A pitch line, also known as a nosing line, is the notional line connecting the nosings of all treads in a flight of stairs.
A stair platform is a landing that breaks a continuous run of stairs.
A plowed handrail is a recess in the bottom of a handrail or the top of a shoe rail, with a square top and bottom of a baluster are made to fit into the plough itself.
Plumb means perfectly vertical and parallel to the ground.
Post to post is where the handrail is not continuous in a balustrade system.
A quarter landing is a flat platform located halfway up a staircase that permits the stairs to turn a quarter (90°).
A rail system is the term used to indicate a full rail system that includes the baserail, spindles, and handrail.
Rake is another term used to describe the pitch of the stairs.
A rise is a vertical distance between each tread measured from the top of one tread to the top of the next. An overall rise (also known as total rise) refers to the vertical distance between floors or landings connected by the stairs.
A riser is a vertical surface of a step. It is typically made of solid timber or manmade board. They close the gaps between treads to form full steps. The maximum rise of individual steps for domestic stairs is 220m. Depending on whether the stair is painted, carpeted, stained or polished, the riser should suit the tread.
A rosette is used where railing is connected to a wall directly and provides a decorative trim to anchor to.
A routed string is a string that has been routed so that treads, risers, and wedges can be inserted. This is also referred to as box string.
Scotia moulding sits under the tread nosing, where it rests on the stringer and riser, and is utilised to soften the junction and give a decorative element.
Shoe rail is a term for decorative moulding on top of a stair stringer, on which the balusters rest.
A skirt board is a piece of finishing board used to cover structural supports or stringers of the stairs.
The soffit is the sloped underside that sits between stair strings.
A spandrel is the triangle-shaped area beneath a set of stairs (when there isn't another flight below)
A spiral staircase is a set of stairs that rise steadily all the way around a cylindrical pole.
A spindle (also known as a baluster) is a closely spaced, vertical support post fixed between the handrail and baserail (or tread) to form part of the balustrade. They are typically made of timber, including oak and pine, and metal. Besides safety, spindles offer aesthetic features with plain and decorative designs available to suit various interiors.
The stair direction is the turn a staircase takes when viewed from the bottom, which can be either right- or left-handed.
A staircase is the name for the entire construction related to a stair, including stairs, treads, risers, strings, balustrading, landings etc.
A stairwell is the area or space which the staircase will occupy.
A step is one complete section of a tread and a riser together.
String (or Stringers)
A string, also known as a stringer, is a structural, inclined board that supports the treads and risers on each side of each step.
A string bracket is a decorative component that partially covers the face of a string on a cut string staircase to create a visual effect.
A string margin is the distance measured at 90° to the pitch line between the top of the string and the pitch line.
A tandem cap is a rail fitting that creates a bend in a stretch of straight rail to enable the installation of a newel.
Top nosing is narrow tread nosing, also known as lander tread or landing nosing, and is found above the top riser or along the upper edge of a balcony. This gives the impression that there is a tread at the staircase's summit.
A tread is a horizontal surface of a step. It is typically made of solid timber or manmade board. A tread is jointed into the string into which they are grooved and wedged. Depending on whether the stair is painted, carpeted, stained or polished, the tread should suit the riser.
A tread return is the extension of the tread's horizontal rounded edge past the stair stringer in an open staircase.
Trimmer joists are used to build a well, suited for the staircase opening. These are joined using joist hinges or screws.
An up easing (also known as an up ramp) is the concave rail fitting that connects the horizontal portion of a gooseneck fitting or starting fitting to a rake rail.
A volute is a handrail's spiral beginning at the bottom of a staircase.
A wall rail is a handrail that is supported by wall brackets affixed to the wall rather than newels or balusters.
A wall string is a string that is adjacent to the wall.
Wedges are glue-coated tapered wood blocks used to firmly embed treads and risers into a routed string.
A well opening is the area in the upper floor for the location of a staircase.
Winders are flared steps which are narrower at one end, and are used to vary a stair’s direction by 90° or 180°
Winder tread is commonly found on circular, spiral or winder staircases, and have a larger run on one side than the other.
The walkline is a line on the staircase's plan where each tread has the same width and is said to represent the typical route people take when using the staircase.
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Our comprehensive glossary of terms will ensure you have all the knowledge you
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