Balusters- A vertical stair part turned, carved or otherwise
vertical section placed between the handrail and the
stair tread or stair stringer. Balusters are
typically spaced no more than 4” apart. Most
balusters in wrought iron are 44” tall. Most wood
balusters are 42” tall
Balustrade- A stair system including
the framework of rail, newels and balusters. The
system is designed to flow together from like
Banister- The banister refers to the
system of parts that combine to make the stairway. A
banister is usually the combination of handrail,
newels, stair treads, balusters and assorted trim
pieces. A banister is installed by stair
professionals, trim carpenters or skilled do it
yourselfers. A stair banister will be the focal
point of a home and should be planned and installed
carefully. The stair banister provides the
functional purposes of safety and assistance when
climbing the stair banister. A banister should
contain parts that are strong enough to support the
weight of adults leaning against them and spaced
close enough that infants cannot get their heads
lodged between the vertical elements in the
Brackets- Ornamental pieces used on
the skirt boards and stair stringers. Several
different variations exists from carved to scrolled.
Typically they are ¼” thick and made from the same
wood species as the rest of the stair system.
Box- Straight stairs with closed
stringers as opposed to an open stairs where the
tread hands over the skirtboard with a retun.
Bull Nose- A rounded front to a board.
Sometimes referring to the landing tread or piece of
trim applied to the floor on balcony areas where the
balusters are attached.
Bull Nosed Starting Tread- Starting
step. Sometimes called a scroll step. The first step
of a stair system. The ends of the tread project
beyond the skirt boards The ends are semicircular in
Cove Molding- Molding placed under the
treads and landing treads, typically ½” x 5/8”.
Closed Stringers- A staircase in which
the ends of the treads are not visible to the
outside. The opposite is an open stairs. Same as a
Code- The rules adopted by a state or
local authorities that govern how a stairway must be
put together for safety reasons.
Curved- Stairs that curve as they
ascend. This is a wide classification that ..
Dogleg- A stair with two flights
separated by a half landing, and having no
Easing- The curved junctions placed in
a handrail to bring the parts at different levels
into one flowing curve. A fitting that curves in a
vertical plane, used to change the angle of the
Epoxy- A two part adhesive used to
bond materials from wood to composites to metals.
Epoxies are especially useful in bonding metal to
wood in stair applications. Epoxies vary in
strength, setting time and elasticity once cured.
False End Treads- A less expensive
option when using carpet on a stair tread. False
treads come in a kit with a plywood riser and
plywood tread which receives a nosing that is
attached to the face and the side. False end treads
when covered with carpet look like solid treads and
are less expensive than a solid wood tread. Often
called a false tread kit.
Fillet- A thin strip that fills the
plowed (grooved) rail space between balusters in a
hand rail or shoe rail.
Finial- The ornamental top of a newel
post. Usually turned, sometimes carved. Box newels
often receive an optional finial
Fittings- Pieces of wood that are
shaped with the same profile as handrail to form
changes of direction for the handrail or to provide
strength and ornamentation. Example fittings are
volutes, turn outs, tandem caps, easings,
Flight Of Stairs- An uninterrupted
series of steps and stringers reaching from one
landing to the next. A flight may be straight or
Flutes- Flutes are decorative vertical
grooves placed in a wood surface such as a baluster
Going- run; the horizontal distance
between two successive nosings. The sum of the
goings of a straight flight stair is the going of
Guardrail- A protective railing
designed to prevent people or objects from falling
into open well, stairwell or other open spaces.
Glue Blocks- Blocks of wood attached
to the underside of a stair at the junction of the
riser and tread. Glue blocks secure the treads and
and are used to prevent movement which causes
Gooseneck- A combination of an easing
and a fitting in a rail system which allows the
handrail to change heights from an incline back to
Placed at landings or at the top of a stair.
Handing- The direction a stair part is
designed to be used. Handing is right or left.
Handing is determined by standing at the bottom of
the stairs and looking up.
Handrail- A molded rail following the
pitch or rake of the staircase, and forming the top
or connecting piece of the balustrade which protects
the outside of the stair.
Landing- A resting place, or wide step
at the middle or top of a flight of stairs. Landings
are often used to change the direction of a stair
Margin- reveal; the distance between
the nosing and the top of a closed stringer
Mitered Risers- A method of joining
the riser to the skirtboard. The mitered method is
when the skirtboard and riser are both mitered to
Newels or Newel Post- A solid
rectangular, or circular section of vertical post at
the center and at regular turns and junctions of a
The newels provide the main support for the rail
system. There is a starting newel at the base of the
stairs and a landing newel at the turns or top of
Other newels are described as: center turned newel.
Box newel . Pin top newel
Nosing- The front edge of the tread
which projects beyond the face of the riser. It is
usually rounded, chamfered or sometimes shaped.
Open Risers- A staircase designed with
only the horizontal surfaces of the treads fixed to
the stair stringers. Vertical surfaces between
treads are open. This type of stair system does not
meet most code requirements. If the riser space is
less than 4” then it will meet some code
Open Stair- a stair that is open or
without a wall on one or both sides.
Open Stringer- A stringer or skirt
board that is cut out for the treads and risers.
Typically the tread will have a return that hangs
over the skirtboard to finish the look.
Opening Cap- A fitting or portion of
the rail system which begins with a round cap and is
connected to the handrail.
Open Well Stair- a stair with two or
more flights around an open space.
Pin Top Baluster- A baluster having
dowel type top rather than a square. This type of
baluster is attached to the handrail by drilling a
hole into the handrail and inserting the top of the
baluster into the handrail and gluing them into
Pitch- The angle.
Plowed Rail- A hand rail which has had
the bottom grooved or plowed to accommodate a square
top baluster. Fillet are used to fill the space
Posts- see newels.
Quarter Turn Fitting- A machined block
of wood that matches the handrail and allows a 90
degree change of direction. The fitting may have a
round cap to accommodate the a newel or it may be
the same width as the handrail and make the turn
without the elongation need to accommodate a newel.
Rail System- The balustrade. Used to
describe a complete rail system consisting of the
handrail, newels, fittings and balusters.
Rake- Describes the angled part of a
stairway as opposed to a balcony.
Rise- The vertical distance between
the upper surfaces of two consecutive treads.
Risers- The vertical face of a step.
Shoe Rail- A plowed rail that is used
to accept the bottom end of square balusters. The
shoe rail often sits on a short wall or it may float
above the treads.
Spindles- The balusters or turned,
carved or otherwise vertical sections placed between
the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer
Spiral Stairs- Stairs, which rise
regularly around a cylinder or elongated cylinder
either real or imaginary. Sometimes called helical
Step- One unit of a stair, consisting
of a riser and a tread. A stair is a series of steps
Square Top Baluster-Balusters with
square tops rather than the more commonly used pin
tops. Square top balusters require plowed rail and
Starting Tread (step)- The first tread
and riser at the bottom of the stair. Starting steps
are usually rounded on the ends to accept volutes or
Stairway- a staircase, or a stairwell
Stairwell- The framed opening in the
floor that incorporates the stairs
Stringer- (Carriages, Cut Jacks,) The
inclined boards or laminations in which the treads
and risers are attached. Stringers provide the
support for the stairs.
Tandem Cap- A fitting that matches the
handrail profile with a round enlarged portion in
the middle designed to accommodate a newel.
Treads- The horizontal part of a
staircase upon which the foot is placed.
Turn Out- A fitting used to start a
rail system. The turn out flares left or right
slightly to give the appearance that the stairway is
enlarged and inviting.
Veneer- A thin sliced wood used to
cover wood. Veneer is often used in tread ends and
Volutes- Or Wreath – A decorative way
to start a stairway. The volute is round with a
newel in the center surrounded by balusters and
ascending to the rake of the handrail.
Wall Rail- Used where a stair runs
alongside a wall and is attached to the wall with
Walk Line- An arbitrary line but
generally 12" from the inside radius of a curved
stair. The walk line is used in code determination
for stairs with a tight radius.
Wedges- Ramp type pieces of wood used
in the construction of closed staircases to help
secure treads and risers.
Winders- Treads that are narrower at
one end than the other. Used to turn corners or go