Stair building has many terms unique to the craft. Here are the most common words, phrases and their meanings to help you better understand when reading instructions or material on stairs.

BALUSTER

A vertical member, used to fill the open area between the railing and the floor or tread, adding safety, support and stability to the balustrade.
 

BALUSTRADE

A balustrade is the collection of newels, balusters and handrail on a staircase.
 

BOX NEWEL

A large, square, solid or hollow newel used in post-to-post balustrade systems.
 

BOX STAIR

A stair where the stringers house the treads and risers forming a box-like unit.
 

BRACKET

Referred to as tread or stringer bracket. A scroll shaped decorative member usually mitered to the riser and fastened over the open stringer.
 

BULLNOSE

Used as a starting step – a tread and riser assembly that has one or both sides finished in a radius.

CAP

That round portion of a rail fitting which widens, permitting it to set on top of a newel post. Cap fittings are used for an over the post balustrade system.
 

COVE MOLDING

A coved shaped mould used to finish off the joint formed where the face of the riser meets the lower face of the tread nosing.

EASING

(Sometimes called Easement) That portion of a rail fitting which curves, permitting hand rail to move from level up or down, up easing or over easing respectively. It also permits rake rail to move vertically where it meets level rail.

FILLET

A thin molding that is fitted into plowed hand rail and shoe rail between balusters.
 

FINISHED FLOOR TO FINISHED FLOOR HEIGHT

The vertical distance between the top of the lower finished floor to the top of the upper level finished floor. The total rise of the stair.

GOOSENECK

A gooseneck is a rail fitting used to accommodate transitions in height and/or direction at intermediate and balcony landings.

HAND RAIL

Railing used as hand support in balustrade systems.

LANDING

Intermediate floor or platform between flights of stairs. It permits directional changes in stair travel.
 

LANDING NEWEL

A newel post positioned at a landing or balcony.
 

LANDING TREAD

A nosed and rabbeted tread-like mould used to form a level surface with the finished floor of landings and upper levels. May also be used to trim around well holes and balconies.
 

LEVEL QUARTER TURN

Rail fitting that permits level hand rail to turn 90 deg.

NEWEL

Larger in diameter than balusters, forms the major support of the balustrade system. Located at the bottom and top of a staircase, and positioned at turns and support positions for the balcony rail.
 

NOSING

The portion of a tread or landing tread which protrudes beyond the face of the riser.

OPEN STAIR

A stair where the stringer has been cut out and the tread ends are exposed on one or both ends.
 

OVER-THE-POST

A balustrade system which uses rail fittings on top of newel posts forming a continuous hand rail.

PLOW

The grooved out area in the bottom of the hand rail and the top of shoe rail that receive square end balusters. It is fitted with fillet spacers.
 

POST-TO-POST

A balustrade system where hand rail is cut between and attached to square top newel posts.

RAKE

The angle or pitch of a stair’s ascent to the upper level. The rake is established by the rise and run.
 

RETURN NOSING

A nosed or rounded moulding used to trim, open end treads. This conceals the end grain.
 

RISE

The unit of vertical height for each step in a stair. Determined by dividing the total finish floor to finished floor dimension into equal parts.
 

RISER

The vertical finished component of a stair filling the space between the treads.
 

ROSETTE

A rosette is a decorative wall plate used to terminate handrail into a wall.
 

RUN

The horizontal travel of a stair. A unit of run or tread run is the distance of travel for each step which excludes the tread nose.

SHOE MOULDING

Quarter round type mould, higher than wide, generally applied where bottom riser meets finished floor.
 

SHOE RAIL

A flat moulded member with a linear groove to receive square bottom balusters for assembly.
 

SKIRT BOARD

A finished face board used to cover the stair horse. May also be used to finish around the well hole.
 

STARTING NEWEL

The vertical post used to start a balustrade system.
 

STARTING STEP

A decorative first step of a stair. Generally includes tread and riser which lengthen the step beyond the width of the basic stair. Designs are bull nose fully rounded, quarter circle or half circle.
 

STRINGER

A side member of a stair that serves both carriage and finished face. It is generally routed out to receive treads and risers for box stairs. It is mitered to the riser with treads set on top for open stairs.

TREAD

Horizontal component of a stair on which one steps
 

TREAD BRACKET

A decorative piece mitered to the riser and fastened on the side of an open skirt board.
 

TURNOUT

A curved rail fitting used as one option to start an over-the-post balustrade system.

VOLUTE

A rail fitting that scrolls left or right used as one option to start an over-the-post balustrade system.

WALL RAIL

Hand rail affixed to the wall by means of mounting brackets. It may be primary handrail for a box stair and supplementary to a balustrade system.

stair specialist contact

Get Started!

Quick Quote:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

About Us

Owned and operated by second-generation stair builder Ted Goff, Stair Specialist, Inc. specializes in the construction of standard and custom stairways.

Contact Info.

Business Phone:
1 (269) 964 - 2351

Email:
tedgoff@comcast.net