Baluster: A vertical stair part (sometimes called spindles) placed between the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer.
Balustrade: A stair system including the framework of rail, newels and balusters.
Banister: The banister refers to the handrail and its supporting posts.
Brackets: Ornamental pieces used on stair stringers under each step end nosing.
Bull nose: A rounded front to a board. Sometimes referring to the landing tread or piece of trim applied to the floor or balcony areas where the balusters are attached.
Bull nosed starting tread: The first step, sometimes called a scroll step. The ends of the tread project beyond the skirt boards and the ends are rounded.
Cove moulding: Moulding placed under the treads and landing treads.
Closed Stringers: The ends of the treads are not visible to the outside (opposite of an open stair).
Code: The rules adopted by a state or local authorities that govern how a stairway must be put together for safety reasons.
Curved: A railing that curves as it ascends.
Dogleg: A stair with two flights separated by a half landing, and having no stairwell.
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 handrail.
False tread ends: A less expensive option when using carpet on a stair tread where only the ends are solid wood with plywood in between.
Fillet: A thin strip that fills the plowed (grooved) rail space between balusters in a handrail 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, turnouts, tandem caps, easings and goosenecks.
Flight of stairs: An uninterrupted series of steps and stringers reaching from one landing to the next. A flight may be straight or curved.
Flutes: Decorative vertical grooves placed in a wood surface such as balusters or newels.
Going: Run; the horizontal distance between two successive nosings. The sum of the goings of a straight flight stair is the going of the flight.
Gradient of a stair: The ratio between going (run) and riser; the angle of inclination.
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 risers together and are used to prevent movement, which causes squeaks.
Gooseneck: A combination of an easing and a fitting in a rail system that allows the handrail to change heights from an incline back to the level. 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. The top part of the balustrade a person holds onto. Also refers to a railing attached to the wall in a closed staircase.
Headroom: The vertical distance from the lowest point of the ceiling or soffit directly above the stair to the nose of the stair.
Horse: The stringer for the staircase usually notched.
Jatoba: The technical name for Brazilian Cherry.
Jack: Shortened term for stringer or supporting member of the staircase.
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.
Mopstick handrail: A handrail that is circular except for a small flat surface underneath.
Mitered Risers: A method of joining the riser to the skirt board. The mitered method is when the skirt board and riser are both mitered to each other.
Newel or newel post: A solid vertical post at the start, regular turns and junctions of a rail system. 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 the stair.
Nosing: The front edge of the tread that 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.
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 skirt board 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.
Perron: A dignified exterior stairway, usually approaching the main entrance.
Pin top baluster: A baluster having dowel type (round) 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 it into place.
Pitch: The angle.
Plowed rail: A handrail, which has had the bottom, grooved or plowed to accommodate a square top baluster. Fillets are used to fill the space between balusters.
Post: Another name for a newel.
Quarter turn fitting: A machined fitting that matches the handrail and allows a 90?change of direction. The fitting may have a round cap to accommodate a newel or it may be the same width as the handrail and make the turn without the elongation needed 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.
Ramp: A vertical curved easing in a handrail.
Rise: The vertical distance between the upper surfaces of two consecutive treads.
Risers: The vertical face of a step.
Rosettes: Decorative pieces that end a handrail system at the wall line. They are often used to prevent damage to the drywall when the handrail is pulled tight to the wall.
Shoe rail: A plowed (grooved) 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.
Soffit: The visible sloping under-surface between the stair stringers.
Spiral Stairs: Stairs, which rise regularly around a cylinder or elongated cylinder either real or imaginary.
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 fillets.
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 turnouts.
Stairway: A staircase, or a stairwell.
Stairwell: The framed opening in the floor that incorporates the stairs.
Stringer: 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.
Toe rail: Shoe rail.
Tread: The horizontal part of a staircase upon which the foot is placed.
Turnout: 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 stair stringers.
Volute: A decorative way to start a stairway. The volute is curved 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. A handrail that is attached to the wall with rail brackets.
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 around curves.