Stair Terminology

Stair Dictionary




A narrow vertical member which helps support the handrail.

Balustrade — Balustrade System

Balustrade System

A collective term which refers to the balusters and handrail on a particular stairway.

Bowed Tread

Bowed Tread

A tread that bows/curves out in front. A quality bowed tread would also bow the riser beneath it. Typically, bowed treads start at the beginning of the stair and may bow one to three treads. Bowed treads may be used on the entire stair.

Box Newel

Box Newel

A large, square newel that is not turned on a lathe. Also may be refereed to as a "trimmed" newel.

Box Stair — Boxed Stair

Box Stair
Boxed Stair

A stairway which is fully enclosed by walls and routed stringers on both sides.



Radius edge, usually referred to on tread or landings treads. Also referred to as "Nosing."



The part of the fitting which widens in order to sit on a newel. Also referred to as "Rail Cap," or "Fitting Cap."

Curved Stair

Curved Stair

A stair that curves vs. having angles at corners.

Cove — Cove Molding

Cove Molding

A trim piece that is typically installed under treads, landing tread, and wall cap.




Strips, generally flat, which fill the plow between square top balusters on plowed handrail and shoe rail.

Flared Stair

A stair that curves out at the start.

Freestanding Stair

A stairway which is not supported by walls. Open underneath.


Green Stair

A stair that is made from renewable materials with manufacturing methods to minimize waste, and energy consumption.

Gooseneck — Gooseneck Fitting — Gooseneck Rail Fitting

Gooseneck Fitting
Gooseneck Rail Fitting

A fitting consisting of an up-easing, a vertical rail drop, and a level piece of rail. It is used to raise the rail height.



See Rail.

Horizontal Balustrade
Horizontal Rail

Railing which runs horizontally along a landing, balcony, or floor.



A vertical or inclined set of small steps. Use in spaces where there is little floor space.

Also see Ships Ladder and Library Ladder.


A level platform, typically used when a stair makes a turn. Typically found on a "Landing" stair. Built from framing material.

Landing Tread

Landing Tread

Narrow tread nosing situated above the top riser or along the upper edge of a balcony or landing. This gives the appearance of a tread at the top of the stairway.

Level Quarter Turn

Level Quarter Turn

A level handrail fitting which turns by 90 degrees.

Library Ladder

A vertical or inclined set of small steps, typically mounted on a bar and moveable.


Milled Stair

A stair that uses "milled" or "routed" stringers.


Newel Post — Newel

Newel Post

The major support for a balustrade system. Newels are typically larger in diameter than balusters and are located at the bottom and top of a stairway or at a turn in the handrail.


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


Open Stair

A staircase not boxed in by walls on one or both sides.

Open Rise
Open Rise Stair
Open Riser

A staircase that does not have full risers, rather it has an open space between the treads.

The staircase may have short partial risers to meet sphere code.

Overhand Easing

Overhand Easing

A handrail fitting which connects a rake handrail with a level handrail without the use of a gooseneck.



A common term used to describe when a rail system utilizes fittings to go over newel posts for an unbroken continuous handrail.



A common term used to refer to a baluster.



The routed portion of a handrail or shoe rail used for the inserting of square balusters. The spaces left between balusters are filled in with fillet.



Rail system in which the handrail ends into the face of a square-top newel.




The part of a rail system designed to be grasped by hand to provide stability and support.

Rail Fittings

The vertical component of a step which, along with the stringers, supports the treads.


The angle of ascent of a stairway. This is determined by the rise and run.


The vertical measurement from the top of one tread to the top of the next tread.


The vertical component of a step which, along with the stringers, supports the treads.


A small, decorative piece of wood used where a handrail dies into a wall.


Ships Ladder

Ships Ladder

An inclined set of small steps, including mounted handrails; more generous incline than other types of ladders for easier usability.

Spiral Stairway
Spiral Staircase

A stairway which is mounted on a central pole.


A common term used to refer to a baluster.

Stair Direction

Either right- or left-hand. Determined by the turn a stairway makes when facing it from the bottom, as if you were walking up the stair.


A staircase is part of "casework." The aggregate of assembled components, typically in highly skilled woodworking, such as cabinetry and millwork.


A commonly used term for stair or staircase.


The framing hole that the stair is installed in.

Starting Cap

Starting Cap

A handrail fitting at the start of a balustrade system.

Starting Newel

Starting Newel

The newel used at the bottom/start of a stairway.



The supporting members which run the length of the staircase or "string" the stair together. The treads and risers are mounted to the stringers.

Stringer Brackets

Stringer Brackets

Decorative pieces fastened to the outside of a stringer below the tread or tread end.

Stringer foot

Where the stringer meets the floor.


Tandem Cap — Two-opening Cap

Tandem Cap
Two-opening Cap

A straight level handrail fitting with a newel cap. Tandem caps generally are used on newels in long stretches of balcony handrail.

Trapezoid Stair

A stair using trapezoid winder treads.

Trapezoid Tread

A four-sided winder tread, with one pair of parallel sides.



The horizontal component of a step upon which one walks.

Tread Nosing

The radius edge on a tread.

Tread Return Nosing, Mitered

The applied radius end, put on end of an open tread to cover end grain.

Tread Cap

Tread Cap

A "false" section of the tread and riser which is installed over the ends of a carpenter-built stair to give the appearance of a milled stair.

Trimmed Newel

Trimmed Newel

A large, square newel that is not turned on a lathe, and has applied trim for decorative interest. Also may be refereed to as a "box newel".



A handrail fitting used on a starting newel which curves away from the stairway.


Up Easing

Up Easing

A handrail fitting which joins two handrails or fittings at different angles in a graceful, pleasing manner.




A handrail fitting used on a starting newel which turns away from the stairway in a circular fashion.


Wall Rail

A handrail which is mounted on a wall and supported by wall rail brackets rather than newels or balusters.

Wall Rail Brackets

Wall Rail Brackets

Metal supports for wall rail.

Winder Stair

A stair with winder treads.

Winder Tread

Pie-shaped treads that accommodate the stair to angle or turn a corner.

Components of staircase include rails, newels, balusters, stringers, treads, risers, etc.
Download PDF Version