Facebook Button
Pinterest button

Sierra Stair Works, Inc.

Custom Wood Staircases & Spiral Stairs  

Staircase Terminology

Useful Staircase Terminology

There are many complicated stair terminology phrases that are commonly used when it comes to describing your staircase design process. You may or may not be familiar with the jargon so we’ve compiled a list of staircase terms and definitions for your convenience.

Stair Terminology and Definitions:

BALUSTER/SPINDLE:  Usually vertical members of the balustrade, which must be spaced so that a 4" sphere cannot pass between them.  Can also be of horizontal design, but may not meet code in all areas as this forms a ladder.

BALUSTRADE: This is the collective name for the complete railing assembly, which consists of handrail, balusters and newels.  It generally sits on the stair and floor trim.

BALCONY/GALLERY RAILING: The level balustrade.

BULLNOSE STEP:  A starting step with one or both ends of the step having rounded ends that project beyond the stair.

CLOSED OR DOUBLE HOUSED STRINGER: A stringer that encloses the ends of the treads and risers so that their profiles cannot be seen from the side.

COVE MOLDING: A concave molding that is attached underneath the treads and floor cap.  It adds support and covers any gaps between the rough framing and the finish trim.

FACIA: A trim board applied to a vertical surface.

FITTINGS: Handrail components general used in over the post rail construction that enables the rail to change pitch and direction.

FREESTANDING STAIR: A stair that is not supported by walls and attached only to the floor system at the top and bottom of the flights.

HANDRAIL: The horizontal member of a balustrade system that you grip with your hand.  It is either wall mounted or sits on top of the balusters and is supported by the newel posts.

NEWEL POST: Main vertical support of a balustrade used to connect the railing components to the structure of a stair or floor system.

NOSING: The edge of the tread or floor trim that projects beyond the face of the risers and balcony floor.

OPEN OR CUTHORSE STRINGER: A stringer with the upper edge cut away to the shape of the treads and risers so that the profile can be seen from the side.

Sample Sierra Spiral Staircase

OPEN RISE STAIR: A stair without risers such that the space between the treads is open.

OVER-THE-POST: A balustrade system that uses fittings to provide a continuous handrail over the top of the newel posts.

PITCHThis is the angle or slope of a stair in reference to the horizontal plane.

POST-TO-POST: A balustrade system with rails that are interrupted by intersections with the side of the newels.

RAKE RAIL: The angled handrail which follows the pitch of the stair.

RISE: The vertical measurement from top of tread to top of tread.

RISER: The vertical component of a step that fills the space between treads.

SKIRT BOARD: Trim board on the sides of a stair attached at the same pitch.

SPIRAL STAIR: Circular stair with uniform winder treads attached to a center support column.

STAIRWELL: The vertical opening that contains a staircase.

STAIR TRIM: This is the trim added to a rough framed stair prior to the installation of the handrail assembly.  It consists of treads, risers, skirts, molding and cap for closed tread stairs.  Treads and risers can be full width or partial if you intend to carpet the stair.

STEP: Includes the horizontal tread and vertical riser.

TREAD: Horizontal surface of a step that you place your foot on.

TREAD & RISER TRIM: Wood trim that partially covers a rough framed tread, when the stairs are going to be carpeted.  On a cuthorse stair the balusters will be inserted directly into the tread trim and they can be on both sides of the stair or on the exposed side only.

VOLUTE: Spiral rail starting fitting used in over the post railing construction that generally sits on a bullstep.

Website Builder