Staircase step: The staircase step is composed of the tread and riser.
Stair Tread: The tread is the part of the staircase that is stepped on. It is constructed to the same specifications (thickness) as any other flooring. The tread "depth" is measured from the outer edge of the step to the vertical "riser" between steps. The "width" is measured from one side to the other.
Stair Riser: The riser is the vertical portion between each tread on the stairs. This may be missing for an "open" stairs effect, subject to building regulations
Stair Nosing: An edge part of the tread that protrudes over the riser beneath. If it is present, this means that horizontally, the total "run" length of the stairs is not simply the sum of the tread lengths, the treads actually overlap each other slightly.
Starting step or Bullnose: Where stairs are open on one or both sides, the first step above the lower floor may be wider than the other steps and rounded. The balusters typically form a semicircle around the circumference of the rounded portion and the handrail has a horizontal spiral called a "volute" that supports the top of the balusters. Besides the cosmetic appeal, starting steps allow the balusters to form a wider, more stable base for the end of the handrail. Handrails that simply end at a post at the foot of the stairs can be less sturdy, even with a thick post. A double Bullnose can be used when both sides of the stairs are open.
Staircase Stringer or String: The structural member that supports the treads and risers. There are typically two stringers, one on either side of the stairs, though the treads may be supported many other ways. The stringers are sometimes notched so that the risers and treads fit into them. Stringers on open-
Staircase Winders:Winders are steps that are narrower on one side than the other. They are used to change the direction of the stairs without landings. A series of winders form a circular or spiral stairway. When three steps are used to turn a 90° corner, the middle step is called a kite winder as a kite-
Stair Trim: Trim (e.g. quarter-
Flight: A flight is an uninterrupted series of steps.
Floating stairs: A flight of stairs is said to be "floating" if there is nothing underneath. The risers are typically missing as well to emphasize the open effect. There may be only one stringer or the stringers otherwise minimized. Where building codes allow, there may not even be handrails.
Staircase Landing or Platform: A landing is the area of a floor near the top or bottom step of a stair. An intermediate landing is a small platform built as part of the stair between main floor levels and is typically used to allow stairs to change directions, or to allow the user a rest. As intermediate landings consume floor space they can be expensive to build. However, changing the direction of the stairs allows stairs to fit where they would not otherwise, or provides privacy to the upper level as visitors downstairs cannot simply look up the stairs to the upper level.
Stair Runner: Carpeting that runs down the middle of the stairs. Runners may be directly stapled or nailed to the stairs, or may be secured by specialized bar that holds the carpet in place where the tread meets the riser.
Spandrel: If there is not another flight of stairs immediately underneath, the triangular space underneath the stairs is called a "spandrel". It is frequently used as a closet.
Staircase: This term is often reserved for the stairs themselves: the steps, railings and landings; though often it is used interchangeably with "stairs" and "stairway".
Stairway: This term is often reserved for the entire stairwell and staircase in combination; though often it is used interchangeably with "stairs" and "staircase".
The Staircase Railing System or Balustrade
The Staircase Railing System: The balustrade is the system of railings and balusters that prevents people from falling over the edge.
Banister, Railing or Handrail: The angled member for hand holding, as distinguished from the vertical balusters which hold it up for stairs that are open on one side; there is often a railing on both sides, sometimes only on one side or not at all, on wide staircases there is sometimes also one in the middle, or even more. The term "banister" is sometimes used to mean just the handrail, or sometimes the handrail and the balusters or sometimes just the balusters.
Volute: A handrail end element for the Bullnose step that curves inward like a spiral. A volute is said to be right or left-
Turnout: Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a quarter-
Gooseneck: The vertical handrail that joins a sloped handrail to a higher handrail on the balcony or landing is a gooseneck.
Rosette: Where the handrail ends in the wall and a half-
Easings: Wall handrails are mounted directly onto the wall with wall brackets. At the bottom of the stairs such railings flare to a horizontal railing and this horizontal portion is called a "starting easing". At the top of the stairs, the horizontal portion of the railing is called an "over easing".
Core rail: Wood handrails often have a metal core to provide extra strength and stiffness, especially when the rail has to curve against the grain of the wood. The archaic term for the metal core is "core rail".
Baluster or Spindle: A term for the vertical posts that hold up the handrail. Sometimes simply called guards or spindles. Treads often require two balusters. The second baluster is closer to the riser and is taller than the first. The extra height in the second baluster is typically in the middle between decorative elements on the baluster. That way the bottom decorative elements are aligned with the tread and the top elements are aligned with the railing angle.
Newel: A large baluster or post used to anchor the handrail. Since it is a structural element, it extends below the floor and sub floor to the bottom of the floor joists and is bolted right to the floor joist. A half-
Baserail: For systems where the baluster does not start at the treads, they go to a base rail. This allows for identical balusters, avoiding the second baluster problem.
Fillet: A decorative filler piece on the floor between balusters on a balcony railing.
Handrails: Handrails may be continuous (sometimes called over-
Another, more classical, form of hand railing which is still in use is the tangent method. A variant of the Cylindrical method of layout, it allows for continuous climbing and twisting rails and easings. It was defined from principles set down by architect Peter Nicholson in the 18th century.
Rise: The rise height or rise of each step is measured from the top of one tread to the next. It is not the physical height of the riser; the latter excludes the thickness of the tread. A person using the stairs would move this distance vertically for each step they take.
Total Rise: Also referred to as the “Finished Floor to Finished Floor” measurement.
Tread Depth: The tread depth is measured from the edge of the nosing to the vertical riser.
Going: The going is measured from the edge of the nosing to the edge of nosing in plan view. A person using the stairs would move this distance forward with each step they take.
Total Run or Total Going: The total run or total going of the stairs is the horizontal distance from the first riser to the last riser. It is often not simply the sum of the individual tread lengths due to the nosing overlapping between treads.
Total Rise: The total rise of the stairs is the height between floors (or landings) that the flight of stairs is spanning.
Slope or Pitch: The slope or pitch of the stairs is the total rise divided by the total run (not the individual riser and treads due to the nosing). It is sometimes called the rake of the stairs. The pitch line is the imaginary line along the tip of the nosing of the treads. In the UK, stair pitch is measured in degrees from the horizontal and must not exceed 42 degrees.
Headroom: Headroom is the height above the nosing of a tread to the ceiling above it.
Walk line: For curved stairs, the inner radius of the curve may result in very narrow treads. The "walk line" is the imaginary line some distance away from the inner edge on which people are expected to walk.
To avoid confusion, the number of steps in a set of stairs is always the number of risers, not the number of treads.