Stair Parts Glossary



A vertical stair part turned, carved or otherwise vertical section placed between the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer. Balusters are typically spaced no more than 4″ apart. Most balusters in wrought iron are 44″ tall. Most wood balusters are 42″ tall.


A stair system including the framework of rail, newels and balusters. The system is designed to flow together from like components.


The banister refers to the system of parts that combine to make the stairway. A banister is usually the combination of handrail, newels, stair treads, balusters and assorted trim pieces. A banister is installed by stair professionals, trim carpenters or skilled do it yourselfers. A stair banister will be the focal point of a home and should be planned and installed carefully. The stair banister provides the functional purposes of safety and assistance when climbing the stair banister. A banister should contain parts that are strong enough to support the weight of adults leaning against them and spaced close enough that infants cannot get their heads lodged between the vertical elements in the banister.

Bull-Nosed Starting Tread

Starting step. The first step of a stair system. The ends of the tread project beyond the skirt boards The ends are semicircular in shape.

Cove Molding

Molding placed under the treads and landing treads, typically ½” x 5/8″.

Closed Stringers

A staircase in which the ends of the treads are not visible to the outside. The opposite is an open stairs. Same as a box stair.


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.


A two part adhesive used to bond materials from wood to composites to metals. Epoxies are especially useful in bonding metal to wood in stair applications. Epoxies vary in strength, setting time and elasticity once cured.


A thin strip that fills the plowed (grooved) rail space between balusters in a hand rail or shoe rail.


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, turn outs, tandem caps, easings and goosenecks.


Flutes are decorative vertical grooves placed in a wood surface such as balusters or newels.


A combination of an easing and a fitting in a rail system which allows the handrail to change heights from an incline back to the level. Placed at landings or at the top of a stair.


A molded rail following the pitch or rake of the staircase, and forming the top or connecting piece of the balustrade which protects the outside of the stair.


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.

Mitered Risers

A method of joining the riser to the skirtboard. The mitered method is when the skirtboard and riser are both mitered to each other.

Newels or Newel Post

A solid rectangular, or circular section of vertical post at the center and at 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. Other newels are described as: center turned newel, box newel or a pin top newel.


The front edge of the tread which projects beyond the face of the riser. It is usually rounded, chamfered or sometimes shaped.

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 skirtboard 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.

Pin Top Baluster

A baluster having dowel type 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 them into place.

Plowed Rail

A hand rail which has had the bottom grooved or plowed to accommodate a square top baluster. Fillet are used to fill the space between balusters.


Reference newels.

Quarter Turn Fitting

A machined block of wood that matches the handrail and allows a 90 degree change of direction. The fitting may have a round cap to accommodate the a newel or it may be the same width as the handrail and make the turn without the elongation need to accommodate a newel.

Rail System

The balustrade. Used to describe a complete rail system consisting of the handrail, newels, fittings and balusters.


Describes the angled part of a stairway as opposed to a balcony.


The vertical distance between the upper surfaces of two consecutive treads.


The vertical face of a step.


The balusters or turned, carved or otherwise vertical sections placed between the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer.


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 turn outs.


A staircase, or a stairwell.


(Carriages, Cut Jacks,) 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.


The horizontal part of a staircase upon which the foot is placed.

Turn Out

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.


Or Wreath – A decorative way to start a stairway. The volute is round 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 and is attached to the wall with rail brackets.


Treads that are narrower at one end than the other. Used to turn corners or go around curves.