Staircase glossary

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A timber facing board designed to cover floor joists and trimmers exposed by stairwell openings and give the stairs a cleaner look. May be plain or moulded.

  Glossary - sketch showing bottom of staircase with Banister, Baluster, Balustrade and bracket Staircase glossary - bullnose step Cross-section of landing stairwell detail showing handrail, spindle,baserail,flooring,trimmer,landing nosing, apron, and plasterboard. Staircase glossary - D-end step Staircase glossary - newelpost and newel cap or finial, with flutes Staircase glossary - cut string and closed string  



An American word for spindle.




Consisting of the infill of the stairs (spindles / glass etc), newels, handrails and baserails. Also known as a banister.




The handrail and uprights that support the handrail on a staircase. Also know as a Balustrade.




A rail, usually slotted to support spindles, that runs along the top of a closed string. Can also be fitted between newels on cut strings for certain types of modern infill.


Box String


See Routed string.




A decorative timber bracket used on the face of cut strings.


Bracket Fix System


A time saving system by Richard Burbidge that uses a series of pre-drilled newel posts and a unique adjustable bracket - an efficient choice for the DIYer and proffesional fitters. These pre-machined newels are no longer available.


Bullnose Step


A step at the bottom of the stairs just before the newel post that has one, or more, large rounded corner.


Closed String



A string where the step fits into its face so that the step profile cannot be seen.



Continuous Handrail



A handrail that fits over the top of the newels giving an uninterrupted run.



Cover Moulding



The moulding covering between the plasterboard and staircase apron.



Curtail Step



A decorative step similar to a bullnose step but standing out further to accommodate a volute and volute newel for a continuous handrail system.



Cut String



Also known as an open string. Has the top edge cut away to show profile of the steps.



Cut String Nosing



See: Return nosing.



D-End Step



Similar to bull nose step but with a full, rounded corner that continues into side of newel.



Down Ramp



An item used to change the pitch of a handrail and cut to suit stair pitch.



End Cap



Usually a decorative cap used to finish wall mounted handrails - placed over the end of round cross-section handrails (mopstick handrails).






See: Infill strip.






An ornate, decorative piece that has been created by being turned on a lathe. Finials are often carved. They are fitted to the top of a newel post. They are usually far more ornate than a newel cap, but terms are interchangeable.






An uninterrupted series of steps between landings.



Floor to floor height



The total rise of a staircase measured  between finished floor levels.






Decorative vertical grooves cut into spindle and newel surfaces.



Free standing



A staircase that is not supported by walls and is open underneath.



Glue Blocks



Blocks of wood fixed to the underside internal corner of a step that secure the riser and tread together to minimise movement.






Horizontal distance of a step measured from riser to riser.






A handrail fitting that includes an up-ramp and vertical turn raising the rake handrail to meet the height of the landing handrail.






The ratio between the going and the rise of a staircase.






Another term for a handrail.






A moulded or turned rail following the pitch of the staircase (or horizontal on landings) that forms the top edge of the balustrade and prevents people from falling.



Horizontal Cap Turn


Used on continuous handrail systems. Fitted to the top of a newel post to allow the handrail to turn through 90º on quarter landings and 180º on half landings, for example.






The spindles or panels that fill the gap framed by the newels, handrail and baserail.



Infill Strip



A strip of material that fills the gap between spindles in baserails and handrails.



Intermediate Newel



A newel, or a number of newels, fitted midway along a flight of stairs or landing to increase strength and rigidity.






A timber floor supports that spans between walls.






A resting place. A long step anywhere within a staircase. The top of a flight of stairs. Often used to change direction.



Landing Nosing



Nosing fitted around a landing.






Usually the top portion of a newel post that, together with the newel base, make up the newel post.



Newel Cap



A decorative fitting that finishes off the top of a newel post. See: Finial.



Newel Base



The structural base of a newel post into which the newel fits. Usually the plain square section bit that remains when removing a newel for refurbishment.



Newel Post


An upright structural post supporting the handrail at the bottom of the stairs. Can be ornate or plain and may also be found mid-flight, at the top of the stairs and on landings. Also known as a complete newels.






The edge of the tread projecting beyond the face of the riser.



Open Riser



A staircase where only the tread is fixed to the string. The vertical space between treads is left open although may incorporate a small bar to comply with building regulations.






A system where the handrail is fitted over the newel to form a continuous handrail.






The angle, gradient or steepness of the stairs measured between the pitch line and horizontal.



Pitch Board



A triangular piece of plywood representing the pitch of a single step used to aid fitting.



Pitch Line



The line formed when connecting the nosing of all the treads in a flight of stairs.






Perfectly vertical. Perpendicular to a level floor.






A balustrade system where the handrail is fitted between newel posts.






A barrier of rails. The balustrade or Banister. A complete system of baserail, handrail and spindles.






The pitch of the stairs.



Return Nosing



The nosing or moulding covering the end grain along the short edge of a tread visible on cut strings.






The vertical height between finished floor to finished floor. Also the vertical height of an individual step measured from tread to tread. 220mm is the maximum rise for domestic stairs.






The vertical board forming the face of the step between treads.






A rose-shaped decorative turned timber attached to the end of the handrail and the wall.



Routed String



A string machined to allow the treads and risers to fit in.






The horizontal distance covered by the staircase. Technically, the distance from the Trimmer face to the nosing of the first or bottom step.



Scotia Moulding



 Decorative timber moulding used to finish around the edge of the tread in cut strings.






The visible sloping underside of the stairs between stair strings.






Turned (shaped on a lathe), carved or otherwise vertical pieces fitted between handrail and baserail or tread. Usually timber, but may be made from metal or a mixture of materials.



Spiral Staircase



Stairs with treads winding up around a central pole or post.






The entire system of steps, handrail and infill designed to give safe access to separate floor levels in small manageable steps.






The complete staircase including the walls.






The opening in the upper floor or floors in which the stairs are fitted.



Stair Direction



Either right or left handed turn when faced from the bottom.






The tread and riser combined.



Straight Cap



Fitted to the top of a newel in a continuous handrail system to join handrails together.






The structural timbers at either side of, and supporting, each step.



String Margin



The distance between the top of the string and the pitch line measured at 90º to the pitch line.



Top Nosing



Sometimes called the 'lander tread'. A narrow tread with nosing situated above the top riser or along the upper edge of the balcony giving the appearance of a tread at the top of the stairs.






The top, horizontal surface of a step.



Trimmer Joist



Structural timbers spanning across the uncut joists of the staircase opening and supporting the cut ends of the remaining joists left after making the opening.



Up Easing



A curved handrail fitting cut to gracefully join two handrails at different angles.



Up Ramp



See: Up easing.



Vertical Turn



Can be used with an up ramp, forming a gooseneck to continuously join a stair handrail with a landing rail.






The curly handrail bit at the bottom of the stairs on a continuous handrail system.



Volute Newel



The newel at the bottom of the stairs supporting the end of the volute.



Volute Spindle



Spindles following the volute and surrounding the volute newel fitted to the curtail step.



Wall Rail



A wall mounted handrail supported by wall brackets.



Wall Brackets



Supports for securing a handrail to a wall.



Wall String



The string of a staircase fixed to a wall.






Tapered blocks of timber driven into a routed string to tightly secure glued risers and treads into place.



Well Opening



An opening in an upper floor to accommodate a staircase.






Wedge shaped steps winding around a newel post to change stair direction.



Winder Tread



A tread used on a circular, spiral or winder staircase.


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