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Staircase Terminology – Stair Parts Names

For those part time DIY’ers who love a challenge and undertake a stair renovation project it’s a good idea to familiarize yourselves with all the various components of a staircase.  By carrying out your research first means you can discuss with suppliers the components you may need for your stairs, with confidence, and also avoid unnecessary additional costs by ordering either not enough or the wrong stair parts.

Stair Part Names by George Quinn

Balustrading – refers to the staircase handrails and a row of spindles.

White Oak Milano Twist Staircase | George Quinn Stair Parts Plus
George Quinn Stair Parts Plus – Milano White Oak Staircase

 Staircase – This relates to the entire stair structure, including, steps (treads & risers), strings, balustrading and newel posts & caps.

Staircase, including Boston Spindles Primed, Mahogany Handrail and Base rail, Treads and Risers and Box Newel Post
George Quinn Stair Parts Plus – Staircase Image

Handrail: is the horizontal length of sculpted timber that runs the length of a staircase.  It is installed between the newel posts and sits on top of the staircase spindles or glass panels and is designed to assist the end user to ascend and descend the stairs safely. The top surface of the handrail should be between 900mm and 1000mm above the pitch line. Handrail height on the landing can be 900 to 1100mm.  If the staircase is 1000mm wide or less only a single handrail is required, however, if staircase is more than 1000mm wide then handrail required on both sides.

Image of Handrail | George Quinn Stair Parts Plus

Continuous Handrail – is achieved by using continuous lengths of moulded handrail which are connected to handrail fittings and ramps.  The handrail is installed over the top of scroll posts or spindles creating a continuous run of handrail.

George Quinn Stair Parts - Boston Range with Scroll and Wreath and Continuous Handrail

Volute/Volutes: Are the curved or spiral shaped end of a staircase handrail and are usually found at the bottom of the stairs on a starting step. They are also knows as scroll and easers / scroll and wreaths. Volutes provide an elegant finish to a staircase and are used in conjunction with either scroll spindles or scroll post or sometimes both.

George Quinn Stair Parts - Scroll and Easer - Scroll and Wreath

90° Bend – is used on landing areas as an alternative to a mitre joint (a joint formed at a corner by cutting two pieces of handrail at 45° , to allow a continuous handrail without the use of a newel post.

George Quinn Stair Parts - Continuous Handrail with 90 Bends

Top Ramp – used to connect a handrail with a newel post either midway or at the top of a staircase.

George Quinn Stair Parts Plus - Handrail Top Ramp

Easer – is used to join handrails together as they rise up the stairs.

Stop End – can be used as an alternative finish for the end of the handrail on a staircase.

Base rail: is the horizontal length of timber that sits above the stair string and between the newel posts.  They are the bottom support rail for spindles or glass panels on a closed string staircase.

Image of Base rail | George Quinn Stair parts Plus

Baluster / Spindle – the vertical poles that sit on top of the base rail (or tread if stairs are cut string) and under the stair handrail and in between the newel posts at the bottom and top of the stair flight. They are typically installed 2 per step with no more than 99mm between each spindle, per regulations. Spindles can be Plain Square or can be more ornate, depending on the look you are trying to achieve. They are encased either between the Handrail and base rail on a closed string staircase or handrail and tread if you have a cut string staircase.

Staircase Spindles Modern and Traditional-George Quinn Stair Parts Plus


Scroll Spindles: are a set of spindles, typically five in number, that are used instead of a scroll post beneath a volute or scroll and wreath / scroll and easer.  It is possible to use both scroll post and scroll spindles on a staircase, depending on the look you wish to achieve.

Image of Traditional staircase design, Boston collection - George Quinn Stair Parts Plus

Glass Balustrades: are the infill and actual structure of the balustrade. They are used to build a stylish and modern glass staircase.


Newel Post or Newel:  are the vertical posts that supports the handrail on a staircase. They are typically found at the foot of the stairs and you will also find them at the top of the staircase and landings.

Staircase Newel Posts - set 1 -

Bullnose Step – is a step that can have a quarter circle shape on one or both sides of the step.  They are typically installed at the bottom of the stairs and there can be one or more bullnose steps on a staircase.

Image of White Oak Bullnose Step and Riser

Curtail or Starting Step:  is a half circle shaped step at the bottom of the stairs usually housing the volute and volute newel turning or the scroll spindles of the Continuous Handrail System.

Pin Top Spindles Scroll Handrail Stair Parts George Quinn Boston

Stair stringer or string: 
A long horizontal piece of timber that is installed either side of a flight of stairs and to which the treads and risers are fixed.

String Capping :  is a solid piece of timber used to cover the top of the string nearest to the wall.

Closed String Stairs – a string with the face covering the treads and risers so their side profile cannot be seen.

Cut or Open String – a string with the top edge cut away so the side profile of the treads and risers seen.

Going – The going of a stairs is the depth from front to back of the top surface of a tread, less any overlap with the next tread above.  The minimum going for private dwellings is 220mm and the optimum is 250mm.

Rise – the rise is the vertical height between the steps or the vertical height of each staircase step and all steps must have the same rise. The optimum rise for a private dwelling is 175mm and maximum is 220mm.

Nosing – the horizontal edge of the tread sticking out beyond the face of the riser and the face of a cut string staircase.  They can be rounded or can be square edged, depending on the look required. The main purpose is to improve the safety of the stairs by providing extra space for users to place their feet.

Step: is the tread and riser combined on a staircase.

Stair Cladding

Tread: is the top or horizontal surface of a step. In a domestic dwelling stairs should have a clear width of not less than 800mm.

Riser:  the vertical element that forms the face of the step, creating the space between the steps. The optimum rise for residential properties is and the maximum is 220mm.

Winder Steps – are steps narrow at one end and wider at the other and are used to change the direction of a stairs through 90° or 180°. They are used instead of half or quarter landings.

Image of White Oak Cladding Step and Primed Riser

String Margin: the distance between the top of the string and the pitch line measured at 90° to the pitch line.

Pitch: The angle between the pitch line and the horizontal.

Pitch Line – the notional line connecting the nosing’s of all treads in a flight of stairs.

Rake – the pitch of the stairs.

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