Staircase Terminology


A level balustrade usually on the 2nd floor – also called gallery.


The smaller vertical pieces in the balustrade that help support the handrail – also called spindles, pickets or uprights.


The assembled section of stair parts including newels, balusters and handrail – also called Handrail System.

Bullnose Starting Step

A step, usually on the first step, that extends out from the side of the stair beyond any fascia or skirtboard and normally curved and rounded on the edges.

Carriage – see stringer.

Circular Staircase

A curved staircase without a center pole.

Closed Stair

A stair framed so that you cannot see the treads and risers from the side of the stair.  Most often a knee wall is used in this situation, but a half wall or even a full wall may be in place.


A skirtboard on the outside wall of the staircase or balcony.

False End Tread

An assembled finished piece placed on the end of a rough tread.  Supposed to give the look similar to having solid treads with a carpet runner

Flight of Stairs

A common term referring to two or more continuous steps.  A stair may have one or more “flights.”

Freestanding Stair

A stair framed in such a way that the stair is supported by its own structural strength and no support wall is under the stair.


A level handrail.  With today’s codes usually 42″ in height.

Half Newel

A newel cut through the center lengthwise, to be used where handrail terminates at a wall.


The horizontal or incline piece of a balustrade system.  It is supported by newel posts and sits on top of the balusters.

Handrail Fittings

Custom made wood pieces designed to make a smooth transition in joining handrail to another handrail, newel or wall when there is a change in direction or a change in height.

Intermediate Landing

The horizontal area connecting one flight of stairs to another flight of stairs – also called landing.


A framed wall slightly above the noses of the stair treads with its top running parallel with the incline of the stair resulting in a closed stair – also called a pony wall or stub wall.

Left Hand/Right Hand

The side of the stair as it is ascending.

Level Handrail

The horizontal member of a level balustrade – also called guardrail.


The larger vertical post that when mounted to the stair or floor gives the balustrade most of the structural strength.


The rounded edge of a tread.  Term is also used to mean the trim board under the balusters and between the balusters and the rough subflooring.

Open stair

A stair framed so that the treads and risers can be seen from the side of the stair.

Over-the-Post Balustrade

A balustrade system where the handrail goes on top of the newel and is connected using handrail fittings – also called continuous railing.

Post-to-Post Balustrade

A balustrade system where the handrail connects to the side of the newel.

Rake Handrail

The handrail or wall rail that runs with the rake, pitch or incline of the stair.


The vertical piece of a step.


A type of block (round, oval or square) mounted on the wall where the handrail or guardrail ends.

Second floor landing

The horizontal flat area at the top of the uppermost incline or flight of stairs.   Also may be called the second floor or upper level.


A trimboard running with the rake, pitch or incline of the stair against the wall on the closed side of the staircase.  While usually nonstructural, skirtboard protects the drywall surface and adds to the décor of the staircase.


A set of steps.   Also stair can refer to the entire “stair” including more that one flight of stairs.


The collective term given to the entire combination of the stair and balustrade.

Starting Step

The first riser and tread at the bottom of a stair or the flight of stairs.


One horizontal tread combined with one vertical riser.


A supporting member running the length of an incline stair on which treads and risers are mounted.  Also called carriage or stair horse.


The horizontal piece of a step that you place your foot on.


A curved handrail fitting usually at the start of a stair incline and on top of the starting newel sitting on a Bullnose starting step.

Wall Rail

A handrail attached to a full or half wall following the pitch or incline of a closed stair.