Stair Terminology You Need To Know

Like houses, there are many different types of staircases and they come in all different shapes and sizes which means our renovations and new flights do too. We’re the staircase experts and that’s why we’re here to guide your though your staircase project every step of the way and the staircase terminology which will help you along the way.

staircase terminology
stair terminology


A Balustrade is the collective name for the stair rails, posts, spindles and/or glass providing a safe guard along the edge of a staircase.

Newel Post: The main structural upright support for a balustrade located at the bottom, top and turns of a staircase.

Newel Cap & Under Newel Cap: A decorative cap to cover the ends of a newel post.

Handrail: As the name suggests, a rail to provide a safe handhold for while ascending and decanting the stairs. The can be mounting on the spindle/glass balustrade and onto the wall.

Continuous Handrail: Straight lengths of handrail joined at corners with flowing curved pieces over the tops of newel posts creating a continuous run of handrail.

Handrail brackets: Secure fixings for wall mounted handrails. Abbott-Wade offers these in polished or brushed steel and brass as standard.

Baserail: The bottom rail which sits on the stringer. This may be grooved to house the spindles/glass.

Spindle: A decorative fixture which serves to enclose the balustrade to make it safe. Available in a range contemporary and traditional styles in a range of hardwoods, painted finishes and forged steel.

Glass Panel / Glass Spindle: Abbott-Wade use 10mm toughened glass as standard in a range of styles including clear, Optiwhite, bronzed, sandblasted and grey. They can be embedded (set into the rails) or fixed using glass clamps.

Staircase Layout

Open & Closed Tread: This refers the the space between each tread. Most staircases have closed treads which means there is a riser which seals the space between each tread. An open staircase has a space which increases light and airflow between them. New open tread staircases must incorporate downstands (also known as upstands) underneath the treads to comply with current UK building regulations. Downstands reduce the opening between the treads to reduce the risk of young children or limbs being caught between or passing through the gap between the treads. Customers preferring for an open staircase usually do so based on their desire to keep the area feeling as open as possible by allowing plenty of light to pass through the stairway. Customers can opt for oak downstands to match their installation or glass downstands a stylish and near-invisible alternative.

Quarter LandingA quarter landing is a flat platform midway up the staircase which allows the stairs to undergo a quarter (90°) turn and one or more quarter landings may be required.

Half LandingA half landing is a flat platform midway up the staircase which allows the stairs to undergo a half (180°) turn and one or more half landings may be required.

Winder: Winder staircases allow the stairs to undergo a quarter (90°) or half  (180°) turn, known as a single winder and double winder respectively, without the need for a landing by narrowing one side of the treads and one or more winders may be required.  The term kite winder is also sometimes used because of the kite-shaped tread used in the middle of a winder.

More Stair Parts

Apron: A facia covering the ends of the string and the joists of landings.

Nosing: This is the edge of the tread projecting beyond the face of the riser. Landing nosing is an extent of the floorboards to project beyond the apron.

Spandrel: A closed triangular area underneath staircases.

Understairs door: A neat addition allowing the use of the understairs space as discrete storage.

Treads & Risers: These can be carpeted or made from hardwood for new installations. Our bespoke renovation service also gives the option of cladding over existing treads and risers to create the impression on a new complete oak staircase.

Treads: The flat face of the stair where you place your feet.

Risers: The vertical face closing the gap between each tread.

Open Tread Down Stand: A small riser beneath the tread which does not completely close the stairs but reduces the gap between treads as an essential safety feature.

Feature Step: An attractive step (or or steps) at the foot of the stair case.

 Bullnose: An attractive step with a curved quarter circle edge set within the width of the staircase.

–  Curtail: A ‘D’ or half circle end adds a larger feature extending beyond the width of the main staircase often to include a newel post with volute.

Strings (or Stringers): A structural span of timber to which treads and risers are supported. 

Wall String: The stringent to the wall.

Inner/Outer String: For renovation terms, the faces of string facing into the stairway are termed inner strings, with the face on the outside of the stairs being the outer string.

Additional Terminology

Flight: An uninterrupted series of steps.

Going:  The depth of an individual step.

Rake: The pitch of the stairs.

Rise: The height of an individual step.

Pitch: The slope of the staircase measured as the ratio between the rise and going.

Staircase: The entire structure relating to a flight of stairs, consisting of steps, treads, risers, newel post/s, balustrading, landings etc.

Stairwell: The space/void provided for the stairs.