An illustrated stair glossary. The terms used in the design and construction of stairs, staircases and stairways.

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Balanced Steps
A series of winders that are arranged to have the same width close to the inside of the turn as the adjacent flier treads. ;
A small post used to support a handrail and to infill the section below it.;
A complete railing system which may consist of vertical members and rails and any infill panels, wire etc. to stop people and objects falling off stairs, landings and balconies etc.;
Balustrade Rules
Various mandatory rules for balustrades;
Bracketed strings
A small decorative bracket that is fixed under the tread overhang to a cut string. It is mitred to the riser rather than the string being mitred. ;
Bullnose Step
A bottom or lower step of a flight of stairs, with a quarter circular end.;
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Cantilever Stair
A stair that contains a series of steps that are supported at one end only.;
Closed or Housed String
A string with the inner face housed to receive the ends of the steps;
Commode Step
A round end step where the radius of the semicircular end is double or sometimes more than a standard round end step. Often supporting another normal radius round end step.;
Continuous Handrails
A system of handrail building using smooth curves where the user can walk from one floor to another without having to let go of the rail. ;
Contrast Edging
Making the edge of treads or the riser or nosing joint area of a contrasting colour and or texture so that it is easily seen. ;
Curtail Step
The starting step of a flight of stairs that quite often is a feature step wider than the rest. In shape it has one or both ends in the shape of a scroll or spiral. For this reason sometimes called a Scroll Step. ;
Cut and Mitred Strings
The outside strings are cut with a mitre to the vertical joint with the riser. The tread has a bead the same size as the nosing returned on the end of the tread.;
Cut Stringer Stairs
Stair stringers that are cut to the shape of the treads and the rises in a sawtooth effect ;
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Dog Leg Stair
A half space landing that is just wider than the combined width of the two flights that meet it.;
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floating Stairs
A stair that contains a series of steps that appear to be supported at one end only.;
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Handrail Gooseneck
A curved section of a handrail that terminates at a newel post.;
Handrail Scroll
A spiral type ending to a stair handrail. In most cases they transform from the sloping section to the horizontal plane. Also called a Handrail Volute in the US.;
Handrail Sections
A slice through a handrail perpendicular to it will create a section of the rail. This is the defining feature of the rail that determines whether it will be comfortable or not.;
Handrail Wreath
The section of a handrail that changes direction. Usually in a smooth curve. ;
A safety rail or railing at a convenient height to be grasped by the hand . Used on stairs, landings, platforms, elevated ramps etc.;
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Kite Winder
The central winder in a quarter turn of windings steps. Named for it's shape.;
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Newel Cap
An ornamented feature to the top of a newel post.;
Newel Drop
An ornamented bottom of a newel-post seen below the soffit.;
Newel Posts
Posts that carry the handrails in a flight of stairs.;
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Open Riser Stair
A stair that has no physical riser members.;
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Pipe Handrails
Stair handrails that are made out of hollow tube sections;
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Round End Step
A bottom or lower step of a flight of stairs, wider than the standard steps that has one or both ends in the shape of a semicircle.;
Routered Stringers
Full depth stringers that are routered or housed to hold the treads and rises;
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Slope Relationship
The relationship between the rise and the go of a stair. When used as 2RxG and set within various limits, e.g. max 700 to min 550 then it is used to define comfortable and safe stairs.;
Spiral Newel
The central load bearing post in a spiral stair. Also simply called a Newel.;
Spiral Stairs
A circular staircase, the treads consisting of winders only. It takes the form of a helix and is quite often called a helical stair.;
Stair Angles
The angle that a stair takes to the horizontal. Also called the pitch of a stair.;
Stair Critical Angle
The angle of a stair, above which a stair is deemed to be unsafe. It is said to be around 50 deg. ;
Stair Flight
A continuous series of steps with no intermediate landings.;
Stair Handrail Extensions
Safety terminations to the end of handrails that provide a rounded non snag end and that extend past the last riser line of the stair.;
Stair Handrail Height
In stair building regulations the height of the handrails. In most jurisdictions not less than 865 measured from the nosing line.;
Stair Head Height
In stair building regulations the clear height above the stair. In most jurisdictions not less than 2000 measured from the nosing line.;
Stair Headroom
The minimum required height of any floors or bulkheads above a staircase.;
Stair Margin Template
A rebated piece of material used to keep the pitch-board the required distance from the edge of the string when setting out stairs.;
Stair Nosing
1.) The part of the tread that overhangs the riser. The often rounded last edge of a tread.
2.) Anti Slip Nosing Proprietary fittings for fixing to tread edges to prevent slipping. ;
Stair Nosing Line
A line along the nosings of a stair from which head height and handrail heights are measured.;
Stair Pitch Board
A template for marking out stairs. When workshop made they are out of ply. Some adjustable metal ones available.;
Stair Slope Relationship
A simple formula that defines the safe angle of stairs. ;
Stair Spandrel
A triangular section of panelling used to enclose the area under a flight of stairs.;
Stair Strings
The sloping members of a flight of stairs that support the treads.
Also called Stringers . Under certain conditions they can also be categorised as:-
Bracketed,Close,Cut, Curved,Outside, Wall, Wreathed. ;
Stair Total Rise
The amount that a stair, staircase or a person walking up a stair travels in a vertical direction. The total rise. ;
Stair Tower
A free standing building containing mostly a stair. Also an attached stair or stair enclosure that projects beyond the buildings roof ;
Stair Tread Materials
The material that treads are made out of. Ranges from concrete to timber, steel to synthetic plastics.;
Stair Wall Rails
The handrails that fix to the walls at the side of a stair.;
Stair Winders
Radiating steps, narrower at one end than the other.;
A flight of stairs or series of flights used as a means of getting between floors or levels. Includes all supports,and handrails and safety features. Also known as simply a Stair or as a Stairway in the US;
Stairway Landings
Horizontal spaces or or platforms at the ends of stairs. Or breaks between flights of stairs, Used for convenience, to turn corners and as far as regulations go to halt someone who is falling.;
A vertical shaft through the floors of a building which contains the staircases.;
Stairwell Hole
The void in a floor prepared to receive a stair. The space between the two outer strings of a half-turn stair.;
Step Rise and Tread
A step is a rise from one level to another. A single step is just the vertical rise between two levels.
In stair construction a step has two components, The vertical distance of travel known as the rise or riser and the horizontal distance of travel known as the tread or go.;
Story Rod
A staff or rod of wood used for taking the height between two floors and dividing it into equal rises to mark out the positions of steps and landings.;
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Tapered Treads
A stair tread that is narrower at one end than the other. Used in spiral and Helical stairs.;
Threshold Landing
A landing adjacent to a door where there is then a flight of stairs. ;
Toe Space
The amount by which a tread overhangs the riser below it to create a more comfortable stair.;
Transition Zone
An exception to the landing and balcony rules to allow the sloping section of a handrail to merge freely with the horizontal section without the need for a vertical rise.;
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The void in a floor prepared to receive a stair. Also the space between the two outer strings of a half turn stair.;
Wide Stairs
Stairs over a certain width, usually in public places, that require handrails in the middle of the stairs.;
Treads in an otherwise straight flight that are made tapered to change the direction of the stair.;
wreathed String
The junction of two strings that are joined with a curve. Usually at a quarter turn landing. The wreathed one has a curve to it's end that matches the curve of the handrail scroll above it;

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Please Note! The information on this site is offered as a guide only!  When we are talking about areas where building regulations or safety regulations could exist,the information here could be wrong for your area.  It could be out of date!  Regulations breed faster than rabbits!
You must check your own local conditions.
Copyright © Bill Bradley 2007-2012. All rights reserved.
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