GLOSSARY OF STAIR TERMS
GEOMETRIC - A series of treads at the base of the stairs that return (usually at a 45º or 90º angle) into a wall.
GRIP WIDTH - The width of the grippable section of the hand rail. Local jurisdiction codes limit this width. If the grip width is exceeded, a code rail must be added to the stair (see definition for more info regarding code rail).
HAND RAIL - Long sections of wood with a molded profile that provide a grippable surface that follows the pitch (or rake) of the stair. The top piece of a rail system into which the tops of the balusters terminate.
HEADER SETBACK - Sometimes a stair does fit not into the space allowed by the architect. This problem is solved by cutting into the header to create more room at a lower point (i.e.: a landing or at the base of the stair). Essentially, a new header is created futher into the floor to accommodate
the proper fit of the stair.
IRON BALUSTER PANEL - A set of decorative iron balusters that are assembled together to form an ornamental panel in a rail system.
LANDING - The intermediate platform between upper and lower sections of divided stairs such as L-Shaped or Stacked.
LANDING BY OTHERS - The landing is both framed and finished by a company other than the stair company.
LARGE SQUARE TREAD - A type of starter tread with square ends that extend beyond the width of the stair. Can be single ended or double ended.
L-SHAPED STAIR - A stair that changes direction at a 90º angle when you reach the landing.
LEVEL QUARTER TURN - A type of hand rail fitting used to make 90º turns into the side of a newel post at the base of a stair.
MEASURE - The process by which the stair company takes on-site measurements of the stair area of the house.
MITERED STRINGER - An open stringer in which both the stringer and riser are mitered at the points where they join together. The most common type of stringer.
NEWEL POST - The larger vertical parts of the rail system that are either lathe turned or square in shape. The newel posts are the main supports for the hand rails.
NOSING - The front edge of a tread, usually bull nosed or molded, which extends beyond the face of the riser below.
OPEN RISER - Instead of having solid wood risers, the risers are essentially removed allowing you to look through the stair. Most local code jurisdictions prohibit open risers unless the opening is less than 4" tall.
OPEN STRINGER - Stringers that do not run against a wall, but rather are in the open allowing you to see the outside of the stringer on the stair. There are variations on open stringers such as curbed stringers or mitered stringers.
OVERALL RISE - The total vertical distance between a lower floor and an upper floor. Overall rise determines the rise and run of a staircase.
OVER-THE-POST - A type of rail system in which the hand rail travels over the top of the newel posts rather than terminating into the side of the newel posts (which is referred to as post-to-post). It provides a continuous grippable surface without any obstruction. Many people prefer over-the-post
systems due to their "clean" appearance.
PAINT & STAIN PACKAGE - Refers to the type of finish the stairs will receive. An all stained package means all the parts will be stained and lacquered whereas in a paint & stain package the hand rail, treads, plate & newel posts are stained & lacquered while the risers, stringers
& balusters get painted. There are variations on paint & stain packages. Please call our office if you have questions.
PIE TREAD - A type of tread used in a 45º or double 45º stair. These treads are short at one end and long at the other end. This type of tread allows the stair to change directions without the need for a landing. The name comes from the resemblence to a slice of pie. Also referred to as a winder
PIN-TOP BALUSTER - Refers to the top section of a baluster that is tapered at the top and terminates into a hole in the bottom of the hand rail. The alternative is a square-top baluster.
PITCH - The overall angle of incline or decline in a stair resulting from the rise & run. Also referred to as rake.
PLATE - Long, narrow sections of wood that are placed on the floor of balcony sections into which the bottoms of the balusters are lagged.
PLOWED RAIL - A groove that is machined into the bottom of the rail to receive the top of a square top baluster. The remaining space in the plow between the balusters is filled with fillet.
POST-TO-POST - A type of rail system in which the hand rail travels between the the newel posts. The hand rail terminates into the side of the newel post at each point of intersection rather than traveling over the top of the newel post (which is referred to as over-the-post).
POWDER COAT FINISH - A paint finish applied to iron balusters through electrostatic application. This bonds the paint to the surface of the iron creating a durable, hardened finish.
QUARTER ROUND TREAD - A type of starter tread with rounded corners. Unlike bottom round treads, quarter round treads do not always extend beyond the width of the stair. Can be single ended or double ended.
QUARTER SAWN - A method of milling wood which results in more straight, vertical grain patterns than plain sawn milling. Quarter sawn boards are more stable than plain sawn. Quarter sawn boards are also more expensive than plain sawn due to the time and skill required to mill them.
QUARTER TURN - A type of hand rail fitting used to make 90º turns at the corners of over-the-post balcony sections.
RAKE - See PITCH.
RETURNED END - When a tread changes direction and angles back into a wall. Geometric treads have returned ends.
RISE - The vertical distance between the tops of two consecutive treads.
RISER - The face piece of wood that spans vertically from the back of one tread to the nosing of the tread above. Also referred to as "kickers" because they are the pieces you sometimes kick when you walk up the stairs.
ROSETTE - A small piece of wood placed on the wall into which the hand rail terminates.
RUN - The horizontal distance between the faces of two consecutive risers.