Home Glossary of Terms Glossary of staircase terminology
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Terminology used to describe building components and construction might as well be a foreign language for those who are not familiar with it. Whilst it is appreciated that certain words have other meanings we have listed below an explanation when they are used to discuss the structure of a staircase. We hope that you find this useful.


Baluster/Spindle: A plain or decorative vertical member that acts as the infill between the handrail and base rail (or tread if cut string is present).

Balustrading: Collective name for the complete assembly of handrails, base rails, newels, spindles and caps.


Baserail: Long length of timber fitted on top of the string between the newel posts to accommodate the bottom of the Balusters/Spindles.


Bullnose Step: Usually at the bottom of a flight of stairs with one or both ends of the step having a quarter circle design.


Flight: A set of steps leading from one floor to another.


'Going' of a flight of stairs: The horizontal distance between the face of the first and last risers.


'Going' of a step: The horizontal distance between the faces of two consecutive risers.


Landing: A intermediate level area between floor levels connecting flights of stairs

a) Quarter landing: The width of one flight of stairs.

b) Half landing: The width of two flights of stairs.


Newel: Main hand rail support typically at the top and bottom of a flight of stairs that also accommodates the strings of a stairs.


Nosing: The edge of a tread, usually rounded, projecting   beyond the face of the riser and the face of a cut string.


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

Pitch Line: The notional line connecting the nosing of all treads in a flight of stairs.

Rake: The pitch of the stairs.


Rise of a flight of stairs: The vertical distance between the floors or landings connected by the flight.


Rise of a step: The vertical distance between the tops of two consecutive treads.


Riser: The board that forms the face of the step.


String: The long lengths of timber either side of a staircase which supports the staircase structure.

a) Closed String: A string with the face housed/trenched to accommodate treads and risers so their profile cannot be seen.

b) Cut or Open String: A string with the upper edge cut away to the shape of the treads and risers so that their profile can be seen from the side.

c) Wall String: The string of a staircase fixed flush with a wall.


Soffit: Term used to describe a material that covers the underside of a stair case.


Spandrel: The infill material that forms the triangular area formed by the underside of a string, the rise and going of a flight. Often formed in timber to create an under stairs cupboard and referred to as spandrel panelling.


Stairway/Stairwell: The space/void provided between floors for the stairs.


Tread: The top or horizontal surface of a step.


Winders: Radiating steps narrower at one end used to change the direction of a stairs through 90° or 180°.
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