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Basic Stair Vocabulary

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Balusters--The vertical posts which support the railing of the staircase.

Balustrade--The assembly of the balusters, newel posts and handrail

Box Newel--A large, square hollow newel used in a post-to-post balustrade system.
Box Stair--A stairway which is fully enclosed by walls and routed stringers on both sides.  
Brackets--Also referred to as stringers brackets. Decorative pieces fastened to the outside of a stringer.
Bullnose-- Bullnose tread & riser assembly.
Bullnose Tread--A tread that has one or both sides finished in a radius. Often used as a starting step and often requires a curved riser beneath.

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Cap--Used in an over-the-post balustrade system. The part of the fitting which widens in order to sit on a newel.
Circular Stairway--A curved stairway which is mounted on stringers rather than a central pole.

Cove Moulding--A decorative strip which, when attached to the underside of the tread nosing, covers the point between the tread and riser.

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Fillet--Strips which fill the plow between balusters on plowed handrail and shoerail.

Fittings--The stair parts used to form a smooth transition when the hand-rail changes height or direction. For example, staring a balustrade (volute, turnout, starting easing), at a landing (gooseneck), and at a balcony.

Flight--A continuous series of stairs from one landing or floor to another

Floor-To-Floor Height--The total rise of a stairway. Measured from the top of the finished lower floor to the top of the finished upper floor.
Freestanding--A stairway which is not supported by walls. Open underneath.

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Gooseneck--A handrail fitting consisting of an up-easing, a vertical rail drop and a level cap. It is used at a landing or balcony to raise the rake handrail to the height of the balcony handrail.

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Handrails--The horizontal or rake member of a balustrade system. It sits on top of the balusters and it supported by newel posts.

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Lander--Narrow tread nosing situated above the top riser or along the upper edge of a balcony. This gives the appearance of a tread at the top of the stairway.

Landing--A level part of a staircase (as at the end of a flight of stairs).

Landing Newel--A newel situated at a landing or balcony.  
Level Quarter Turn--A level handrail fitting which turns by 90 degrees.
Level Rail--Handrail which runs level along a landing or balcony.

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Miter Down--A piece of handrail mitered onto a longer section of handrail as an end cap to provide a top grain look to the end of the rail.
Miter In--A piece of handrail mitered onto a longer section of handrail to provide a return to a wall. 

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Newels--The major support posts for the balustrade system. Larger and heavier than the baluster, newels are located at the bottom and top of a staircase and at turns and critical support areas of balcony rails.

Newel Bolt--A 10" hanger bolt used to attach a newel to the floor joist.
Newel Plate--A piece of metal attached to the bottom of a newel, usually used for mounting under a carpeted surface.

Nosing--The portion of a tread or landing tread which protrudes beyond the face of the riser.

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Opening Cap--A handrail fitting at the start of a level balustrade system.
Open Stair--A stairway not boxed in by walls on one or both sides.  
Overhand Easing--A handrail fitting which connects a rake handrail with a level handrail without the use of a gooseneck.  
Over-The-Post--A balustrade system which utilizes fittings to go over newel posts for an unbroken continuous handrail.

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Picket--See BALUSTER.
Pitch--See RAKE 
Plate--The bottom, flat part of a rail assembly that sits on the floor or caps a knee wall. 
Platform--The landing which is the top tread on a spiral stairway. Intermediate landings are also often referred to as platforms. 
Plow--The routed portion of a handrail or shoerail used for the inserting of square balusters. The gaps left between balusters are covered with fillet.  
Plumb--Perfectly vertical, perpendicular with the floor. 
Post-To-Post--Balustrade system in which the handrail is not continuous. The handrail is lagged into the face of a square-top newel.  

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Rail Bolt--A hanger bolt used to attach two pieces of rail.
Rail Fittings--Fittings are used in an over-the-post system for a continuous handrail appearance through turns and changes in elevation.

Rake--The slope or angle of the staircase (also referred to as rake angle).

Return Nosing--Tread nosing applied to the outside of an open tread to cover end grain. 
Returned End--A handrail fitting without a cap, which does not incorporate the use of a newel at the end of the balustrade. 

Risers--The vertical component of a stair which supports the treads.

Riser Block--Starting newel supports hidden inside the bullnose section of a starting step.
Rosette--A small, decorative piece of wood used where a handrail dies into a wall. 
Rough Cut--The horizontal measurement from the face of one riser to the face of the next riser. This is also the depth of the tread without the nosing. 
Routed Stringer--A stringer which has been routed out for the insertion of treads, risers and wedges. Also known as "box" stringer.

Run--The horizontal dimension from the nose of one finished stair tread to the next

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Shoe rail--A piece running along the floor which is plowed for the insertion of balusters and fillets.

Stairs--A series of steps or flights of steps for passing from one level to another.

Stair Direction--Either right-or-left-hand. Determined by the turn a stairway makes when facing it from the bottom.

Starting Steps--The first tread and riser at the bottom of a staircase.

Starting Easing--A handrail fitting which is used at the bottom of a stairway with a starting newel.  
Starting Newel--The newel used at the bottom of a stairway.

Step--A rest for the foot in ascending or descending: as one of a series of structures consisting of a riser and a tread.

Stringer--A vertical support for the treads of stairs.

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Tandem Cap--A straight level handrail fitting with a newel cap. Tandem caps generally are used on newels in long stretches of balcony handrail.

Total Rise--The vertical distance from the origin of the stairs to the top surface

Total Run--The horizontal distance that the stairs cover from the face of the first tread to the end of the last tread

Treads--The horizontal portion of the staircase that is walked upon.

Turnout--A handrail fitting used on a starting newel which curves away from the stairway.  

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Up Easing--A handrail fitting which joins two handrails or fittings at different angles in a graceful, pleasing manor.

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Volute--A handrail fitting used on a starting newel which turns away from the stairway in a circular fashion.

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Wall Rail--A handrail which is mounted on a wall and supported by wall rail brackets rather than newels or balusters.
Wall Rail Brackets--Metal supports for wall rail.  
Wedge--Triangular blocks of wood, coated with glue and used to drive treads and risers tightly into a routed stringer.  
Well Opening--The opening in the upper floor for placement of a stairway.  
Winder Stair--A section of stairway used to make an "L" shaped turn, made with "pie" shaped or wedge cut treads.  
Winder Tread--Tread with a greater run on one side than the other. Winder treads are used on Circular, Spiral and Winder stairways.  
Wood Plug--A small circular piece of wood used for a finished appearance and covering drilled holes on newels, handrails and treads.

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 The Hardwood Company
Main Office: 550 North Main Street
PO Box 126, Granite Falls, NC  28630
Phone: 828-396-1556  Fax: 828-396-8182
Copyright 2003-04.  All Rights Reserved.