Building Stairs

Category Construction Glossary
Stair Parts

Tread - The part of the stairway that is stepped on. It is
constructed to the same specifications (thickness) as any other
flooring. The tread "width" is measured from the outer edge of
the step to the vertical "riser" between steps.
Riser - The vertical portion between each tread on the stair.
This may be missing for an "open" stair effect.
Nosing - An edge part of the tread that protrudes over the riser
beneath. If it is present, this means that horizontally, the total
"run" length of the stairs is not simply the sum of the tread
lengths, the treads actually overlap each other slightly
Starting step - Where stairs are open on one or both sides,
the first step above the lower floor may be wider than the other
steps and rounded. The balusters typically form a semi-circle
around the circumference of the rounded portion and the
handrail has a horizontal spiral called a "volute" that supports
the top of the balusters. Besides the cosmetic appeal, starting
steps allow the balusters to form a wider, more stable base for
the end of the handrail. Handrails that simply end at a post at
the foot of the stairs can be less sturdy, even with a thick post.
A double bullnose can be used when both sides of the stairs
are open.
Winders - Winders are steps that are narrower on one side
than the other. They are used to change the direction of the
stairs without landings. A series of winders form a circular or
spiral stairway. When three steps are used to turn a 90° corner,
the middle step is called a kite winder as a kite-shaped
Stringer, stringer board or sometimes just string - The
structural member that supports the treads and risers. There
are typically two stringers, one on either side of the stairs;
though the treads may be supported many other ways. The
stringers are sometimes notched so that the risers and treads fit
into them. Stringers on open-sided stairs are often open
themselves so that the treads are visible from the side. Such
stringers are called "cut" stringers. Stringers on a closed side of
the stairs are closed, with the support for the treads routed into
the stringer.
Trim - Trim (e.g. quarter-round or baseboard trim) is normally
applied where walls meet floors and often underneath treads to
hide the reveal where the tread and riser meet. Shoe moulding
may be used between where the lower floor and the first riser
meet. Trimming a starting step is a special challenge as the last
riser above the lower floor is rounded. Today, special flexible,
plastic trim is available for this purpose, however wooden
mouldings are still used and are either cut from a single piece of
rounded wood, or bent with laminations
Straight Stairs
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