Building Stairs

Stair Railings

Category Construction Glossary
Stair Railing System

The balustrade is the complete system of railings and balusters
that prevents people from falling over the edge.

Banister, railing or handrail - The angled member for
handholding, as distinguished from the vertical balusters which
hold it up for stairs that are open on one side; there is often a
railing on both sides, sometimes only on one side or not at all, on
wide staircases there is sometimes also one in the middle, or
even more. The term "banister" is sometimes used to mean just
the handrail, or sometimes the handrail and the balusters or
sometimes just the balusters[1].
Volute - A handrail for the bullnose step that is shaped like a
spiral. Volutes may be right or left-handed depending on which
side of the stairs they occur when facing up the stairs.
Turnout - Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a
quarter-turn rounded end to the handrail.
Gooseneck - The vertical handrail that joins a sloped handrail
to a higher handrail on the balcony or landing is a gooseneck.
Rosette - Where the handrail ends in the wall and a half-newel
is not used, it may be trimmed by a rosette.
Easings - Wall handrails are mounted directly onto the wall with
wall brackets. At the bottom of the stairs such railings flare to a
horizontal railing and this horizontal portion is called a "starting
easing". At the top of the stairs, the horizontal portion of the
railing is called a "over easing".
Core rail - Wood handrails often have a metal core to provide
extra strength and stiffness, especially when the rail has to curve
against the grain of the wood. The archaic term for the metal
core is "core rail".
Baluster - A term for the vertical posts that hold up the handrail.
Sometimes simply called guards or spindles. Treads often
require two balusters. The second baluster is closer to the riser
and is taller than the first. The extra height in the second baluster
is typically in the middle between decorative elements on the
baluster. That way the bottom decorative elements are aligned
with the tread and the top elements are aligned with the railing
angle. However, this means the first and second balusters are
manufactured separately and cannot be interchanged. Balusters
without decorative elements can be interchanged.
Newel - A large baluster or post used to anchor the handrail.
Since it is a structural element, it extends below the floor and
subfloor to the bottom of the floor joists and is bolted right to the
floor joist. A half-newel may be used where a railing ends in the
wall. Visually, it looks like half the newel is embedded in the wall.
For open landings, a newel may extend below the landing for a
decorative newel drop.
Baserail or Shoerail - For systems where the baluster does not
start at the treads, they go to a baserail. This allows for identical
balusters, avoiding the second baluster problem.
Fillet - A decorative filler piece on the floor between balusters on
a balcony railing.
Handrails may be continuous (sometimes called over-the-post) or
post-to-post (or more accurately ""newel-to-newel""). For
continuous handrails on long balconies, there may be multiple
newels and tandem caps to cover the newels. At corners, there
are quarter-turn caps. For post-to-post systems, the newels
project above the handrails