So, you have some general ideas about how you’d like to enhance an existing staircase or create a new one for your home, but you aren’t quite as clear when it comes to common staircase lingo and terminology. First, know that you’re not alone. While just about everyone knows their steps from their railings, far fewer people out there know the difference between treads, riders, strings and spindles.
A quick crash course in common staircase terminology can effectively change that, however, and it can help ensure that you’re able to easily communicate your wishes and needs with your designers, contractors and stair parts providers. So, what are the primary components of a staircase, and what’s the main purpose of each?
The treads of your staircase are the flat, horizontal parts that you actually place your feet on when ascending and descending. Treads can come in a variety of materials, including wood and metal, and you can also add carpeting or other anti-slip solutions to your treads in accordance with your needs.
The risers, meanwhile, are the vertical parts of the stairs that appear in between the treads, while the actual height of each step is known as the rise. You don’t actually place your feet on your staircase’s risers, and in some cases, your stairs may not have risers at all. Spiral staircases and outdoor deck steps, for example, often lack risers, whether for safety, aesthetics or what have you, but they still have a rise.
While the treads and risers are part of the steps, themselves, the strings are the parts of the staircase that appear on either side of the treads and risers, holding them securely in place. Strings come in several different types, among them closed strings, meaning you cannot see the sides of your steps, and open strings, which allow you to easily see the stairs’ profile.
Newel Posts & Balusters
The staircase components that connect the handrails to the base rails are known as the newel posts and balusters. The newel posts refer to the more substantial vertical components that typically appear at key structural points, while the balusters, which are also known as “spindles,” are the smaller, sometimes more decorative vertical elements that often appear between the newel posts. Both newel posts and balusters present prime opportunities for customization, and you can typically choose from a wide range of materials and styles when designing them.
Now that you have a working understanding of some of the most common staircase components and terminology, you should be able to easily communicate your wishes and aesthetic preferences when working with suppliers, contractors and designers.