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Stair Parts Glossary

Baluster: A vertical member used between railing and tread or floor. Balusters provide support, safety and stability to the balustrade.

Balustrade: The name for a complete assembled rail system.

Box newel: A large square newel that is hollow inside, used at starting steps or in post to post balustrades.

Box stair: A stair where the stringers house the treads and risers, forming a box like unit.

Bracket: Generally referred to as a tread or stringer bracket; this is a scroll shaped ornament fastened to an open stringer.

Cap: The round portion of a fitting which flares, permitting the fitting to set onto the top of a newel post. Cap fittings are used in an over the post balustrade system.

Cove molding: A trim molding used to finish the joint where the face of the riser and the underside of the tread join.

Easing: That portion of a fitting which curves upward or downward, permitting the handrail to deviate from the rake of the staircase. Easing create a smooth transition, so that the hand can glide across the rail as it changes direction.

Fillet: A thin molding that is fitted into plowed handrail and shoe rail between balusters.

Gooseneck: A fitting used where the rake rail must rise vertically to meet a balcony or landing. Goosenecks can also facilitate directional changes.

Hand rail: The rail used as a hand hold or support in balustrade systems.

Landing newel: The longer newel post used at landing and balconies where the rake rail changes direction or pitch and then continues on. The length of the newel is governed by the number of risers at the point of vertical transition.

Landing tread: A nosed and rabbeted tread like molding used to form a finished surface at landing and balconies.

Level quarterturn: A fitting that permits level handrail to turn 90 or 135 degrees, available with or without cap.

Level rail: Handrail used on the level portion of a balustrade.

Newel: A vertical post used to start a post to post balustrade, also used at points of vertical and directional change. Newel posts provide the majority of the structural rigidity of a balustrade system.

Open stair: A staircase where the stringer has been cut out so that the stair treads are exposed on one or both sides of the staircase.

Over the post: A balustrade system which uses fittings on top of newel posts, creating an uninterrupted handrail.

Plow: The channel in the bottom of a handrail and the top of a shoe rail that receives square balusters. A plow is finished with fillet.

Post to post: A balustrade system where handrail is fitted between newel posts. The flow of the handrail is interrupted by the decorative top of the newel post.

Rail fitting: Fittings are carved components whose profile matches a specific handrail. Fittings are assembled in various configurations to effect directional and elevation changes in over the post and post to post balustrades.

Rake: The angle or pitch of a stairs ascent to an upper level. The rake is established by the rise and run of the staircase.

Rake rail: Hand rail used on the ascending portion of a balustrade which matches the pitch or rise of the staircase.

Riser: The vertical component of a staircase that faces each step between stringer and tread, upon which the tread rests.

Rosette: A decorative wall plate, larger than the handrail profile, which may be round or oval. Rosettes serve as a decorative handrail anchor when handrail dead ends at a wall.

Shoe rail: A flat molding with a linear channel which receives square bottom balusters for assembly. The channel between balusters is then finished with fillet.

Starting easing: A fitting that starts a balustrade and introduces the user to the upward travel of the stair.

Starting newel: The vertical post used to start a post to post balustrade.

Starting step: A decorative first step of a staircase. Generally includes a tread and riser which is larger in length and depth than the basic stair. Design options include bullnosed, quarter circle and half circle patterns.

Stringer: A side member of a stair that provides structural support and a finished face. It is generally machined to receive the risers and treads for box stairs. In open staircases, the risers are mitered so that finished end treads rest on the mitered riser.

Tread: The horizontal component of a staircase upon which you walk.

Volute: An ornamental handrail fitting used to grace the opening of a staircase. A volute is carved to turn away from the opening in a nautilus like shape, resting on a volute newel and four or five balusters.

Wall rail: Handrail fastened directly to the wall with a mounting bracket. In a box staircase it may be the primary handrail. In a full balustrade a wall rail would be supplementary.

Wood Species

Beech is a very hard wood that is used as a low cost alternative for Oak, Ash and Hickory. Moderately tight, fine grain with evident flecking at times is characteristic. Beech can vary from reddish brown to a pinkish cream color. Beech takes a natural finish well.

Red Oak has a prominent open grain that ranges in color from white to yellow and reddish-brown. Red Oak is sometimes streaked with green, yellow, or black mineral deposits and may vary from a closely knit grain to a sweeping arch pattern.

White Oak is a very hard, shock resistant and dense wood that takes a finish well. The dominant grain character is moderately open with a color range from creamy white through light tan to brown. Balusters and newels turned in White Oak have a distinctive straight grain appearance that is a bit more color consistent than Red Oak.

Hickory is a strong, open-grained wood that is known for its flowing grain pattern and dramatic variation in color. It often contains random pecks, burls, and mineral streaks, and it is not uncommon to see turnings or treads that range in color from light to deep brown when finished in light or natural stains. Darker stains will mildly tone these color variations, but these very characteristics make each Hickory staircase unique and the preference of those who love wood.

Maple is a strong, close-grained wood that is predominantly off-white in color, although it also contains light hues of yellow-brown and pink. Maple occasionally contains small mineral, light tan or reddish-tinged streaks that will darken with stain. It is usually straight grained, but can be wavy or even curly.

Brazilian Cherry is a reddish brown wood with an interlocking grain and a golden glow or luster. A hard, heavy and very strong wood, Brazilian Cherry is a favorite choice for fine furniture, cabinetry and architectural details. Once abundant in the rain forest, Brazilian Cherry is now grown as a renewable resource.

American Cherry is an elegant multi-colored hardwood. In its raw state, it has a pinkish-brown hue with occasional shades of white, green, pink, or even gray. Natural or light stains accent these color variations. Small gum pockets, streaks, pin knots, and figures are common. Cherry wood will darken or “mellow” with age. This mellowing is a natural occurrence and a benefit of owning a solid cherry balustrade.

Mahogany has long been a premier choice for high end furniture and millwork. The natural coloring will vary from a pale red with a grayish tinge to a reddish brown or blood red. The grain is fine with interlocking parallel runs or ribbons occurring occasionally. Mahogany’s medium texture and moderately heavy density can produce an exquisite finish.

Walnut is best known for its deep purple brown to brown heartwood and creamy to brilliant white sapwood. The wood connoisseur appreciates a blend of the dark heart mixed with the light sap. Walnut is fairly lightweight, with a medium texture and moderately open grain, which is unsurpassed in finishing.

Primed Products leave our factory with a bright-white-satin primer. We have designed the coating to be a base coat over which a final top coat will be applied. The benefit to the Designer is that the priming step (arguably, the most difficult) is completed under factory controlled conditions, so that the final finish can be applied by decorators on site, matching any color or faux finish exactly.

Poplar is widely used because it is inexpensive and readily available. It is light weight, but moderately stiff and is classified as a hardwood. Color can vary from white with a yellowish cast to straw brown or green with occasional purple mineral streaks. Poplar holds paint well. If you are planning a natural finish, dark stains are preferred over light due to variations in color and density which affect stain absorption.