A vertical stair part; a turned, carved or otherwise vertical section placed between the handrail and the stair tread or stair stringer. Sometimes called spindles, pickets or “thing-a-ma-bobs”.


A railing at the side of a staircase or balcony to prevent people from falling. Synonyms: balusters, banister, handrail  

Box Newel

A square wood post with trim, used as a starting post and intermediate posts, especially if there are turns or transitions.  Box newels are used for a more traditional look.  

Cable Post or termination stanchion

A metal post that cables connect to either to start at or end at. Cable posts or stanchions in the middle of two termination stanchions are called cable supports. (see cable support)

Cable Support

A metal vertical post to support a cable. Needed about every 4 ft on a long handrail run.

Cap Wall

A short wall or stub wall that the baluster rests on.  

Carriage, Stringer or Stair Jack

The angled pieces used to support the stair system for the treads and risers to rest upon.  

Ceiling Rail

A continuation of a handrail that attaches to the ceiling for the balusters to terminate into.  

Closed Tread

This is a style of tread when there is a wall on either side of the tread.  


Molding that is placed between the bottom of the treads and the front of the riser.

Curb Wall

A 4” – 6” high platform that runs along the upper floor upon which the balusters and posts sit.  


The direction a handrail takes on a stair rake when its path is interrupted by a wall.  


The curved junctions placed in a handrail to bring the parts at different levels into one flowing curve. A fitting that curves in a vertical plane, used to change the angle of the handrail.

Factory Return

The factory fitting attached to the end of the handrail. Used when the wall handrail terminates back into the wall to allow for a smoother transition.  

False Tread Cap

A wooden cap on both sides of a tread leaving a gap on the tread for carpet to be placed.  False-end treads, when covered with carpet, look like solid treads and are less expensive than a solid-wood tread. False-end treads are often called a “false-tread kit” or “false-tread cap”.  


A thin strip that fills the plowed (grooved) rail space between balusters in a handrail or shoe rail.  

Freestanding Stairs

Usually an open back stair system where the stair is designed to support its own weight.  


A combination of an easing and a fitting in a rail system that allows the handrail to change heights from an incline back to the level. It is placed at landings or at the top of a stair.  

Guard Railing or Balcony Rail

A horizontal rail which is 36” from the floor to the top of the rail per residential code.  

Hand Scraped Treads

Treads or steps that have been hand scraped to give a more rustic and worn appearance.  


A molded rail following the pitch, or rake, of the staircase and forming the top or connecting piece of the balustrade that protects the outside of the stair.  


A decorative element used on treads when the surface is inlaid with wood, stone, or metal.  


The technical name for Brazilian Cherry. This wood is extremely hard, heavy and gets very dark with age. Jatoba does a number to our saw blades.


A resting place, or wide step, at the middle or top of a flight of stairs. Landings are often used to change the direction of a stairway. Landings are usually 3′ x 3′ and much different than winders.  

Little Dude Handrail

Wall handrail for the little Dudes and Dudettes.  

Mitered Return

A custom made handrail which is cut to make the return into the wall.  

Mitered Riser

A method of joining the riser to the skirt board. The mitered method is when the skirt board and riser are both mitered to each other.

Newel (or Newel Post)

A solid, rectangular, or circular, section of vertical post at the center and at regular turns and junctions of a rail system. The newels provide the main support for the rail system. There is a starting newel at the base of the stairs and a landing newel at the turns or top of the stair.

Open Tread

This is a style of tread (step) where one or both sides of the tread do not run into a wall.  

Over-the-Post Handrail System

A continuous handrail from the bottom of the stairs to the top; the handrail is not interrupted by the posts, as it sits on top of the posts.  

Pin-Top Baluster

A baluster having dowel-type top as opposed to a square.  

Pitch shoe

Plowed Rail

A handrail that has had the center cut out of the bottom of the rail so a square-top baluster can fit inside.

Post-to-post Handrail System

Handrail goes into the side of the post. The post is usually a box newel.  

Railing Bracket

An ornamental support for a wall railing. This is a one piece bracket which makes for easy install and adjustment.  

Rise & Run

Rise: The vertical distance between the upper surfaces of two consecutive treads. It is also called a painted or stained riser. Run: The horizontal distance between the vertical surfaces of consecutive risers.


The vertical board between the back of one tread and front of the next, also called toe-kick.  


Carpeting that runs down the middle of the stairs. Runners may be directly stapled or nailed to the stairs, or may be secured by a specialized bar that holds the carpet in place where the tread meets the riser, known as a stair rod.  

Shoe Rail

A railing that runs above the treads that houses the balusters.  The shoe rail, or bottom rail is most often used on carpeted stairs.

Side Skirts

A length of decorative wide board that is attached to the wall where the tread either meets the wall or overhangs it.  

Square-Top Baluster

Balusters which have a square top. Square top balusters require plowed rail and fillets.  

Stair Rake (Rake)

The angle of the stairs; for example, from the bottom of the first step to the top step. Also used to refer to parts on this portion of the stairs, e.g., Rake Rail, Rake Balusters, etc.  

Stair Tread

The surface of each step, either carpeted or wooden.  

Starter Step

The first tread and riser at the bottom of the staircase. Starting steps are usually rounded on the one or both ends. They can also be square. Some have a wood riser that matches the flooring (oak for example) or are painted.  


See Carriage above.  

Tread Cap

See False Tread Cap.


Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a quarter-turn rounded end to the handrail.  


A handrail end element for the starter step that curves inward like a spiral. A volute is said to be right or left-handed depending on which side of the stairs the handrail is as one faces the stairs.  

Wall Railing

Handrail that is attached to the wall.  

Winder Treads

Winders are steps that are narrower on one side than the other. They are used to change the direction of the stairs without landings.  

Wrought Iron Baluster

A decorative metal baluster.  

Wrought Iron Base Shoe

A decorative cap at the base of the wrought iron baluster.  

Wrought Iron Knuckle:

Wrought Iron Newel

A metal post, larger than wrought iron baluster upon which the handrail sits.