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Staircase Terminology


Many items of construction are made up of various parts that, when put together, are given a different name. Each of these parts have different names so they can be identified easily. Staircases are no exception to this rule. Cheshire Mouldings have created this simple guide to all elements of staircases so you fully understand what you are looking for when upgrading your stairs or purchasing a new staircase.

The basic elements of staircases


Baserails are used to slot the spindles (balusters) into, securing them into the staircase and ensuring they remain solid should anything fall against them.

Curtail Step

This is the first step that you see on some staircases that projects out further than other steps and curves around the side of the stairs like a ‘cur’s tail’.

Handrail (Banister)

Handrails are the protective barriers you find on staircases that you usually hold on to. A handrail can also provide the support for spindles and balusters (see below) as this is what they fit into, or can simply be fitted to a wall like the Cheshire Mouldings Rail in a Box product.

Inner (closed) String

This is the timber on the wall side of a set of stairs which is used to locate and secure the treads and risers.

Newel Posts

A newel post is the upright pillar seen on staircases that supports the handrail. The newel post is the first large post you find at the foot of the staircase, but can often also be used on landings if there is a turn in a staircase. It is very popular to embellish newel posts on staircases by turning them or adding timber mouldings. The Cheshire Mouldings Benchmark range has a great selection of newel posts that would enhance any staircase.

Newel Cap (Finial)

Newel caps or finials sit on top of newel posts for decorative effect and come in many styles – from modern simple designs to elaborate turned focal points.

Outer (open) String

Located opposite the ‘Inner String’ and is used to locate and secure the treads and risers of each step on staircases. This timber component can be viewed from both sides of the stairs.


Risers are the vertical part of the steps and are usually constructed of a thin wood. Not all staircases incorporate risers – if they are not used the staircase is referred to as ‘open riser’.

Spindles (Balusters)

Essentially these are what stop you falling through the side of staircases – they are the vertical struts that go in between the handrail and the baserail, also referred to as balusters. Spindles are usually constructed of wood or metal and can be squared, fluted or turned for decorative effect. More modern staircases have stopped using spindles and are using different materials such as glass like the Cheshire Mouldings Clarity Glass Balustrade range.


A step is composed of a tread and a riser that are secured by an inner and outer string.


Treads are the horizontal part of steps that you actually stand on.

The diagram below shows the layout of a standard staircase:

Click on the image for more detail.


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