How to identify stair parts

Written by kimberly johnson
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How to identify stair parts
Stairs (stairs image by Troy Hostetler from

Although most people climb up and down stairs frequently, many could not name the parts that make up a staircase. There are many separate components that all work together to ensure that the stairs are secure and safe for use. Identifying each part of a stair is not difficult since all stairs have a standard construction design.

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  1. 1

    Look at the section of the stair that you step on and identify the main two components. The flat piece that the foot sits on is called the tread. The outer edge of the tread that is not attached to the wall contains a small piece of decorative moulding called the return nosing.

    The flat vertical piece of wood that is attached underneath each tread is called a riser.

  2. 2

    Locate the very first step that is adjacent to the main floor of the home. The outer edge of this step furthest from the wall sometimes curves around the outer edge of the stair. This curved stair is a decorative feature called the curtail. Not all stairs have a curtail.

  3. 3

    Look at the lower section of the wall where it connects to the stairs and identify a plank that goes all the way up the wall. This plank, which both wall and stairs are attached to, is called the inner string, or stinger. There is also an outer string which is visible when you stand on the first floor of the building and look at the outer edge of the stairs. The stringers support the treads and risers.

  4. 4

    Locate the banister, or handrail, of the stairs to identify the major components of it. The actual hand rail itself is called the banister and each of the thin poles that attach it to the stairs are called balusters.

  5. 5

    Move to one end of the banister and locate the thicker posts. These are called newel posts and often have a decorative piece of wood on top of them called a finial. Finials are often in the shape of circles, orbs or squares, but can be carved into any shape desired.

  6. 6

    Look at the floor space directly in front of the stairs, as well as at the top of the stairs. These flat sections of floor are called the landings and are the entryways into other rooms of the building. If the stairways make a turn in between floors, this flat area is called a half landing.

Tips and warnings

  • There are also two parts of stairs which are not visible because they are installed on the underside of the stairs. The tread wedge is a wedge-shaped piece of wood that is nailed in place to attach the treads to the inner and outer strings. There is also another wedge piece called a riser wedge that is nailed in place to attach the risers to the inner and outer string.

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