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Stairway & Rail Components
Stair building has many unique terms. Here are the most common terms and their meanings
to help you better understand when reading instructions or material on stairs.

Angle Newel
The longer of newel posts used at landings and upper levels where rake rail changes
direction and continues or where rake rail rises vertically to meet level rail. Length is
governed by the number of risers at this point of vertical transition. Angle newels may be two,
three, or four risers high in their base length.

A vertical member used between railing and tread or floor, adding safety, support and
stability to the balustrade.

The name for the complete and assembled rail system.

Box Newel
A large square newel hollow inside, used in post to post balustrades.

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

Referred to as tread or stringer bracket. A scroll shaped decorative member usually mitered
to the riser and fastened over the open stringer.

That round portion of a rail fitting which widens, permitting it to set on top of a newel post.
Cap fittings are used for an over the post balustrade system.

Cove Moulding
A coved shaped mould used to finish off the joint formed where the face of the riser meets the
lower face of the tread nosing.

(Sometimes called Easement) That portion of a rail fitting which curves, permitting hand rail
to move from level up or down, up easing or over easing respectively. It also permits rake rail
to move vertically where it meets level rail.

A thin moulding that is fitted into plowed hand rail and shoe rail between balusters.

Finished Floor to Finished Floor Height
The vertical distance between the top of the lower finished floor to the top of the upper level
finished floor. The total rise of the stair.

Glue Block
A wooden block, square or triangular, glued to the underside of a step. They are used where
the tread and riser form an inside corner under each step.

A rail fitting used where rake rail rises vertically to a balcony or landing. They also permit
directional changes.

Hand Rail
The railing used as hand support in balustrade systems.

A floor framing member that runs across the well opening. The top riser of the stair is secured
to the header.

A length of dense dimension lumber cut to run rise requirements to form steps. The horse
supports treads and risers.

An intermediate floor or platform between flights of stairs. Landings permit directional
changes in stair travel.

Landing Newel
Refer to Angle Newel.

Landing Tread
A nosed and rabbeted tread-like mould used to form a level surface with the finished floor of
landings and upper levels. May also be used to trim around well holes and balconies.

Left Hand
A stair open for balustrade on the left side, ascending the stair. The rail fittings on the left
hand side of the stair.

Level Quarterturn
A rail fitting that permits level hand rail to turn 90 degrees; available with cap or without cap.

Level Rail
Handrail used on the level portion of a balustrade.

A vertical post used to start the balustrade, also used at points of vertical and directional
transition. Newel posts are the backbone of balustrade strength.

Open Stair
A stair where the stringer has been cut out and the tread ends are exposed on one or both

A balustrade system which uses rail fittings on top of newel posts forming a continuous hand

Refer to Rake

Pitch Block
A block of wood that is cut to form a right triangle using the rise and run dimensions of the
stair. The pitch block is used to determine the exact point and angle of cut for attachment of
fitting to straight rail. The pitch block also determines the angle cuts on balusters, newel posts
and hand rail.

Refer to Landing.

The grooved out area in the bottom of the hand rail and the top of shoe rail that receive
square end balusters. It is fitted with fillet spacers.

A balustrade system where hand rail is cut between and attached to square top newel posts.

Rail Bolt
A two ended, threaded steel stud with nut, washer and wood plug. A concealed fastener used
to attach hand rail to fittings and newels.

Rail Fitting
Fittings are assembled components that are profiled to match hand rail patterns. They permit
directional and vertical changes with hand rail in over-the-post balustrades. Some fittings may
be used in post-to-post balustrades.

The angle or pitch of a stair's ascent to the upper level. The rake is established by the rise
and run.

Rake Rail
Hand rail used on the ascending portion of a balustrade, follows the pitch or rise of the stair.

Return Nosing
A nosed or rounded moulding used to trim, open end treads. This conceals the end grain.

Right Hand
A stair open for the balustrade on the right side, ascending the stair. The rail fittings on the
right hand side of a stair.

The unit of vertical height for each step in a stair. Determined by dividing the total finish floor
to finished floor dimension into equal parts.

The vertical component of a stair that faces each step between stringers and tread, upon
which the treads are placed.

A decorative wall plate, larger than hand rail profile, may be round, oval or rectangular, serves
as a railing anchor when backing is placed in the wall.

The horizontal travel of a stair. A unit of run or tread run is the distance of travel for each step
excluding the tread nose.

Shoe Moulding
A quarter round type mould, higher than wide, generally applied where bottom riser meets
finished floor.

Shoe Rail
A flat moulded member with a linear groove to receive square bottom balusters for assembly.

Skirt board
A finished face board used to cover the stair horse. May also be used to finish around the
well hole.

Starting Easing
A rail fitting that starts the balustrade system and introduces the user to the upward travel of
the stair.

Starting Newel
The vertical post used to start a balustrade system.

Starting Step
A decorative first step of a stair. Generally includes tread and riser which lengthen the step
beyond the width of the basic stair. Designs are bull nose fully rounded, quarter circle or half

A side member of a stair that serves both carriage and finished face. It is generally routed out
to receive treads and risers for box stairs. It is mitered to the riser with treads set on top for
open stairs.

Sub Rail
A thin linear mould plowed both top and bottom to receive hand rail above and the top of
square end balusters below.

The flat horizontal component of a stair step upon which a person walks.

Wall Rail
Hand rail affixed to the wall by means of mounting brackets. It may be primary hand rail for a
box stair and supplementary to a balustrade system.

Wall Rail Bracket
An offsetting metal bracket screwed to the wall upon which wall rail is mounted.

A tapered strip of wood driven into stringer routings to fasten treads and risers securely. They
also help to prevent squeaks.

Well Hole
The opening frame into floor above a stair.

A landing divided by risers into triangular shaped steps, usually two or three steps. Caution
should be taken when planning to use them as they restrict tread area as they climb and turn.

Wood Plug
A flat round wooden plug usually 1" in diameter, used to plug the holes bored for concealed

Assembled Stair Types
Type #1
Stair is a complete boxed in stair with housed stringers on both sides. On this stairway,
the ends of each tread and riser are installed into recessed stringer routings creating a
box appearance.

Type #2
Stair has a boxed in section. In addition, there is an open section with RH or LH returned
end treads one side only the first few steps, usually no more than six. The exact amount
of returned end open treads is determined by location of the finished wall line. We ask
for this information on line "G" of our order form.

Type #3
Stair is closed or boxed in one side. The opposite side is open with all returned end
treads. When ordering, indicate RH or LH on line "M" of the order form.

Type #4
Stair is similar to the Type #2, which is a combination of open end boxed in section stair,
except the open section is open both sides with mitered RH and LH treads. The exact
amount of returned end open treads is determined by location of the finish wall line. We
ask for this information on line "G" of the detail sheet.

Type #5
Stair is returned end open both sides, each tread having mitered RH and LH ends.
There is not a boxed in section to this stair.

Type #6
Stair is an excellent, heavy duty, modern appearance stair for open area installations.
This finish stair does not have risers installed and has a boxed in or open end
appearance depending on stringer location.

Type #7
Stair is a boxed in type house basement stair with no risers installed. Our basement stair
is economically priced and can be stocked for average ceiling heights.

SPEAKING of stairs, I love 'em. They're "neat". They're great for going up,
going down, going wherever you might want to go (except sideways).

Humankind has long strived to go up and down. In prehistoric times, the only
way people had of going up was to eat food and wait around and hope they
would grow. After growing, prehistoric humans had no way of getting back
down except dying. The dawn of civilization brought tree climbing, which was
only a slight improvement. The modern application of stairs dates from the
period of Britain's Industrial Revolution, during which time rapid mechanization
and improved agricultural techniques made tree climbing seem passť.
(Archaeologists have since discovered primitive stairs fashioned out of bark
and dirt dating back as early as the time of Charlemagne, but these were bulky
and awkward and they only went up.)

Following their discovery, stairs spread like wildfire across the industrialized
world and people began to go up in record numbers. In 1800, the World
Almanac reported that over 1.2 million people used stairs regularly for either
business or pleasure; by 1914 this figure had swelled to over eighty-eight
billion people and several pets.

The 1920s were something of a Golden Age for stairs, which stretched ever
higher in the cities of such well-known continents as North America and
Europe, allowing the construction of much taller buildings than ever before. The
picture was not so bright for war-torn Germany, however. The once stair-filled
nation had lost over 9,233,000 steps in the Great War. This problem was only
compounded by the millions of stairs which Germany was required to give to
Great Britain and France in reparation. Inflation quickly debased the height of
the German stair to less than a millionth of a centimeter. At the worst point,
Germans had to climb over 6000 flights of stairs just to get into their shoes.
This state of affairs eventually led to the second world war and the dropping of

After the war, Allied soldiers returned home eager to climb stairs. This of
course led to the Stair Boom of the 1950's. It became increasingly obvious that
the entire Western way of life was intimately linked to the stair economy.
Soviet-style communism threatened the stair-based lifestyle. A central tenet of
communism is that no stair should be placed atop another. The Soviet Union
sought to dismantle the entire Western stair structure. In the resultant "cold
war", tensions often flared and it appeared that the stair question would only be
resolved through the use of nuclear WEAPONRY.

Meanwhile, back at home, the dominance of stairs was being challenged.
Stairs were pushed aside in favor of strange new forms of ascension known as
"elevators", "escalators", "hot air balloons" and "ladders". Tree climbing also
made a dramatic resurgence in the late 1980s. And so by the time the
Russians finally gave in and started using stairs the proper way, no one cared

With an eye for beauty and desire for accuracy, Delaware's Finest Hardwood Floors delivers only the highest quality available

Delaware's Finest Hardwood Floors © 2007-2012
Type #1
Type #2
Type #3
Type #4
Type #5
Type #6
Type #7