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Understanding the Various Parts of a Staircase

Understanding the Various Parts of a Staircase

Defining the Different Parts of a Staircase

When you ascend or descend a staircase, do you ever consider the intricate details that go into its design and construction? Understanding the different parts of a staircase isn’t just for architects and builders; it's useful for homeowners, DIY enthusiasts, and anyone interested in the craftsmanship of building interiors. This knowledge can be helpful whether you're planning a renovation, addressing staircase safety, or simply curious about structural design.

In this blog post, we'll climb step by step through the various components that make up a staircase and explain their importance. By the end, you'll be able to identify and articulate the function of each part and might even look at staircases in a whole new light.

Treads and Risers

The most interacted-with parts of any staircase are the treads and risers. The tread is the horizontal part of the step that you stand on. Its depth, or how wide it is from front to back, is key to safety and comfort as it needs to accommodate the average foot size.

The riser is the vertical section between each tread. In some modern designs, staircases may have "open risers" where there is no solid riser, giving a floating appearance to the steps.


Stringers are the structural supports that run along each side of the staircase. They can be "closed," hidden within the staircase structure, or "cut," visible as the sawtooth-shaped boards that support the treads and risers. There are typically two stringers, one on each side of the steps, but wider staircases may require an additional stringer in the middle for extra support.

Newel Posts

The newel post is a sturdy vertical post that supports the handrail and balustrade at the bottom or top of the staircase or where the staircase changes direction. Newel posts are often larger than the other posts or balusters and can be quite ornate, forming both a functional and a decorative feature.


Handrails are crucial for safety and provide support for those using the stairs. These horizontal or sloping rails run along the length of the staircase and are supported by posts or a wall. They should be ergonomic and strong enough to support the weight of an adult.

Balusters and Spindles

Balusters, also known as spindles, are the vertical posts that connect the tread (or stringer) to the handrail. These vertical rods or columns are a key safety feature that prevents users, especially children, from falling through gaps between the handrail and the staircase.


The nosing is the protruding edge of the tread that extends beyond the riser beneath. It's a critical design consideration as it helps differentiate one step from the next, thus reducing the risk of falls, and adds an edge detail that can enhance the staircase's aesthetics.

Balustrade / Banister

The balustrade (often referred to as the banister) is the collective term for the complete assembly of handrails, balusters, and newel posts. This also includes any panels or infill between the handrails and base.


A landing is a flat platform found at the top of the staircase or partway along its length. Landings give people a space to rest and can also provide a turnaround point for stairs that need to double back on themselves.


Whether you're admiring the grand staircase of an old building, or considering a renovation at home, understanding the different parts of a staircase can help you appreciate the engineering and design effort that goes into making them both functional and attractive.

If you're looking to build or renovate a staircase, keep these terms in mind and consider how each component not only contributes to the overall aesthetic but also ensures safety and durability. Remember, from the treads and risers to the stringers and balusters, every part of a staircase has its role to play in making these seemingly simple structures stand out as masterpieces of practical design.

When you next encounter a staircase, take a moment to notice these details. You might find that there's more to stairs than just stepping up.

Please note that terms and definitions can vary by region and outside of a professional context, the terms balustrade and banister are often used interchangeably.

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