Custom Stair Builder Tips: Wooden Stair Parts Guide

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Are you interested in building your own custom staircase? As a custom stair builder, iStairs know that customers often wonder about the terminologies involving custom stairs. Over the years, stair parts haven’t changed at all, so being familiar with these terminologies will aid you to understand your custom stair better.


These are the vertical spindles that hold up the handrails of a stair. These are found along the staircase. Balusters are often confused with newels.


It includes the entire elements a stair that makes up and supports the railing. The balustrade includes the handrails, balusters, and newels.


A rail found along the bottom of the balustrade.

Cove Mould:

A decorative mould that provides a smooth progression to the riser. It is installed underneath the nosing of the tread.


Often used as a progression to a balcony or landing, a gooseneck is a handrail fitting with a vertical ‘goose neck’ shape.


A rail at the side of a staircase, serving as a support or a guide.


A platform or wider step, connecting two flights of stairs or at the end of the stairway.


A deep recess, notch, hole, lot, or groove cut into wood that you insert another piece into. Mortises hold treads, often cut into stringers on closed staircases.


Another important custom stair builder part, as this supports the balustrade system. Newels are larger than balusters. Usually, it is placed at the top and the bottom of the staircase, or at a turn in the handrail.


Protruding beyond the edge of the vertical riser beneath it, a nosing is the front edge of a stair’s tread.

Open/closed staircase:

Differences between an open and closed staircase are obvious. If you see the steps from the sides, including the nosing of the tread, and riser, it is an open staircase. If you see that the steps are enclosed, it is a closed staircase.


This is another style a custom stair builder can do for your staircase. This staircase has its handrail run over the top of newels or posts. This is complicated to install.


A variation of custom staircase where the railings connect to the side of the posts or newels. Custom stair builders use this because it’s the simplest and most inexpensive way to join railings.


The pitch or angle of the staircase and handrail.


The vertical part of a step.


A decorative piece of wood attached at the end of the handrail where it meets the wall.


The horizontal dimension of a step, from one riser to the next, excluding the tread nose. The length of all treads combined is called the total run.

Shoe rail:

Found above the steps, it’s a rail that is parallel to the handrail at the foot level. Balusters are anchored in the shoe rail, instead of the usual tread.

Skirt board:

It provides the trim. A skirt board runs along the wall at foot level on the stairs.


Open and close staircases have different stringers. An open staircase has its stringer cut, while a closed staircase has its treads routed to the side. A stringer is found on the sides of the steps, supporting the treads and risers.


The horizontal part of a stair, or step.


Turnouts are used at the start of an over-the-post staircase. A turnout is a handrail that sits on top of a newel that turns away from the stair.


Volutes are used at the start of an over-the-post staircase. A volute is a handrail sits on top of a newel and spirals in on itself.