Step Up Your Staircase Knowledge


Everyone knows their steps and their bannisters, but can you tell your newels from your risers?
If you are unfamiliar with staircase design and want to know more about what goes in to a stair case, this handy article breaks down the many parts of a staircase and what their purpose is.

   Closed string   Strings

Strings is a word that you will hear a lot when designing stairs, but don’t worry, our staircases are not held together by balls of yarn.
Strings are the boards that enclose the treads and the risers, basically they are the edge of the stairs meaning they are vital for holding them together.
There are a variety of different strings.
A closed string, for example, covers the face of the stairs. This means you cannot see the profile of the staircase.


 Open strings   The opposite of a closed string is an open string, or a cut string. This is where the upper edge of the string has been cut so that the profile of the stairs is visible from the side.
A cut string opens up the options of brackets and tread nosing, which can be used to give your stairs that extra creative flourish. Nosing covers the edge of treads, giving an ornate look instead of showing exposed grain.
Brackets give the side profile of your stairs a decorative touch, following the shape of the cut string. There are numerous designs of bracket.   
  Treads and Risers

These are easily recognisable parts of stairs as they essentially form the steps. The treads are the top surface of the steps, the parts you put your feet on, and the risers are the vertical parts that you don’t put your feet on.
It is possible to forego the need for solid risers by using open risers, this is when the treads are fixed to the strings so that you may leave the space under the tread open.

   Treads and risers  
   Spindles   Spindles

A spindle, also known as a baluster, is the vertical member that connects the handrail and the base rail. Spindles are available in a variety of materials and offer a great opportunity for decorative embellishments.
For example, in one case study our customer alternated between Madison and Savannah style spindles for their own preferred effect. Take a look here.


The newels are posts found at the end of the staircase and at important structural points, like corners. They are made up of two main parts; the newel post and the newel base. The newel post sits at the end and accommodates the strings, handrails, treads and risers. The base is what the post is attached to, providing structural support.   


Curtail Steps, Bullnose Steps and D-end Steps   

The design of your end step has a major visual impact on your staircase. It is what greets you at the bottom and offers more freedom with how it is shaped and sized.
A bullnose end step curves back at one, or both ends, in the shape of a quarter circle. This option provides a slightly wider step, but it doesn’t go wider than the newel.

   D-end step   A less restrained option would be a D-end step. This design stretches past the newel and then curves back around to it in a semi-circle.     
   Curtail end step    A curtail Step is a wonderful addition for those that want a staircase that stands out. A curtail step is an ornately shaped bottom step that can be used to accommodate a curve at the end of the bannister, known as a volute. This gives a flourish to the end of the handrail, welcoming you up the flight.

For a full breakdown of staircase terminology, please visit our useful glossary here.