Parts of a Staircase
When someone says the word “stairs” most people just think of the steps, however there is so much more that goes into a set of stairs than what you step on. Stairs are actually made of six main parts that work together in order to bear the weight of the staircase and allow for easy and safe travel up and down them. Let's explore each part in further detail.
The handrail is the part of the stairs that you hold for security while going up or down the stairs. Without a secure handrail in place, the stairs could violate several safety requirements. However, the handrail isn’t just there for safety, it is also one of the most visible parts of the stairs and should be designed to look great too. Handrails and handrail parts come in a wide variety of shapes, designs and materials. Most common are stainless steel or wooden handrails, however some are made from plastic or even stone. It's important to know what kinds of materials you will be working with, especially if the staircase will bend or be broken in multiple sections. You might need a curved handrail or even a handrail capable of making a 90 degree turns to match the design specs. In some cases the handrail isn't even connected to the stairs, but to an adjacent wall. These are known as flush mount handrails, and can be used to add a modern touch to the interior. The last thing to think about when picking out the perfect handrail is the fitting, this is the part where the rail itself will attach to the stairs or wall. Handrail fittings come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, and colors, and are usually metallic steel or brass.
The balustrade is just a fancy name for the posts holding up the handrail. These are the vertical bars on the staircase, and aren't always present in the design. For example, floating stairs or flush mounted handrails might connect directly into the wall, and not have any need for these posts. Balustrades come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, some of the most popular styles are crown heritage, mediterranean, and knee wall balustrades. It is important to select a balustrade that works with the design of the room, since this is one of the most visible and visually appealing parts of the stair. Be sure to select a color and material that works well with the existing interior. Wood and iron balustrades are the most common building material due to their beauty and strength, but stainless steel and stone are sometimes used as well.
The newel post is the initial post at the base of the stairs and the top. This is usually a larger more decorative balustrade that works as an accent piece to show off your style and act as an anchor point to help stabilize the stairs. The newel post is usually made out of two parts, the newel cap and the post sleeve. The cap is the decorative part on top, while the newel sleeve is the actual pillar itself. A traditional post is rounded, but a box newel post has a square or rectangular shape.
The tread is the flat part of the stair that you step on, also known as the “step”. Installing stair treads can be one of the hardest parts of building a staircase, always be sure to measure carefully and be patient. Even a slight difference in elevation between steps can cause people to stumble or trip. Using prefinished stair treads that have already been measured and cut to exact standards can help save time and ensure everything is up to code. These treads combined with strong and durable stair tread brackets will guarantee a safe staircase that will delight any home or business owner.
A skirt on a staircase is very different from the article of clothing. Here, a skirtboard or skirt trim refers to the buffer between the step of the stairs and the adjacent wall. This is a decorative piece that is not needed, but helps to add visual appeal and decorative flair to the stairs. Wood stair skirts are the most popular and are often painted white or left to show the grain of the wood. While stair skirt installation can be tricky, especially getting the piece of each step to line up seamlessly, having a beautiful staircase that will last for years to come is worth the extra bit of effort and cost.
The final part in this list is the stringer, the bottom part of the stairs that everything else rests upon. The stringer is responsible for bearing the weight of the staircase and anyone using it. A strong foundation and durable materials such as steel and wood are often needed to build a safe and reliable stringer. While it may be tempting to get cheap stair parts, always make sure this section of the stairs is chosen with care and can handle heavy loads and strain over time. Often this part is reinforced with a pitch block, a wedge between where the stairs and floor meet, to help disperse the weight and strengthen the stairs.