Product Terminology - Glossary

The Basics


A support used to fill the open area between the rail and the stair tread or knee wall.


A complete rail system that includes the handrail, balusters, and newel posts.

Box Newel Post:

An oversized square newel that is usually hollow and is used in a post-to-post balustrade system.

Bullnose Starting Step or Tread:

A starting tread that has one or both ends rounded to a semi-circle and projects beyond the face of the stair stringer.

Fitting Cap:

The part of the fitting that accepts the newel post; used in conjunction with a pin top newel in an over-the-post balustrade system.

False Tread Caps:

A piece attached to the end of a rough tread to simulate solid wood treads, usually with a carpet runner down the steps.


A thin strip that is usually flat on one side and fits into the plow of a piece of handrail.


A fitting that is used in the transition of a handrail to a landing or balcony; compensates for the change in the rise of the stair and may make a change in direction.


The top rail used in a balustrade system; provides a gripping surface for added support.

Handrail Fitting:

A part used in a balustrade to compensate for a change in direction. Handrail fittings can be used in both post-to-post and over-the-post balustrade systems.

Handrail Height:

The vertical distance between the upper surface of the top rail and the leading edge of the tread or the finished floor.


A horizontal platform at the end of a flight or between two flights of stairs, usually used to make a change in direction.

Landing Newel:

A post used on an intermediate or second floor (balcony); generally used where there is a change in direction or where a rake rail meets a level rail.

Landing Tread:

A part used as the tread on a landing that forms a level surface with the finished floor on the second floor (balcony). Also used as a level surface to attach balusters.


A large vertical column or post to which the handrail is attached. Newels provide structural support for the balustrade.


The part of a tread that extends beyond the riser; can also extend beyond the fascia on a balcony.

Open Stair:

A stair that is open on one or both sides, thus allowing riser and treads to be visible.

Over Easing:

A convex rail fitting used to transition from a rake rail to a level rail.

Over-the-Post (OTP):

A balustrade system in which the handrail runs over the post and is continuous (uninterrupted).

Plowed Handrail:

A recessed area in the bottom of a handrail or in the top of a shoe rail; the square top and bottom of a baluster is designed to fit into the plow.

Post-to-Post (PTP):

A balustrade system in which the handrail runs between the newel post, with the top of the post projecting above the rail.

Quarter Turn:

A rail fitting that makes a 90 degree or right angle turn.

Quarter Turn Cap:

A quarter turn cap is made to mount on top of a pin top newel in an over-the-post rail system.


The angle or slope of a stairway that is determined by the rise and run.

Rake Rail:

Rail section that runs parallel to the slope of the stairs.


The vertical distance from one tread in a stair to the next.


The vertical face of a stair step.


A decorative trim part used where railing runs directly into a wall; provides a surface for anchoring.


The horizontal width of a tread between the faces of adjacent risers.

Shoe Rail:

The molding on top of a stair stringer upon which the balusters rest.

Skirt Board:

A piece of finishing board used to cover structural supports or stringers of the stairs.

Starting Fitting:

The fitting at the bottom of a stair.

Starting Newel:

The newel post used at the beginning of the balustrade railing.

Starting Step:

The first tread and riser of a staircase.

Tandem Cap:

A rail fitting used to make a break in a straight rail section to allow attachment of a newel.


The horizontal part of the step (includes the nosing). The walking or stepping surface of the stair.

Tread Return:

In an open stair, this is the continuation of the horizontal rounded edge of the tread beyond the stair stringer.

Up Easing:

The concave rail fitting that is used to make the transition from a rake rail to the horizontal piece of a gooseneck fitting or starting fitting.


The spiral starting of the handrail at the foot of a staircase.

Winder Tread:

A tread that is wide at one end and narrow at the other and is used for carrying stairs around curves or angles, as on a spiral staircase.