Stair Design Guide 02 – Staircase terms and layouts

Staircase terms & layouts


In this section of our stair guide we will look at the terminology of different parts of the stair, along with some different stair layouts that can be incorporated into your design.


Stair terms

Stair Components


Strings: A span of timber to which treads and risers are attached to support a flight or run of stairs. The string runs from top to bottom of a traditional timber staircase.


Tread: The horizontal part of the stair that is stepped on.


Risers: The vertical part of the stair. If the riser is solid, it is a solid riser, whereas if there is no solid part to the riser it is known as an open riser.  The number of steps in a staircase is counted by the number of risers, not the number of treads.


Nosing: the edge of the tread projecting beyond the face of the riser.


Balustrade:  A row of balusters (spindles) topped by a handrail serving as a safety guarding and along the edge of a staircase.


Handrail: The handrail is the top part of the balustrade, usually between 900mm and 1100mm high. The handrail should follow the stair from top to bottom to guide the user through the complete flight of stairs.


Newel: A large baluster or post acting as a structural element to anchor the balustrade to the floor or stair.


Winder: A stair that is narrower on one side to enable a turn in the staircase.  A series of winders form a circular or spiral stairway.


Stair Terms


Flight: The flight is an uninterrupted series of steps.


Rise: The rise is the height of an individual step. There are specified requirements in the building regulations for the rise of a step according the to use of the stairs – ie, private dwelling, public buildings etc.


Going: The going is the depth of the individual step, measured from nosing to nosing.


Pitch: The pitch is the angle of the staircase, again there are specific requirements on pitch according the the building regulations.

Stair layouts


Straight run stair

01 Straight Stair

L-shaped stair (quarter turn) with landing and L-shaped stair (quarter turn) with winders

02 L Shaped Stair



U-shaped stair (half turn or dog leg) with landing and U-shaped stair (half turn or dog leg) with winders


03 U Shaped Stair


Spiral stair and Curved stair


05 Spiral stair

Other Stair Layouts

04 Other Stair Layouts

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1 Comment

  1. I love these articles. It’s so interesting to hear the UK terminology for everything. Here in the US we use “run” for your “going,” as in “rise over run.” Isn’t that an interesting parallel for a word? I think I’ve heard “pitch” before, but we usually call it “slope.” Well, at least here in North Carolina and the rest of the Southeast where I practice.


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