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The 10 Most Important Parts of Stairs Explained

Parts of stairs

You’ve probably climbed stairs countless times without thinking twice about the intricate assembly of parts that makes each step possible. But when it comes to building, repairing, or maintaining them, a deeper understanding of stair anatomy is essential.

From risers to handrails, this post will explore the parts of your staircase so you can confidently identify them for future projects  or just for fun facts.

Anatomy of a Staircase

When you break it down, a staircase is a fascinating feat of engineering and design. Each component plays a crucial role in ensuring that every step you take is safe, stable, and comfortable. 

Main parts of the average set of stairs labeled.

1) Treads

Treads are the horizontal surfaces you step on, providing a stable and flat footing for a safe and comfortable climb. They can be made from various materials like wood, concrete, metal, or composites. When selecting tread material, prioritize durability, slip resistance, and aesthetics to match your home’s style.

2) Risers

Risers are the vertical pieces connecting each tread, determining the height between steps. They contribute to both safety and visual appeal. The standard riser height is around 7 inches but may vary based on overall design and local codes. Some modern staircases feature “open risers” for an airy, contemporary look.

3) Stringers

Stringers form the structural backbone of your staircase, supporting the treads and risers. Made of wood or metal, they run along both sides from bottom to top. Choose from closed (enclosed risers), open (visible stringers), or mono (single central stringer) styles to suit your preferences.

4) Handrails

Handrails are the top rails you grip for support while navigating the stairs. They are crucial for safety and are required by building codes for most staircases. Ensure they are securely attached, with height and diameter following local regulations for comfortable, safe use. Various materials like wood, metal, or composites can match your stair design.

5) Balusters (aka Spindles)

Balusters, or spindles, are the vertical posts supporting the handrail and creating a barrier along the open side of the staircase. They offer both decorative charm and safety by preventing falls. Evenly spaced with a maximum 4-inch gap to ensure a child’s head cannot pass through, balusters can be crafted from wood, metal, or other materials to complement your stairs.

6) Newel Posts

Newel posts are sturdy vertical posts anchoring the handrail and providing structural support. Located at the top, bottom, and any landings or direction changes, they are often larger and more decorative than balusters, serving as a visual focal point. Various materials and ornate caps or finials can enhance the overall look of your staircase.

7) Landing

A landing is a flat platform breaking up a long staircase or facilitating a direction change. It offers a resting spot and adds visual interest. The two most common types are quarter-turn (90-degree turn) and half-turn (180-degree turn). Landings are constructed like regular floor framing, with joists supporting the subfloor and finished flooring.

8) Fascia Boards

Fascia boards are decorative boards covering the exposed sides of the stringers for a polished, finished appearance. Usually made from the same material as your treads and risers for a cohesive look, they enhance visual appeal while protecting stringers from dust and damage.

9) Nosing

Nosing is the part of the tread extending slightly beyond the riser, creating a lip to help prevent slips and falls. It provides a larger surface area for your foot, especially helpful for those with mobility issues. Available in square or rounded profiles and made from the same or contrasting material as the tread for added visual interest.

10) Skirt Boards

Skirt boards are long, horizontal boards running along the open side of the staircase, covering the gap between the wall and treads. They create a clean, finished look while protecting the wall from scuffs and damage. Typically made from the same material as the treads and risers, they are installed after the stairs are constructed and can be painted or stained to match your design and decor.

Most parts of stairs only require simple maintenance like dusting and wiping down periodically.

Recommended Maintenance

Stair maintenance should begin with a consistent cleaning routine, using a soft-bristled brush or vacuum attachment to remove dirt and debris from all surfaces. Then a damp mop or cloth to wipe away the remaining grime. Pay extra attention to corners and crevices where dust can accumulate.

Periodically, take the time to inspect your stairs for any loose components, such as wobbly balusters or handrails. Tighten screws or bolts as needed, and consider applying wood filler to secure loose joints. If you notice any squeaks or creaks, identify the source and use a lubricant or wood filler to eliminate the noise, ensuring a peaceful and stable climb.

For wooden staircases, keep an eye out for signs of wear and tear, like scratches, dents, or fading finishes. Sand down minor imperfections and apply a fresh coat of stain or paint to restore the staircase’s original beauty. To maintain the structural integrity of your staircase, conduct an annual assessment, looking for any signs of warping, sagging, or separation between treads and risers.

When to Call a Professional

Certain situations will call for the expertise of a professional. If you encounter any of the following issues, it’s time to seek a specialist:

  • Structural damage: If you notice significant cracks, splits, or breaks in any of the staircase components, such as treads, risers, or stringers, it’s crucial to have a professional assess the damage. Structural issues can severely compromise the safety and stability of your staircase, posing a serious risk to you and your family.
  • Major repairs or replacements: When your staircase requires extensive repairs or component replacements, it’s best to entrust the work to a professional. Attempting to tackle complex projects without the necessary skills, tools, or knowledge can lead to costly mistakes and potential safety hazards.
  • Building code compliance: If you’re planning to renovate your staircase or need to bring an older one up to current building codes, consult with a professional well-versed in local regulations. They can ensure that your stairs meet all safety and structural requirements, helping you avoid potential fines or legal issues.
  • Complex designs or materials: For staircases featuring intricate designs or high-end materials like glass or metal. Professionals can guarantee a flawless installation and help you achieve the desired aesthetic while maintaining safety and functionality.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, knowing the anatomy of your staircase empowers you to keep it safe, functional, and looking nice. Understanding the role of each component and staying on top of regular maintenance helps you confidently do that!

However, recognizing when to call in a professional is just as crucial. If you have staircase concerns or need a professional inspection of your whole home, call Alpha Building Inspections in NH, ME, and MA.