Building Stairs

Stair Railings

Category Construction Glossary
Stair Railing System

The balustrade is the complete system of railings and balusters that prevents
people from falling over the edge.

Banister, railing or handrail - The angled member for handholding, as
distinguished from the vertical balusters which hold it up for stairs that are open
on one side; there is often a railing on both sides, sometimes only on one side
or not at all, on wide staircases there is sometimes also one in the middle, or
even more. The term "banister" is sometimes used to mean just the handrail, or
sometimes the handrail and the balusters or sometimes just the balusters[1].
Volute - A handrail for the bullnose step that is shaped like a spiral. Volutes
may be right or left-handed depending on which side of the stairs they occur
when facing up the stairs.
Turnout - Instead of a complete spiral volute, a turnout is a quarter-turn
rounded end to the handrail.
Gooseneck - The vertical handrail that joins a sloped handrail to a higher
handrail on the balcony or landing is a gooseneck.
Rosette - Where the handrail ends in the wall and a half-newel is not used, it
may be trimmed by a rosette.
Easings - Wall handrails are mounted directly onto the wall with wall brackets.
At the bottom of the stairs such railings flare to a horizontal railing and this
horizontal portion is called a "starting easing". At the top of the stairs, the
horizontal portion of the railing is called a "over easing".
Core rail - Wood handrails often have a metal core to provide extra strength
and stiffness, especially when the rail has to curve against the grain of the
wood. The archaic term for the metal core is "core rail".
Baluster - A term for the vertical posts that hold up the handrail. Sometimes
simply called guards or spindles. Treads often require two balusters. The
second baluster is closer to the riser and is taller than the first. The extra height
in the second baluster is typically in the middle between decorative elements on
the baluster. That way the bottom decorative elements are aligned with the tread
and the top elements are aligned with the railing angle. However, this means the
first and second balusters are manufactured separately and cannot be
interchanged. Balusters without decorative elements can be interchanged.
Newel - A large baluster or post used to anchor the handrail. Since it is a
structural element, it extends below the floor and subfloor to the bottom of the
floor joists and is bolted right to the floor joist. A half-newel may be used where a
railing ends in the wall. Visually, it looks like half the newel is embedded in the
wall. For open landings, a newel may extend below the landing for a decorative
newel drop.
Baserail or Shoerail - For systems where the baluster does not start at the
treads, they go to a baserail. This allows for identical balusters, avoiding the
second baluster problem.
Fillet - A decorative filler piece on the floor between balusters on a balcony
Handrails may be continuous (sometimes called over-the-post) or post-to-post
(or more accurately ""newel-to-newel""). For continuous handrails on long
balconies, there may be multiple newels and tandem caps to cover the newels.
At corners, there are quarter-turn caps. For post-to-post systems, the newels
project above the handrails