Get to know the parts.

Have you been speaking to people about staircases and they talk in some strange language? Here we run through a few of those strange items, so next time you speak to them or us, you have an idea of the parts and their names.

This also gives you the knowledge to explain the components that you would like.

This is just a brief list of the more popular items that are discussed, to get a better list, look at the KnoStairs glossary, we are still building this but there is a lot more information there than we cover here.


Feature tread/step.

An ornate start to the staircase, this may be just the first step but may have cascading feature treads dependant on the feature chosen.

There are a number of different options available from a simple bullnose tread through to the most ornate being the commode curtail step with its scrolled end that sits under the Monkey’s tail handrail termination.

A commode curtail tread.
A commode curtail tread.


The timber framing that runs up the edges of the staircase to either capture the ends of the steps: Closed string.

Or sit under the ends of the steps and follow the shape of the steps: cut string.

cut and closed string
Cut and closed string.


The timber framing that runs up under the staircase to carry the load.

This may also be used to fix the laths and plaster to on older flights or plasterboard and eml on newer flights.

In this diagram you can see the carriages in blue.

The staircase carriages running up the underside of the staircase.
The staircase carriages running up the underside of the staircase.


Monkey’s Tail or Wreathing Volute.

This is at the start of a flight of stairs when the handrail curves round to sit over a feature tread, an ornate horizontal scroll that is supported by either a continuation of spindles called a bird’s cage of spindles or set on to a Newel post.

A Traditionally hand carved Monkey's tail on turned spindles.
A Traditionally hand carved Monkey’s tail on turned spindles.

Wreath or wreathing part .

A three dimensional handrail component that changes the handrail in both the horizontal and vertical planes.

This may be used anywhere that the handrail has to change direction and pitch at the same time.

Ramp or Easing.

A ramp is used to change from one pitch to another, this is normally found in the transition between landing and stairs but can also be found mid flight.

Gooseneck or Swan’s neck.

This is found at the top of a flight of stairs and is used to maintain the height of the handrail in the transition between stairs and landing.

Flat 90.

This is a profiled two dimensional turn. It is used to change direction horizontally creating a curve rather than a mitred joint.