News General Types of Stairways

General Types of Stairways


There are two general types of stairs: principal and service. The principal stairs are designed to provide ease and comfort and are often made a feature of house design. The service stairs lead to the basement or attic. They are usually somewhat steeper and constructed of less expensive materials.

Stairs may be built on the job or assembled from units built in a mill. All parts for a finish stairway can be purchased from a lumberyard as stock mill items. Stairways may have a straight, continuous run with or without an intermediate platform. They may also consist of two or more runs at angles to each other. Usually there is a platform at the angle. The turn may also be made by radiating treads called winders.

Winders are not often used because they are not as safe as platforms. The stairway for most homes is a straight, continuous run, although a stairway with a landing or platform is sometimes used to conserve space. Details for stair building are shown in the stairwell section of most house plans.

There are many different kinds of stairs, but all have two main parts in common; the treads people walk on and the stringers which support the treads.The simplest stairway has a pair of straight-edged stringers and a series of plank treads. It is called a cleat stairway because the treads are supported by cleats nailed to the stringers. A complete stairway includes two or more sawtooth-edged stringers, a series of treads, and a series of risers. In some stairways the treads and risers are supported on triangular stair blocks nailed to the upper edges of straight-edged stringers.

Common Stair Parts And Terms

String or stringer, sometimes called carriage, or horse. One of the inclined sides of a stair which support the treads and risers. Open (plain) stringers can be either rough or finish stock and are cut to follow the lines of the treads and risers. Closed stringers have parallel sides, with the risers and treads housed into them. The term also applies to any similar member, whether a support or not, such as finish stock placed outside the carriage on open stairs and next to the walls on closed stairs.

  • Riser. The vertical face of one step.
  • Tread. The horizontal face of one step.
  • Winders. Radiating or wedge-shaped treads at turns of stairs.
  • Nosing. The projection of tread beyond the face of the riser.
  • Railing. The protection on the open side of a run of stairs.
  • Newel. The main post of the railing at the start of the stairs and the stiffening post at angles or platforms.
  • Handrail. The top finishing piece on the railing to be grasped by the hand when going up or down the stairs.
  • Balusters. The vertical members supporting the handrail on open stairs.
  • Platform. The intermediate area between two parts of a flight of stairs.
  • Landing. The floor at the top or bottom of each story where the flight of stairs ends or begins.
  • Total Rise. The total vertical distance from one floor to the next.
  • Total Run. The total horizontal length of the stairs.
General Types of Stairways
General Contributor
Janice is a writer from Chicago, IL. She created the "simple living as told by me" newsletter with more than 12,000 subscribers about Living Better and is a founder of Seekyt.

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