Parts of Stair Railings

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Your stairs can have a simple stair rail, like this one, or a more complex system.
Your stairs can have a simple stair rail, like this one, or a more complex system. (Image: railing on the runway image by jbattx from Fotolia.com)

Whether you're building a new staircase or replacing an old, broken piece of your stair railing, knowing the difference between one part and the next can help make the job go quicker. Even if your staircase is done in an unusual style, the parts of the staircase and stair railing are called the same thing.

Handrail

One of the most clearly recognizable parts of any stair railing is the handrail. Typically made from metal or wood, the handrail holds you up and keeps you from falling as you walk down a flight of stairs. It's typically made from metal or wood and is often constructed from a single piece. Building code dictates the height of handrail placement depending on the type of rail.

Baluster

Balusters run from the top of the stairs to the bottom of the handrail and hold the handrail in place. They often look like spokes and are constructed from a wide variety of items, including wood and metal. You can purchase simple balusters to hold your handrail in place, or you can get more elaborate pieces, such as twisted or decorative wrought iron ones.

Newel Post

The heavy post that sit at the bottom of the stairs is called the newel post. Newel posts are typically far more decorative than other elements of a stair railing and are often larger in size. Most newel posts are round or square, but you can purchase a newel post in a wide range of styles and designs from specialty shops and home improvement stores.

Finial

The finial is the decorative topper for the newel. It usually screws in to the top of the newel post. You can pick up a simple, round ball or square finial from most home improvement stores, or you can find something more elaborate, such as a spiral, at a specialty store. If you can't find the finial you want, contact a local woodworker to have one custom-made.

Tread

Although it's not specifically part of the stair railing itself, the edge of the tread of each stair is where the bottom of the stair railing rests. The flat part of the stair where your foot steps, the tread also serves to hold the stair railing in place and keep you from falling.

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