I thought it might be useful to put together a check list of stair parts needed for your stair project. It is easy to get lost in all the parts that go into a staircase. This list should just about cover everything but, as a disclaimer, I should add that each stair project is unique and may require pieces not listed here.

Newels

Newels are the main columns supporting the handrail. NewelYou will need at least one at the base of the stair -two if your staircase is open on both sides. If you have an intermediate landing you will need two landing newels – one at the beginning of the landing and one to start the ascent to the top of the stairs. You will also need a newel at the top of the stairway. If a balcony is present you may need a newel or two (more for exceptionally long balconies) depending on the length of the balcony.

Handrail

You will need enough handrail for the stairway and balcony. For the stairway handrail you will need approximately 13 inches per stair tread. HandrailYou will need enough footage for the balcony. If wall rail is needed order enough for the wall returns as well. Some homeowners elect to use a different (less expensive) profile for wall rail. Make sure you order enough to make the rail “return” to the wall. Handrail is typically manufactured in two feet increments. The shortest piece you can purchase is 6-8 feet and the longest is typically 16 feet.

Handrail fittings

Fittings are the connection pieces for handrail. They come in quite an array of shapes. This is where many homeowners (and contractors) get a little lost. fittingThe handrail fittings are designed to accommodate the varying scenarios that pop up in stair construction. Fortunately you will not need all of them. You can view the main fittings and how they are used here: Stair Fittings

Balusters

Balusters are the smaller vertical pieces that support the handrail. You will need two or three per stair tread in different lengths. You will also need balusters for a balcony if one is present. BalusterThe stair code requires that a four inch ball cannot fit between the balusters so spacing is important. The rule of thumb is to take the smallest diameter of the baluster used and add four inches to that. The result is your center measurement. So if the smallest diameter of the baluster is one inch, the center for baluster spacing on your balcony is five inches. If you have 120 inches of balcony, divide 120 by five inches to get the correct baluster count.

Treads

Treads are obviously the part that one steps on to ascend or descend a stairway. They can be ordered as right hand or left hand depending on where the “return” is needed. stair tread with mitered returnThe mitered return is the finished cap of the tread and is exposed to the open side of the staircase. A tread with no return can be ordered for staircases that are closed on both sides.
It is possible to order, as well, a “starter tread” if extras width or side depth is needed. Bowed starters are available from some manufacturers as well as volute treads that will receive a volute style newel.
A landing tread will be needed for landings and balconies. Landing treads are sold in long lengths to wrap around a landing or balcony. They are typically only about 5 inches deep. Flooring will adjoin the landing tread stock.landing tread

Moldings and Brackets

Scotia molding– a concave molding traditionally used between the stair treads and risers and the treads and stringer board.scotia molding Order enough to wrap around the stair treads and the landing tread if desired.

Scroll brackets– Decorative scroll piece that fit under the mitered tread return and on top the stringer board.scroll bracket Brackets are one of those optional details that some people prefer. Order one for every tread end.

Stringer moldings– A molding (base cap) that fits between the stringer boards and the walls. I like to use base cap for this. Base cap is a small (1 inch to 1 1/4 inch) molding that in years passed was installed above a plain base molding (eg. 1″ X 6″).

Hardware

Newel hardware– hardware used to attach newels to sub-floor and/or framing stringers. Some of the newel installation hardware is specialized and should be ordered per your particular application. But in many instances this hardware can be purchased at your local hardware store.
Rail – fitting hardware To connect handrails to rail fittings and newels.
Wall rail brackets For attaching wall rail to the wall.
Baluster hardware Can be used to attach balusters to treads. I have a few articles on this type of hardware. You can read about it here: Fastening Stair Balusters

Msc

Riser material – paint grade (or stain grade) wood for the risers.
Stringer material paint grade (or stain grade) wood used between the treads and walls. You’ll need this on both sides of the staircase.
Landing flooring material – flooring material that should match the stair treads (for example – ¾” X 2 ¼” red oak flooring to match red oak treads).
Rosettes – Split newels – Split newels and rosettes are fastened to the walls to receive handrails that terminate into the walls.

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