Categories: Residential
white wooden staircase

A quick guide for all you need to know about stairs when it comes to the right choice for your home.

Stairs are so often overlooked as they are often only seen as functional. However there is so much choice out there and considerations to make before you decide on the best approach for your stairs, so we hope this guide to installing new stairs comes in useful.

Know the Jargon

Knowing the right stair terminology will help you to quickly understand what is. Here is a quick overview to help you know the difference from your spindles to your newel drops!

Stairwell – this is the vertical space or shaft in a building where the staircase goes

Newel Post – These are the sturdy vertical posts that are at the top and bottom of the staircase. They go into the stair case itself and need to be strong enough for the banisters or handrails to fit into to offer sufficient support and protection for people using the stairs. The Newel Post is a structural element of the staircase and therefore can be fixed to the floor joists.

Newel Drop – For Newel Posts above landings the newel can extend below the level of the ceiling below as a decorative effect; this is known as a “Newel Drop”. They are used where there is an open landing and both the newel and the newel drop can be seen.

Newel Cap – (sometimes called a Finial) this is the decorative finish to the top of the Newel post such as a simple cap, or more ornate finish such as a ball, spike, bun, or a figure.

Stringer, String, Stringer Board – These are the structural supports that run along either side of the stair case, often holding and supporting the treads and risers.

Handrail or banister – This is the rail that goes up the staircase which people hold on to.

Spindles or Balusters – These are the vertical supports that drop down from the handrail to the bottom rail. They are largely decorative, but they do stop things (and people!) falling off the stair case, under the handrail.

Bottom Rail – this is the rail that the bottom of the spindles fit into. This is not always present or necessary. If there is no bottom rail the spindles will fit directly into the floor on a landing or a tread on the stairs.

Step – this is comprised of a tread and riser (if present).

Treads – Treads are the horizontal pieces that you stand on, usually timber 22mm thick but thicker if it is an open riser staircase. It should generally be constructed to the same specifications of the floor.

Risers – these are the, usually timber, parts that rise vertically from the back of one tread to the front of the next tread. If they are timber they will typically be 9mm, but will not always be there or do not need to be complete – see the types of staircase below

Space for Stairs

The available space for your stairs is obviously key. It would also be useful to have an understanding of the building regulations which determine what you are allowed to have – or not have! The non negotiable’s are that you will need a handrail on at least one side or on both sides if they are over 1 metre wide. Flights should not exceed 36 stairs without a bend or a landing. The spindles need to be no more than 10 cm apart. You will also need to have the stairs signed off by your local building inspector.

Disruption and Dust

It is a big job so its not something people tend to do more than once in one home! Therefore a ‘timeless’ design might be best – and obviously brace yourself for the inconvenience and dust, and not being able to use the upstairs until they are installed.


The materials that you use will have a huge impact on look and feel of the stairs you choose. The most commonly used material is wood, but metal can be used as can other material, such as glass balustrades which are becoming more and more popular.

Storage, space and light

Use this opportunity to think about under stair cupboards to add storage space, or removing the cupboard to create a feeling of space. Using open risers can allow more light through the stairs into the room below.

Stair Carpets

If you choose to have stair carpets you need to ensure that these are firmly fixed and hard-wearing; they will get a lot of traffic. Loop pile carpets can be a safety hazard and always ensure you use an underlay on the risers and the treads, and ensure that the pile runs down the stairs, not across them.

Made to measure or Bespoke?

Nowadays there are two ways to get staircases. You can order a made to measure staircase from a staircase manufacturer. These are built for the space that you have using the measurements that you provide so that the stairs will fit, but you will be choosing from their range of designs and styles. These can be customised by selecting a range of options, but ultimately they are not truly bespoke. To get a bespoke staircase you need to employ a staircase designer to achieve the unique design that you are looking for.


Your budget will of course determine much of what you can and can’t do. For example, bespoke staircases can cost upwards of £15,000 whereas a made to measure stair case will typically cost £2-3,000 upwards but this will depend largely on the materials used.

For your next home design project, get in touch with us!  Experts in Residential property development in Herts, Beds, Bucks and London.

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