Stairs 101: The Anatomy of a Staircase

Often overlooked due to its functionality, staircases offer tons of opportunity for customization and design. From pin-top newels to the stringer fascia, there’s a lot more to stairs than simply steps, posts and railing. Did you know staircases even have shoes?!

To fully understand what’s possible design-wise, and to communicate what you want correctly to designers and suppliers, it’s helpful to know the all the bits and pieces that go into stairs.

Become a stair master with this rundown of the anatomy of a staircase including the basics, newel posts and handrails.

Staircase Basics

The steps, also known as stairs, are made of three different pieces. These pieces include stringers, treads, and risers.


Stringers are the portion of the stair that runs along the side. This portion of the stair covers the framework and supports the surface that is walked on.


Treads refer to the flat portion of the stairs that you step on. This part of the stairs is the most vulnerable to wear and requires the most care. Typically, the treads mimic the flooring leading up to the staircase or the one that’s used throughout the home.


Risers are the vertical boards that line the treads. Simple and unfinished staircases may not have risers such as deck stairs, industrial style stairs or those in an unfinished basement. Risers provide an opportunity to personalize and add character to a staircase with the use of colour or wall paper.

Newel Posts

Newel posts are also known as central poles. These are the vertical posts placed at the top and bottom of the staircase that supports the handrail. There are four common types.

Standard Newels

These types of newels are often used in post-to-post stairways. This newel is also used when the handrail of the staircase remains the same height throughout the entire railing.

Landing Newels

Landing newels are used when there is a level or height change in the staircase, and the handrail may need to change as a result in the level change. This is common when the staircase has an upper or middle landing.

Pin-top Newels

This is a type of newel that is used with over-the-post stairways. These newels are the posts that run in between landing newels or stabilizer newels. The railing runs continuously over-top the pin-top newels.

Stabilizer Newels

This type of newel gives additional support where there’s a long railing run. They are characteristically thicker and more decorative in appearance.

View this post on Instagram

Colourful coastal culture is calling in The Bayside, our display home bringing trendy east-coast charm to Sorrento. The Bayside will be closing at the end of the month. Don't miss the chance to see this stunning, coastal home, inspired by Byron Bay's famous alternative vibe. Visit The Bayside at 17 Levanza Way, Sorrento. Open Mon and Weds 2-5pm, Sat 1-5pm and Sun 12-5pm. #wbhomes #perthhomebuilders #australiasfinest #homedreamer #thebayside #bayside #byronbay #coastal #coastaldesign #homedesign #interiordesign #interiorstyling #interiorplanning #stairs #staircase #staircasedesign #stairdesign #perthhomedesign #architecture #featurelighting #sorrento #hillarysboatharbour #hillarys #webbandbrownneaves

A post shared by Webb & Brown-Neaves (@webbandbrownneaves) on


Although this portion of the staircase is very recognizable, there are finishing specifics that can impact the construction and the overall look. Depending on the material used and the intricacy of design, handrails can be inexpensive or a large portion of your stair budget.

This part of a staircase also comes in two varieties.


This type of handrail works together with pin-top newels, as it connects and sits on top of the pins. The handrail itself can be grooved or un-grooved, the major difference being that the pin-tops slip into the hand railing or need to be hard-mounted on by screwing directly into the hand railing.


This type of railing is mounted to the wall, and does not use newels. These railings are often seen as wooden, but they can be made from other materials for a different aesthetic.

Whether you decide to DIY the project or work with a professional, our team of experts is here to help. With over 60 years’ experience in the home finishing industry, our team has extensive, unparalleled expertise to help you bring your dream space to life with tons of great product lines.

Contact our team at The Finishing Store & Millworks or visit us in Victoria or Nanaimo for more tips, tools and advice for designing your staircase!