A Guide to Each Staircase Element | Ackworth House NZ

As you design your home’s epicentre – the staircase – it’s important to understand each piece of the puzzle. This way, you can put them together in the most effective way possible.

If you’re unsure what words like tread, riser, stringer, baluster or baserail mean in the context of stairs, perhaps this blog can help you in understanding each element.

So next time you’re deciding between steel stringers, or stuck for handrail inspiration, you’ll feel confident in your decision.


This blog will stick to the most integral elements of a staircase – the first being the handrail.

Without it, no staircase is truly safe and will fail most building regulations. But just because it’s so heavily regulated, doesn’t mean designers can’t have fun with them.

The handrail is the long bar that runs along the length of the staircase at about waist height to provide support to its users. This can be made from a range of materials such as stained timber, steel, or wrought iron, check out our handrails collection.

Owing to its raised location, the handrail is one of the first elements you may notice about a staircase, making it all the more important to choose the right one. This will depend on your budget and on how it matches the rest of your living space.


A baluster is often seen as a vertical pillar connecting the handrail and the base rail (which runs parallel to the handrail at foot height).

Balusters anchor the handrail to the rest of the staircase while also removing the risk of falling off the side of the staircase.

The balustrade, on the other hand, is the entire framework formed by the balusters and the handrail, check out our balustrade collection.

The Riser

Now we come to the nitty-gritty of staircases, where big steps are taken to building the soul of your home.

The riser is the vertical face or space between each step. Risers can be closed or open depending on the style and location of the stairs.

If the stairs have a room or cupboard below them, the riser will often be closed – with a physical vertical barrier – to seal off the below room.

If the stairs are in quite a central location with nothing below, or if they are outside, you will often see an open riser where empty space is left between each step, check out our risers collection.

The Tread

The tread is the horizontal platform that makes up each individual step. You can be sure this element will never be open like a riser as this would defeat the function of a staircase!

Tread can either jut out from the riser and then be rounded off for aesthetic appeal, or it can be cut off flush at its intersection with the riser, check out our stair treads collection.

Both the tread and the riser are often anchored into the wall if the design allows, or they can be supported by a “stringer” beneath.

Need to Know More?

There are quite a few intricate elements that make up a staircase, but not all designs use them all.

To understand each piece of the puzzle, get in touch with Ackworth House for a consultation with our design team. They can whip up a custom staircase design to suit any space, indoor or outdoor.