Glossary for a Stone Staircase

As part of The Stonemasonry Company Limited’s dedication to our craft we think it is important for us to be able to effectively communicate about our stone staircases, meaning we must first have the right language to do so. It’s through using this well-defined vocabulary that our team efficiently and accurately carry a clients vision through every stage of the process, from concept to design and review, and from manufacture to installation and completion. 

We have put together an introduction to the most common terms used in the design of our bespoke stone staircases, whether you are looking for a more traditional cantilever stone staircase or a more complex floating stone staircase this list of terms and our illustration should help you through the entire journey. 

RiseThe vertical distance from the top of one step to the top of the next. The rise must be the same for every step in a flight, this is very important as an unequal rise can cause a trip hazard. 

Going: The horizontal distance from the front of one step to the front of the next, measured in the middle of a step unless specified.

Pitch: The angle created by a rise and going, measured to horizontal, so the greater the pitch, the steeper the staircase. However we can work within a wide range of acceptable pitches. 

Riser: The vertical face of a step you see as you ascend a staircase. Some staircases may not have a solid riser, Such as our work at Chepstow Villas.

Tread: The horizontal top surface of a step on which you stand 

Soffit: The surface on the underside of a staircase. A soffit can be flat, stepped or curved in a variety of ways. A smooth Soffit is a popular choice- especially for our floating staircases. 

Moulding: A broad name for any ornamental profile that is shaped along a face of stone. The most common moulding found on a staircase is an Bullnose, Fillet and Cavetto, as illustrated. 

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Winders: Steps in a curved section of staircase, the tread is shorter at one end. The soffit must be twisted to maintain an elegant and continuous surface.

Apron: The decorative stones that clad the edge of a landing, these commonly continue the moulding of the steps.

Return: The name for the exposed end of a step, so named because it’s where the moulding from the front of the step returns.

Curtail Step: The name for the first step of a staircase with one or both ends curving round instead of returning like the steps above it. This circular area of the tread provides a place for the balustrade to start. 

Void: The area of empty space in the centre of a circular staircase, this can be seen in a plan view framed by the return of the steps and the landing edge.

Cantilever Staircase: The most common solid stone staircase construction, involving each step resting on the one below and bearing into a structural wall or steel stringer by approximately 100mm. 

Flying Section:A section of a flight that bridges a gap without the need for a structural wall, often past a window. Can be created with multiple methods of reinforcement. 

Stringer: A device that holds the end of the steps without the need for a structural wall. Can be used to create flying sections using steel or can be a decorative feature made from stone. 

Reinforced: The name for a section of steps, which are held together with steel bars hidden within the stone.

Post Tensioned:A technique for creating whole flights that are only supported at the top and bottom, i.e. without a wall to bear into. Held in the air with steel cables tensioned within the stone the staircases give the impression that they are floating.