Stairs can make a big statement in your home and usually in your front foyer. One of my favorite houses that my husband and I did had carved scrolls and flowers on each stair post. Another home we built had a stairway that went through the center of the house from the basement to the third floor. Unless heights bother you, it was really cool to look all the way down.
Here are a few facts about stairs if you are redoing yours or building a new house. There are several key parts to the stairs:
Treads = these are the parts you actually walk on. As such, these should be made from a hard wood for durability.
Stringers = this is the part of the stairs on the two sides that support the treads (there is also one underneath the stairs as well). These can be the same wood as the treads or painted. A paintable wood offers cost-savings.
Risers = these are the parts below the treads where the stair rises, thus the name. Just like the risers, these can be stained or painted wood.
Rails = or railings. You hold onto them.
Balustars = also called spindles, these are the pieces between the treads and the rails, used for safety.
Newel Posts = these are the posts at the top and bottom where the end of the rails meet. These can be elaborate or simple, round or square.
Volutes = a curves end attached to the newel post for decoration.
(Lohmeier trivia, the lighter spot on the last tread in this picture is from my aged dog (16 years) Barney where he goes up and down each and every time with this back paws. I guess I should get more varnish there.)
Here's a site with examples of several types of traditional stairs. (Click links for finished stairs.)
Metal rails and balustars are also quite popular now. Take a look at some metal stairs here.
I have consistently used a stair company that is just outside the metropolitan Chicago area and suburbs. (Actually in the same small town where my husband grew up.) I save 10-20% over the manufacturers in the suburbs and city. So look a little further out of a large town to find the best deals.