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Nosing Measurements: A beginners guide to Custom Stair Nosing

Updated: Jul 23


Engineered hardwood stair nosing diagram showing top, drop, roundover and return

Now that you know what stair nosings are, it's now time to learn how to determine what measurements you need to order. There is a lot of different terminology used when describing stair nosing, so we will be defining the terms we use for our ordering process. As discussed in our article that describes stair nosings, here is the basic terminology of measurements for stairs:


The first measurement that you need to understand is the length of the nosings. The length of the nosing is equal to the width of the stair. We recommend that you order up to 6” extra in addition to the width of your stair as they can always be cut down to size on site.


The next measurement to understand is the top of the stair nosing. This measurement refers to the top edge of the stair until the point where the nosing piece meets the next piece of flooring on the stair tread. We suggest that the top of the stair nosing is greater than 3.25” to ensure structural durability as this part of the stairs endures a lot of weight. Our recommended standard dimension for this is 4.25”


The next measurement is the drop. This length is the distance from the top edge to the bottom edge of the nosing. This measurement is a design choice but our standard recommendation is 1.5”.


The next measurement to order is the return. The return is the distance from the bottom edge of the drop to the riser of the stair. This may also be known as the backset. We recommend a standard return of 1” for for laminate and hardwood. For vinyl we recommend 0.75” + Material thickness as this usually will add up to about 1". If you want waterfall style nosing, then you should request 0” return and let us know that it is for a waterfall stair.


Laminate stair nosing diagram showing top drop and return

Another measurement to know is the roundover, which is mostly an aesthic choice. ShapeMeasure offers 2 roundover options: ¼ and ⅛ , The 1/8 has sharper square edge where as the ¼ has slightly rounder edge. Our standard recommendation is a ⅛ roundover but some municipalities require a roundover of ¼ so please check with your building code before ordering to ensure that your stair nosing meets code.



laminate stair nosing diagram showing roundover

The last important measurement aspect is the tongue vs. groove joint. This is non-visible once installed and is only relevant for installation. Our standard recommendation is a groove joint.





Important notes to remember when ordering with ShapeMeasure

  • Top + Drop + Return must be equal to or less than the width of your flooring board. If it isn't, we can create double wide nosing for laminate and hardwood, but not vinyl. This requires double the quantity of flooring to manufacture.

  • We sell nosing in 6” increments, if you order a length inbetween an increment you will automatically be upsized to the next one. Ie. 39” → 42”

  • If the length of your stairs is greater than the length of your flooring board, then you will require a joint for your nosing which has an additional fee. A joint can only be created for laminate or hardwood flooring.


Now that you understand the measurement basics, you are ready to order your custom stair nosing!