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What is Stair Nosing? : A Beginners Guide to Custom Stair Nosing


image of wooden stairs with waterfall nosing

As you start your journey of purchasing flooring for your home or personal project, the stair nosing is often a feature that is forgotten about or misunderstood. So what is stair nosing? Well, stair nosing is defined by Wikipedia as “the horizontal, protruding edge of a stair where most foot traffic frequently occurs. “ While this definition does in fact describe stair nosing, it tends to make stair nosing more complex than it needs to be. The purpose of this blog post is to give you a brief rundown of everything you need to know about stair nosing.


The way that I like to describe stair nosing is “the front edge of the stair”. Stair nosing can greatly vary and can alter the appearance of the stair. There are types such as bull nosing which has a rounded edge, waterfall nosing which doesn't have a protruding edge or the standard square nosing which is a popular stair style at the moment. To understand stair nosing, you must also understand the measurements that produce it.



Image of laminate bull nosings in a light brown or maple colour. Bull nosing pictured has a very round edge
Bull Nosing






Square waterfall nosing in a dark brown grey colour
Waterfall Nosing


Square laminate nosing with a sharp edge.
Square Nosing


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. Most nosing providers do not use the term “width of the nosings” to describe this measurement as it can be misconstrued for a different measurement. However, it may be referred to as the length of the nosing. 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. This measurement may also be referred to as the width. The next measurement is the drop of the nosing. This length is the distance from the top edge to the bottom edge of the nosing.Another measurement to know is the return, which is the distance from the bottom edge of the drop to the riser of the stair. This may also be known as the backset and is the amount that the stair protrudes from the riser. The last important measurement is the roundover. The roundover is the edge of the stair nosing where the material is cut or bent to have a 90 degree angle. The roundover can have different diameters to show a more rounded edge or a more square edge. ShapeMeasure has 2 different options for roundovers, but some municipalities require a certain roundover dimension so please check your city bylaws before ordering. While these terms may seem complex at first, with the help of the diagrams below, we are sure that you will be able to understand how to interpret nosing.



Diagram of square nosing | ShapeMeasure

Roundover for square nosing | ShapeMeasure
Roundover Options

So what is the purpose of stair nosing? Well, stair nosing was invented due to safety concerns with the goal of creating more space for a foot to step on while climbing up or down stairs. More recently, stair nosing has become about visual appearances. The way that you design your stair nosing can greatly alter the visual appearance of a staircase and can make your house more modern or contemporary.


So now that you understand the purpose of stair nosing and the measurements behind it, you are now ready to order some custom nosing. To order your custom nosing, click on the order now button on our website or give us a call at 7778-725-0390


Stay tuned for the next article for insight about what measurements to order for your stair nosing