Overview & Options

In any construction a “finished end” on a stair tread is needed where spindles on at least one side of the stairs are going to be attached to the end of the step rather than the side wall.

Standard hardwood stair treads are bullnosed or “rounded” typically only on the front edge. The ends of the wood plank may expose a plywood or sawdust core or just wood that is defective. After all if the step is installed between two walls the ends never show.

But going back to our situation in the picture to the right, where the spindles ARE installed on the right side of the step itself, the end of the stair tread is visible. For a finished and professional look, it needs to be rounded over, returned, and/or curved.

These are all options that we custom fabricate on the ends of our stair treads to match your particular installation needs and designer look that you are striving for.

Some features like for instance the “curved or returned end” are only cosmetic. Half round starter treads are essential if you wish to use a volute in your hardrail design. We take the time to figure out your needs.

Contact us today with details on sizes and wood needs and we’ll put together a price and a recommended shopping list. Helping DIY’ers is our specialty.

Standard Hardwood Stair Tread

Photo: Standard Tread rounded on the front and square on the ends

Standard Wood Steps come “bullnosed” or rounded on the front edge only and any defects on the bottom end of the board are assumed to be hidden against a wall or under the step.

Thus we hand select both the top and bottom face of the wood for all treads when we prepare them for a step that needs 1 or 2 ends finished. This guarantees a clean, quality finish on those oak stair treads that are going to be open on one or both ends.

Stair treads with 2 ends finished, must be ordered to an exact size as no trimming is possible after the fact! Length ordered MUST include the length of extra wood that forms the overhang as well.

You have a number of design options as suggested below.

“STANDARD Finished-End” Stair Treads

Photo: Standard Oak Tread with a Finished End on the right hand side.

A “standard finished end” tread has ends that are cut square and then rounded-over on the end grain to create stair treads with 1 or 2 ends finished. Your choice!

Remember to specify the finished end by standing at the bottom and looking up the steps & defining as Right (R) or Left (L) end bullnosed as the one you would like. Note the picture is a right hand bullnose.

“RETURNED Finished-End” Stair Tread:

Photo: Maple Tread, “Finished & Returned Left End”

A “return” is in reference to a small piece of wood that “returns” around the sidewall of the steps. It is strictly a cosmetic feature.

There are a number of different ways that you can return a tread, but we have chosen to square cut the end, add a 1 1/4″ block to wrap around the corner of the stringer and then round over the end grain of the wood.

This has proven to be more easily shipped without damage, and provides a returned tread at much less cost then the traditional mitred end.

..more details for returned stair treads

“CURVED & RETURNED Finished-End” Stair Treads

Photo: Jatoba Tread,Curved & Returned End Right Hand

This design is a modification of the one above. It is a “returned” finished end, but rather than just cutting the step square we have added a small radius to the end. This is strickly cosmetic.

A 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ return has also been added to give a classier appearance.

To add “returns” to BOTH ends makes installation somewhat more challenging.

.. more details for curved and returned finished ends.

“HALF ROUND Finished End” Starter Treads

Photo: A right-hand half round red oak starting step

A starter step is the code for the very first step going up a stairwell. It can be larger and be rounded at one or both ends to accept a newel post or volute (the snail shaped piece at the end of the handrail you see in the photo).

A starting step is typically bull nosed along the front and around the finished half-rounded end. They can be custom sized for length, depth & location of the notch to wrap around the sidewall or “stringer” of the set of stairs.

The standard diameter is 12″, but other sizes are available on custom order.

See here for more information on half round starter steps

“QUARTER-ROUND Finished End” Starting Step

The picture below shows you a common use of a quarter round starting step. It wraps around the wall on both ends.

Thus the starter tread is bull nosed along the front and around 1 or 2 finished ends as per your needs. We add a standard radius of 6″ or 12″ or can produce a custom curve according to your template.

All lengths and depths are built to order. In this case the customer notched the back corners on site to guarantee an exact fit. More info here about quarter round starting steps


Photo: Birch Starter Tread, 2 ends finished with a quarter-round

Further Information:

You can fax over a drawing or email us today and we’ll get right back to you with pricing. Don’t forget to tell us what type of wood and all the dimensions.

It is kind of like a custom made set of jeans. We make treads in the size and shape you need and the wood you would like.

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