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You need a "finished end" tread in any situation where the side of the step is open and the spindles sit on the end of the stair itself (as in the picture to the right).

So on a finished-end stair tread instead of sending you just a square chopped off piece of wood we create the same rounded edge on the end as we have created on the front. We bullnosed the end-grain of the wood to make the "finished-end".

A "returned" tread is one that has a small little block of wood added to the back of the step so that it wraps around the corner where the back of the step (riser) meets the side of the step (stringer). (see the drawing below)


So why would you order a "returned" finished-end step?

No other reason then the look is a little classier and it can simplify adding moldings to cap off the end of the plywood that is used for both the riser and the stringer.

At "A" it allows you to just use a small "outside" corner molding to wrap the corner around the oak plywood where the riser and stringer intersect. It runs from under the tread above to the top of the tread below and DOESN'T require any fancy mitering!

With a "standard" finished-end the same corner moulding has to drop below and under the tread meeting a similar piece of moulding that is installed horizontally. This is a more difficult and time consuming method to finish off all the edges especially if the steps are not square... almost as hard as trying to explain this in words :)

Now if you have a "returned" tread the moulding that covers the corner between the stringer and the riser just runs into the top face of the tread below. Then at "B" if the stringer is finished nicely under the lip of the step, no molding is necessary... again it really doesn't make a difference, just a cleaner less cluttered look.. I'm fussy OK?

If you wish to climb one more rung on the design later check out our page on "curved returned" treads!

So what's the downside?

Returned stair treads are a little less forgiving! On installation you must get the exact right length of "E" (see below).

  • Too Short: and you leave a gap at the wall
  • Too Long: you leave a gap at the notch as it rolls around the corner of the stringer

Thus for those of you that prefer NOT to fiddle, the standard finished end tread is much more forgiving and faster to install. If the length is a hair too long or too short, no one is going to notice that the overhang is slightly different tread to tread.

Here's a general layout:

A = length of the overhang on the finished end. We usually make this 1 1/4" (equal to the overhang on the front)

B = the overall length of the tread from one side to the other, including the overhang on the finished end.

C = the standardized depth of the tread. This is usually 10 1/4" or 11 1/4" (ie. based on a rough tread of either 9" or 10" deep plus 1 1/4" added for the front overhang to give you a 10 1/4" or 11 1/4" depth).

E = the length before the "return notch"

Layout for a DOUBLE Returned End Tread:

Double Returned End Hardwood Stair Tread

Now if you need a tread with a double return you have to be even more careful about your math because the existing set of steps must fit exactly between the two returns (A). There is not an easy way to "trim" after the fact, if you haven't left enough room.

Again our standard length for the return is 1 1/4" , you need this on both ends so B = the distance you need between the "returns" + 1.25 + 1.25 = total overall length.

Remember that if you are adding say oak plywood to the outside face of these steps than the distance E between the returns is going to be the width of your steps PLUS the thickness of the nice material you are facing your stringers with on EACH side ..


These are the measurements that we need to make sure we cut a "returned" stair tread to fit your existing step... then you can order a "returned" finished end tread wholesale direct from ourselves as the manufacturer!

You can send us a drawing and shopping list by fax or email and we'll get right back to you with pricing. Give us the wood species, size and shape and all that good stuff ....Kind of like getting a custom fit pair of Levi jeans made-to-order! .


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