Dealing with Basement Stairs

By: Danny Lipford

When finishing a basement, be sure the stairs leading to it from the main floor meet building codes and do not pose a safety hazard. Possible areas of concern include the width of the stairs, the height to width ratio of the treads, and clearance at the bottom of the stairs.

It’s also important to see that all the treads are the same height to prevent a tripping hazard. This can occur when thicker flooring than was originally intended is installed on the basement floor, resulting in a lower tread height on the bottom step.

Basement stairs are often enclosed on both sides. Removing the wall on one side and installing a handrail in its place is a good way to open the staircase up and provide a welcoming feeling when entering the basement.

Check to see if the wall is structural before removing it. If it is, it may be possible to add a supporting column at the bottom of the steps to hold up the weight.


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3 Comments on “Dealing with Basement Stairs”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    November 14th, 2018 at 4:24 pm

    Hi, Thomas,
    Your idea to replace the stairway sounds like a great, safe ‘step’ in the right direction!
    We recommend submitting questions involving unique situations like yours to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show.
    Please use this form to contact Danny Lipford, America’s Home Expert, directly:
    Take care!

  • Thomas welch Says:
    November 9th, 2018 at 6:08 am

    I have a home with a finished basement. The stairs to the basement are very narrow, less than 8 in and appears to be slanted down. Is there a way for a diy project to replace the stairway

  • Josephine Scheffer Says:
    December 27th, 2008 at 11:53 am

    I am in a 100 year old family home. We have made lots of improvements but nothing with the basement steps. They are very narrow at the top, wide at the bottom. wood on top cement,I think, at the bottom. YOu have to duck and make a turn the last 3 steps. All around the basement is a ledge that I think my Dad tried to cement. Is it possible to take that 3 or 4 foot ledge out and make the steps go straigh down? It is used for storage, with furnace, waterheater, softener, etc down there. I am 72 and do not make trips down because of the conditions. I would welcome any sugestions you have. My Dad told us it was not possible to remove the shelf all the way around. With all the things I see you doing I wonder now if that is possible now. Thanks for any help you can share with me.

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Dealing with Basement Stairs