What are the Best Tips for Building Basement Stairs?

Dan Cavallari

Much like other woodworking projects, the most important tip for building basement stairs is to measure carefully, then re-measure, before making any cuts or installing. Making incorrect measurements could lead to a lot of frustration and wasted time and materials, so be sure to check the dimensions of your basement stairs carefully and then check again. Before doing any cutting, and well before purchasing any materials, it is important to check local laws and regulations regarding the building of basement stairs, as the slope and length of the stairs may need to be measured to a specific design. Failure to do so could mean fines, or the possibility that insurance will not cover the damage should the stairs fail.

A hammer may be needed to install nails when building basement stairs.
A hammer may be needed to install nails when building basement stairs.

The most difficult step in the process of building basement stairs is properly measuring and cutting the stringers, or the frame of the stairway. These two long boards must be cut to proper length, and they must be cut to allow even spacing of each stair landing. To figure out the number of risers and treads necessary, one needs to measure from the top of where the stairs will begin straight down to the basement floor. Then, the builder must measure outward from that mark to where the bottom of the basement stairs will end. These two measurements are known as rise and run, respectively. The builder should make sure to measure these distances carefully, as these will determine how many risers and treads will be installed in the stairway.

Installing a hand rail after the stairs are complete is a wise decision for basement stairs, since basements are often dark and difficult to navigate. A hand rail can add extra stability and safety, and they are generally quite easy to install. Prefabricated railings are available at most lumber yards or hardware stores, and they can be affixed to walls of different materials quickly and safely.

Be sure to have the proper tools for construction before starting to build basement stairs. It is always a wise decision to buy high quality tools, both for safety and the ease of use. A builder will need measuring tools such as a measuring tape, carpenter's square, and levels; he will also need a circular saw to make straight cuts, a drill to install screws or a hammer to install nails, and safety glasses to wear throughout the process. The right tools will make the process much easier and safer, so invest wisely in quality tools.

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