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How to Build a Staircase to Your Basement


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Replacing your basement stairs takes a great deal of careful planning, the right tools, some solid DIY skills and know-how. A basic guide to go by (measurement-wise) when planning to replace your stairs is that the height of the tread width and the height of stair riser should equal about 17 inches.

Treads are usually around 10 inches and risers normally run around seven. Once you’ve installed the stringers, they should sit at about a 35 degree angle. As long as you keep these few numbers in mind, you’ll be in good shape. Let’s get started.

How to Build a Staircase

How to Take Measurements

The first measurement you should take is the height from the floor to the landing where the top of the stairs will be placed. This is called the rise. Once you have your number, divide by seven (or 7 ½ if necessary) to figure out how many risers the stringer will need. Round off to the closest whole number and divide the rise total by this number.

How to Mark the Wood

Now that you’ve determined your riser height (and have your known tread measurement as 10) you’ll need to add stair gauges to your framing square (ruler). Check your stringer (wood) and make sure it is straight. Take your square ruler and place it on the stringer. Apply pressure with your finger or thumb and mark the wood for tread. Step the square ruler down by placing it next to the previous mark you made and continue until all the squares are evenly marked. Remove the gauges from the square for your final marks.

How to Cut the Wood

Using a circular saw is the easiest tool for cutting most of the wood, however, you don’t want to use the circular saw to make a complete cut of your marks. After you’ve made most of the cut, stop short and switch to a sharp handsaw. Making the switch will ensure that the wood retains most of its strength for heavy use. Just make sure that you use the saw blade on the same side of the stringer every time you make a cut. When you get to the final riser, cut it one-tread-thickness shorter than the others.

How to Attach the Stairs

  • Place plywood where your landing will go to provide a connection point for your stringers.
  • Place the stringers on your layout marks and fasten them behind the riser.
  • Make sure the treads are then securely attached. You can use both screws and glue for extra security.
  • Use screws behind the riser to secure the tread. Coming from behind into the edge will make everything more stable.
  • Attach a sturdy rail.

Replacing basement stairs can be a bit of a challenge, but it certainly makes for a great do-it-yourself project. If you’re not comfortable with any of the above tasks, you can always ask a professional to do the work but as you already know, that’ll cost you more than just doing it yourself. However, rickety basement stairs aren’t something you want to let slide. Prevent injury by ensuring your basement stairs are up to standard and your home is a safe place to live.

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