When building basement steps you need to take into account the uses to which you’re going to put the basement. If it’s to become part of the living area of your home then it would be appropriate to build steps incorporating materials that will fit in with the general décor of the basement.
Also, for such a project it might be appropriate to install spiral steps or angled staircases into the basement. However, if your basement is primarily to be used as a storage or utility area then a basic set of sturdy wooden steps will be fine and a job that can be tackled by a DIY home enthusiast.
Basement Steps Stringers
Getting the stringer right is essential to creating a set of basement steps, as the step treads themselves and their risers are fitted into them. Your steps will require either two ‘open strings’ or possibly one ’open-string and one ‘closed-string’. With the former both sides of the steps will require a balustrade; whereas for a ‘closed-string’ that side of the steps will be fitted to a wall – requiring, only requiring a hand-rail on that side.
The two types of stringer are easily told apart as on an ‘open-string’ the edges of the steps and risers are exposed, but on a ‘closed-string’ the treads and risers actually fit into the stringer.
The stringers need to be cut from continuous pieces of timber, typically 2×10 or 2×12. The length of stringers you require will depend on the drop from ground floor to the basement floor, the height of the risers you want to use and the depth of each step tread.
You can do the calculations, buy the timber and do all the cutting yourself, or simply go to a specialist step stringer manufacturer who can cut the stringers for you and undoubtedly the steps and risers as well. If you want to have a wide staircase, to maintain the integrity of the steps, you might need a central stringer to strengthen the construction.
Fixing the Main Components of your Basement Steps
With the stringers in position trace out the cuts that need to be made to fit them around any skirting boards. Cut out those lines and make a cut on the bottom of the stringers to match the floorboard level. You can then nail or screw the stringers to the walls. If one, or both, sides of the steps are open – on the basement floor fix a sturdy piece of timber firmly into the floor then fix the stringers to it.
If you’re fixing stringers to a stud wall make sure you’re nailing or screwing onto the stud frame-work, or if attaching it to a solid wall that you use plugs for any screws. Now you can fit the risers and treads, which could have been cut in a variety of ways.
The treads should over-hang the risers, with the over-hang being known as a ‘nosing’. Ideally the riser will fit into a grove at the back and on the top of one tread and into another grove on the underneath and front of the tread above it.
However, if your basement steps aren’t going to be seen by many people you can save a lot of time cutting and fitting the risers then buffering the treads up to them. You can then fit a length of molding under the nosing to give the step extra strength. Both the risers and treads should be nailed and glued into place. You could, of course, alternatively use counter sunk screws.
Other Fixings for your Basement Steps
If either of the sides of the basement steps are open you are strongly advised to fit balustrades and even, if the basement steps are between two walls, it’s a good idea to have handrails on both sides. Having a handrail on both sides is especially important if you’re going to be carrying things up or down from the basement; as you never know which hand you might have free.