How to Cut a Wall Down to Install Stair Posts and Handrails

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Remove a wall to make stairs more open and spacious.
Remove a wall to make stairs more open and spacious. (Image: David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Stairs can make you feel boxed in if you have two full walls on both sides. You can tear down part of the wall to open up the stairway space. To prevent anyone from falling off the stairs, you can add stair posts and a handrail. Before you begin tearing down any wall, check the wall to ensure it is not a load-bearing wall, which can cause serious structural damages to your house if removed improperly. Have a building engineer or certified contractor check the wall and tell you the best way to add load-bearing support if needed

Things You'll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Masking tape
  • Sheets of plastic
  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • 2-inch by 4-inch board
  • Jigsaw
  • Crowbar
  • Nails
  • Drywall
  • 1 1/4 inch drywall screws
  • Drill
  • 1 inch #2 drill bit
  • Drywall tape
  • Joint compound
  • 220-grit sandpaper

Place drop cloths around the wall you are going to tear down. Lay sheets of plastic on furniture too big and heavy to move from the room so it doesn't get dirty. Close doors into rooms you don't have to enter. Cover open entrances with plastic by taping the plastic's top edge to the wall with masking tape so you can still pass through to get supplies.

Turn off the electricity and shut off the water pipes. Remove outlet covers for sockets and light switches from the wall. Punch a hole in the wall with a hammer. Pull down the drywall with your hands and the crowbar. If you find water pipes, you will need to cap the pipe and reroute the water line. Pull out wiring with your hands to reroute the electricity lines through another wall.

Lay the tape measure on the step and up against the wood stud. Place a mark on the stud for the level of the step. Place a 2 inch by 4 inch board along the studs, lining up to the marks at an angle going up. Draw a slanted line on the front facing of each stud.

Cut the studs along the slanted mark with a jigsaw tool. Pull the top of the studs from the top plate wood. Cut the top plate wood flush to the other wall if it extends through. Place a diagonal cut in the top plate so a crowbar can be wedged between the two pieces. Yank down the top plate and use the hammer to remove nails sticking out from the ceiling.

Place the 2 inch by 4 inch board along the bottom cut studs. Nail down the board. You can place the bottom decorative stair rail against the 2-inch by 4-inch board so that you will not have a lower gap between the bottom rail and the step. You also do not have to drill holes into the existing steps for the stair posts, shortening each step's length.

Cut drywall to fit along the lower section of wall. Secure drywall with drywall screws, placing the screw head flush with the drywall. Apply drywall tape to the corners. Seal all openings and the heads of the screws with joint compound. Sand the joint compound with 220-grit sandpaper until flush with the wall. Paint wall.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always wear goggles to protect your eyes from drywall debris when tearing down the wall. Wear clothing that covers your bare skin if the wall has insulation that you have to remove. Wear a face mask when removing insulation.

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