How to Build a Basement Staircase


When building stairs, you must adhere to building codes to ensure that they are safe and legal. You may want to research your county or city building codes via the Internet or by visiting your city building code enforcer's office. There are a lot of steps to building stairs. If you don't have much carpentry experience, you may want consider hiring professionals to help you. The following guidelines will walk you through stair-building basics.

Things You'll Need

  • Circular saw
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Lumber
  • Nails
  • Square gauges
  • Framing square
  • Measure your stairs. You need to know how much space you have for the stairs and where the stairs will be located. You also have to determine if the stairs will be against a wall, a straight flight up, straight flight up with a landing, or in an "L" shape. Also consider if your stairs have handrails and balusters.

  • Prepare the layout for your stairs. Laying out your stairs will require some help from a friend or co-worker. Measure out and mark where your stairs will be located; also measure out the height of the basement floor to the subfloor of your first floor. This is your total rise. Next, measure how long the stairs will be; this will be your total run. Most building codes require stairs to be in a comfort zone of 30-to-35 degrees. When you have the total rise, you convert this number into inches; divide this number by seven. Most building codes state that seven inches is a good riser height. Next, divide the total rise by the even number that was just determined. Any remainder decimal number will be converted to an inch fraction by multiplying by 16. This is the riser height .

  • Measure the total lengths of the stringer and tread widths. These numbers are determined by converting your total run of stairs from feet to inches. Before you divide the total number of treads into the total run measurement, minus one tread from the number of risers. This is done because the basement floor is considered the first tread when building stairs. So if in Step Two you have 15 risers, you will minus one from this and use 14, then divide 14 from the total run. Convert any decimal numbers to inch fractions by multiplying by 16. This will tell you the width of your stair treads. When you add the riser height and tread width you should have a number between 17 and 18 inches.

  • Use your framing square and square gauges to lay out the stringers for your stairs. This is done by placing a square gauge at the tread width measurement and the riser measurement and tightening the square gauges onto the outer edge of the framing square. When the gauges are in place, go down the stringer and use a pencil to trace the outer edge of the square; these are your steps. When you have the total number of your steps traced you will place the stringers on top of each other and use either nails or clamps to make sure they stay flush. Next, cut the lines you have traced with the saw; use the reciprocating saw to finish the cut on the steps. Then, notch out a one and a half by three and a half inch block from the front bottom of your stringers for the bottom plate.

  • Place your cut stringers in the desired location and nail them in place. At the top of the stringer you may butt the top of the stringer to the floor joist, a metal strip connecting the stairs to the joist, or set the stringer on a ledger board that is nailed to the joist. For bottom of the stringers, use a 2-by-4 bottom plate fastened to the floor; the risers will be cut out of a rough or finished wood. Next, install the riser face on the bottom and work your way up the steps.

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