Now that you've finally decided to tackle the basement, it's time to finish those roughed-in basement stairs or replace them with something different. Too often, homeowners leave these rough versions of basement stairs in place, which won't match the room's decorative scheme at all. To add a finished look, you can build risers beneath the steps attached to the stringers and stain or paint them, build space beneath the stairway for storage, or make the space beneath the stairs into a display case for cherished collections. Before designing, building or replacing your staircase, check with the building jurisdiction to ensure you follow local codes.
If the staircase doesn't have a wall on one side or the other, create a contemporary and modern staircase from wood and metal. Incorporate oak-stained wood treads, and add an oak railing attached to metal posts threaded with taut metal cables for horizontal rails. The space between the cables needs to be small enough to prevent a child from slipping his head through -- at least 4 inches or smaller, the basic code requirement for balusters, which may vary by jurisdiction.
Beneath the Stairs
Enclose the area beneath the staircase and add lighting inside it above the horizontal shelves you build. Glass doors finish the display case where you can keep your prized collectibles. In lieu of a display case, build in storage accessible by a door, or use the area beneath the stairs to add a small bookcase and a desk for a mini-home office. To break up the look of the staircase, create a U-shaped design with landings, which also gives you more space beneath it for storage.
For small basements, a spiral staircase not only saves space, but you can use it as part of your decor scheme when you pick one made with wood treads and a metal frame. Spiral staircases definitely cost more than building a set out of wood, but, with some scavenging, you might find one that you can repurpose for use in your basement. The main drawback of a spiral staircase is that you'll need outside access to get furniture and large objects inside the basement; also check with local codes, which may not permit a spiral staircase in basements over 400 square feet.
For wood-framed staircases, enclose the stringers with risers beneath each step. Sand and stain the wood your desired color. Measure and mark the stairs as if you were putting a carpet runner down its length. Apply painter's tape to the runner's borders, and paint the stairs and risers between the tape a neutral color that provides a bit of contrast to the stain, such as a light gray against a warm chestnut. Add a stenciled or drawn design to each step and paint it in the accent colors used to decorate the basement for a custom look. Cover the stairs with polyurethane to protect the paint and stain from wear. You can also turn the stairs into the keys of a piano with black and white paint if you built a music studio in your basement.
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