If your basement stairs have unfinished framing and drywall on the sides, it can make the whole area look messy and incomplete. Finishing off the sides of the stairs with trim, panelling, or other materials can give them a clean, polished look and nicely finish off your basement space.
Why Finish the Sides of Basement Stairs?
There are several benefits to adding some finishing touches to the sides of your stairs:
- It makes the basement look more put together and finished. The exposed framing and drywall look unpolished.
- It increases safety by enclosing hazards like exposed nails or insulation.
- Noise travels less with finished sides. They help muffle sound between floors.
- It adds visual appeal and style to your staircase.
- Finished stairs can boost your home’s value when it’s time to sell.
Here is an in-depth, optimized article on finishing basement stair sides:
How to finish the sides of basement stairs?
Leaving the sides of your basement stairs unfinished with exposed framing and drywall can make your basement feel incomplete.
Adding finished materials to the sides of the stairs is an easy way to give your basement a cleaner, more polished look. With some basic DIY skills, you can transform your stairs from dull to beautiful.
Preparing the Stair Side Surfaces
Before applying any finishing materials, you need to properly prepare the plywood or drywall surfaces:
- Remove any previous finishes with chemical strippers or sanders. Remove all old paint, wallpaper, etc. down to the bare surface.
- Sand smooth using 100-150 grit sandpaper. Sand away any splinters, rough areas, or inconsistencies.
- Clean thoroughly to remove all dust, debris, grease, etc. Tack cloth works great.
Proper surface prep ensures your finishing materials adhere to and last.
Choosing Finishing Materials for Basement Stairs
You have several options when it comes to choosing materials to finish the stair sides with:
- Paint – An affordable and easy option. Use a semi-gloss for durability and easy cleaning.
- Wood wall panelling – Classy and warm. Consider tongue-and-groove panels or shiplap.
- Stain – Shows off the natural wood grain. Use a pre-stain conditioner first.
- Drywall – Install just like you would on walls. Finish with paint.
- Tile – A contemporary look. Peel-and-stick is easy to install.
- Textured materials – Get creative with cork, shiplap, beadboard, etc.
Pick a material that fits your basement’s aesthetics and your budget.
Applying Finishing Materials to Stair Sides
Once you’ve prepped the surfaces and chosen your materials, it’s time to apply them:
- For paint, apply 2-3 coats allowing drying time between coats. Use painter’s tape and drop cloths to protect floors.
- For staining wood, apply a pre-stain conditioner, then 2-3 coats of stain. Lightly sand between coats.
- For panelling, measure and cut panels to size. Nail or screw into the framing. Use adhesive for extra strength.
- For drywall, cut panels to fit. Screw into studs. Mud, tape, and sand seams before painting.
- For tile, apply thin-set and carefully press tiles into place. Use spacers for consistent grout lines.
Finishing the stair sides takes your basement from drab to fab! The small project makes a big visual impact.
Tips for a Flawless Finish on Your Basement Stair Sides
Finishing off the sides of your basement stairs with trim, panelling, or other materials can elevate your whole basement space. But there are a few tips to follow for a smooth, flawless finished look:
Use a Level for Even Application
When installing panelling, tiles, or moulding, be sure to use a level often. This ensures your finishing materials look straight and professional, not crooked or uneven.
Protect Surrounding Surfaces
Use painter’s tape, drop cloths, or masking film when staining, painting, or spraying finishes. Protect the stairs, floor, and any nearby walls from drips, splatters, and overspray.
Apply a Clear Protective Top Coat
Once your paint, stain, or other finish has fully cured, apply a clear sealer or polyurethane coat. This protects the finish from scuffs, stains, and wear and tear.
Fill Any Gaps or Imperfections
Use wood filler to patch any cracks, gouges, or seams in the wood before finishing. For drywall, properly mud, tape, and sand seams smooth.
Lightly Sand Between Coats
When applying multiple coats of stain or paint, lightly sand in between each coat for proper adhesion. Wipe away any dust before applying the next coat.
Be Patient and Let Layers Dry
Rushing the process can ruin the final look. Allow ample drying time between coats as specified on the products used.
Work Slowly and Check Often
Work methodically and carefully, checking for drips often. Rushing leads to messy results.
Following these tips will give your stair sides a smooth, professional finish you’ll love showing off. Share the results on social media and inspire others with your basement’s glow-up!
Can you close off basement stairs?
Yes, you can close off basement stairs using a permanent cover or by installing joists in the floor opening. This can be a DIY project to improve safety or create a separate entrance to your basement.
Why close off basement stairs? There are a few reasons why you might want to close off basement stairs:
- To keep pets and children safe.
- To improve energy efficiency by sealing off the basement.
- To create a separate entrance to your basement.
- To improve the appearance of your staircase.
How to close off basement stairs: There are two main ways to close off basement stairs:
- Using a permanent cover: You can purchase a pre-made permanent cover or build your own. Permanent covers are typically made of strong materials like steel or wood.
- Installing joists in the floor opening: This is a more complex option, but it is necessary if you want to create a separate entrance to your basement. To install joists in the floor opening, you will need to cut the floor open and install joists that are the same size as the existing floor joists.
Can you have a basement without stairs?
Yes, you can have a basement without stairs. Basements are areas of a building that are partially or completely below ground level.
Basements without stairs are typically only partially below grade and can be accessed through an egress door, elevator, ramp, or door located at ground level.
How to access a basement without stairs
- Egress door: An egress door is a door that leads from the basement directly to the outside. This is the most common way to access a basement without stairs.
- Elevator: An elevator is a mechanical device that lifts people and objects from one level to another. Elevators are often used in commercial buildings, but they can also be installed in homes.
- Ramp: A ramp is a sloped walkway that allows people and objects to move from one level to another. Ramps are often used to make buildings accessible to people with disabilities.
- Door located at ground level: Some basements have a door that leads directly to the ground level. This type of basement is typically found in homes that are built on a hillside.
How deep should basement stairs be?
Basement stairs should have treads that are at least 10 inches deep. This is the horizontal walking surface of a step. The risers, or vertical portions of the stairs, should be between six and eight inches high.
The treads should have nosings that project 1 to 1 1/2 inches beyond the riser face. This helps to prevent people from tripping and falling.
The maximum tread depth variation should be less than 3/8 of an inch. This means that all of the treads should be approximately the same depth.
Curved staircases must have treads that are at least 6 inches deep. This is because it can be more difficult to walk on curved stairs, so the treads need to be wider to provide more stability.
Stairs used as a means of egress, such as fire escape stairs, must have treads that are at least 11 inches deep. This is because egress stairs need to be wide enough to accommodate people evacuating a building in an emergency.
Stairs used as equipment access, such as stairs leading to a basement workshop, must have treads that are at least 9.5 inches deep. This is because equipment can be bulky and difficult to carry, so the treads need to be wide enough to accommodate people carrying equipment.
What is the best finishing material for basement stairs?
The best finishing material for basement stairs depends on your personal preference and budget. Paint is a popular and affordable option, while stain is a good choice if you want to show off the natural beauty of the wood. Wall panelling and drywall are also good options, but they require more carpentry skills to install.
How do I prepare the surface of my basement stairs for finishing?
To prepare the surface of your basement stairs for finishing, you will need to remove any existing paint, stain, or other finish. You can do this using a paint stripper, a heat gun, or sandpaper. Once the existing finish has been removed, you will need to sand the surface smooth.
How do I apply paint to my basement stairs?
To apply paint to your basement stairs, you will need to use a brush or roller. Apply two or three coats of paint, allowing each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Be sure to paint the treads, risers, and stringers of the stairs.
How do I apply stain to my basement stairs?
To apply stain to your basement stairs, you will need to use a brush or rag. Apply a pre-stain wood conditioner to the wood, followed by two or three coats of stain. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next. Be sure to stain the treads, risers, and stringers of the stairs.
How do I install wallpaneling on my basement stairs?
To install wallpaneling on your basement stairs, you will need to cut the wallpaneling to size and attach it to the sides of the stairs using nails or screws. Be sure to leave a small gap between the wallpaneling and the treads and risers of the stairs to allow for expansion and contraction.
How do I install drywall on my basement stairs?
To install drywall on your basement stairs, you will need to cut the drywall to size and attach it to the sides of the stairs using screws. Be sure to leave a small gap between the drywall and the treads and risers of the stairs to allow for expansion and contraction.
Finishing the sides of your basement stairs is an easy weekend project that can make a huge visual impact. By framing, drywalling, painting, and adding trim, you can take your stairs from dull to beautiful.
The finished sides will give your basement a cleaner, more polished look. They’ll also help block noise, enclose hazards, and boost your home’s value.
Be sure to properly prepare the surfaces, work slowly, and use levels to achieve an even finish.
Protect surrounding areas from drips and overspray. Apply multiple coats of paint or stain, allowing proper dry time between each one. A clear top coat adds protection.
Your basement stairs make a bold first impression. Finishing the sides takes them from an unfinished DIY project to an elegant feature.
Once completed, share before and after photos on social media to inspire others! Adding this finishing touch can make your basement feel complete.