The wooden stairs descending into the basement are often overlooked when a basement has been finished, but they are actually the first impression people will get of your basement, so they should not be left out of the redesign. The rest of the space may have been made into an inviting part of the home, but the plain wooden stairs remain. There are several options to finish basement stairs to make them blend in with the decor of the rest of the home, and most of the options are easy enough to do without a professional.
The first option to consider is the design and contruction of a new stairway. Most unfinished basements have stairs that are minimal, narrow and steep. You’ll need to consider their suitability for the increased fooot traffic in and out of your additional living space that your refinished basement will be.
The bad news here is that stair construction is one of, if not the most, difficult areas of carpentry, involving calculations of run and rise, multiple building code requirements, stair gauges, millwork and design know-how.
You have several options here, but our best recommendation is to have an expert builder custom design and build your replacement basement stairway system off-site. You can then choose to have them install it or handle the installation yourself.
If you decide a complete replacement or widening of the stairs is not for you, there are many finishing touches you can add to your existing stairs.
A common approach to remodeling basement wooden stairs is to cover them to change their overall look. Carpeting basement stairs remains one of the most popular options, and it does soften the look of plain stairs. Berber is a type of carpet that wears well with heavy foot traffic and is a popular covering for stairs.
A carpet runner is another decorative choice to dress up stairs. Carpet runners on stairs must be stapled to each stair, so the runner must be thin enough to conform to the shape of the stairs. A runner must have secure stapling that attaches it to both the top of the risers and the back of the stair treads for each stair.
A vinyl covering is another option to cover basement wooden stairs. Vinyl comes in many different styles, colors and textures to go with any decor. To secure vinyl on stairs, it must have a metal corner strip on the front edge of each tread to hold it securely and keep it from peeling away.
Painting and Staining Stairs
Painting the stairs gives them an instant new look and does not require the safety features of runners or vinyl. Latex floor paint is a good option, as it will wear well and will not be too slippery for the stairs like an oil-based paint. A latex-based porch and floor paint such as Weatherbeater will wear well under heavy usage. Wood stairs must be thoroughly cleaned before painting, and should be primed as well.
Stain and urethane coatings are a nice option for wooden stairs, and come in a variety of colors and hues. The stairs may need to be sanded down a bit to make them as smooth as possible, then cleaned of any debris.
Depending on what type of wood the stairs are made from, the wood may need a conditioner applied before it can be stained. Soft woods generally need to be conditioned to avoid a blotchy stain effect. A wood stain is fairly easy to apply, and can be done quickly with a paintbrush or with a rag. The rag approach is often quicker, as it will hold more stain than a paintbrush.
One pint of stain should be enough to stain a set of basement stairs. They will likely need two coats of stain to get a rich, even stain. Once the stairs have been stained, a urethane can be applied to seal in the stain and protect it from damage.
The urethane will likely have to be applied in three or four coats with a natural bristle brush for the best results, and about a quart of it will be needed. When using stain and urethane, it is important to keep the basement well ventilated. If there is no ventilation in the basement, a ventilation system can be rented from most home improvement stores.