Dealing with Basement Stairs

When finishing a basement, be sure the stairs leading to it from the main floor meet building codes and do not pose a safety hazard. Possible areas of concern include the width of the stairs, the height to width ratio of the treads, and clearance at the bottom of the stairs.

It’s also important to see that all the treads are the same height to prevent a tripping hazard. This can occur when thicker flooring than was originally intended is installed on the basement floor, resulting in a lower tread height on the bottom step.

Basement stairs are often enclosed on both sides. Removing the wall on one side and installing a handrail in its place is a good way to open the staircase up and provide a welcoming feeling when entering the basement.

Check to see if the wall is structural before removing it. If it is, it may be possible to add a supporting column at the bottom of the steps to hold up the weight.


  1. I am in a 100 year old family home. We have made lots of improvements but nothing with the basement steps. They are very narrow at the top, wide at the bottom. wood on top cement,I think, at the bottom. YOu have to duck and make a turn the last 3 steps. All around the basement is a ledge that I think my Dad tried to cement. Is it possible to take that 3 or 4 foot ledge out and make the steps go straigh down? It is used for storage, with furnace, waterheater, softener, etc down there. I am 72 and do not make trips down because of the conditions. I would welcome any sugestions you have. My Dad told us it was not possible to remove the shelf all the way around. With all the things I see you doing I wonder now if that is possible now. Thanks for any help you can share with me.

  2. I have a home with a finished basement. The stairs to the basement are very narrow, less than 8 in and appears to be slanted down. Is there a way for a diy project to replace the stairway

  3. Hello there…we bought a house 2 years ago…My problem with this house is that the Living Room has a pony wall which hides the Stairs, one wrong move and I could end up going down them. Across from the stairs is a door which leads to our deck. If someone comes in and you are walking by you could have a disaster. This house is a ranch and has an add-on. I personally hate it. But, if I could have a contractor come out and help me moving the stairs and redirecting them, I would consider staying. We had an Appraiser come and he said they were fine, but when I showed him the danger of the stairs he said of Ya I could see that would be a problem ($$$). HELP US as I don’t know who could help us. PLEASE


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