Can Basement Stairs Be Moved? [And What To Consider Before Getting Started]

Moving a basement stairway may seem a daunting task or maybe you're not even sure if it can be done at all. Well, you don’t need to feel overwhelmed or doubtful before taking the plunge. Worry no more! We've reached out to the experts to deliver you the most helpful guide to successfully accomplish your project. 

Yes, basement stairs can be moved. But before you get started with this project, you need to consider the following:

  • The requirements of the local building code on basement stairs.
  • Getting professional help to ensure that the new location will make your stairs code-compliant.
  • Assessing the structural elements of your house.
  • Rerouting and other additional work involved if there are electrical, plumbing, and floor heating affected at the area vacated as well as the target location.
  • Your budget.

Moving your basement staircase requires a great deal of planning and it is a no-easy job. It can neither be just your other DIY project. Stay on this page as we cover the details of how you can go about your basement remodeling project.

Wooden basement interior with circular staircase and carpet floor. Can Basement Stairs Be Moved [And What To Consider Before Getting Started]

Reasons to Move the Basement Stairs

It is quite common that many homeowners find the present location of their basement stairs not working well. In many instances, they would consider moving such. We've listed below the common reasons to do so:

  • The existing stairs are not properly designed and built to blend or complement the current floor layout.
  • There is a need to create a room for additional living space.
  • You are thinking that moving the stairs is your last resort in line with your plan to give your basement a major facelift.
  • You want an open floor layout and the current location of the stairs interrupts the flow of space. It creates a barrier that could have been a continuity of space in the room, a continuous line of sight, or the stairs block natural light. In the photo below, the stairs may present a cut in the flow of space.

wooden basement stairs with beautiful metal railings

For help in planning for your basement stairs, you can check out this article: "Should Basement Stairwell Be Open?"

The Technical Requirements for Basement Stairs

Beautiful stairway leading from basement to upstairs

The table below shows the basement stairs, and other interior stairs, code requirements as stated in the International Building Code. The dimensions apply regardless of the design of the stairs. It includes the general recommendation on component sizes and allowable projections.

Stair width Minimum 36”
Headroom Minimum head clearance of 6' to 8"
Handrails 34” to 38” - this is the height from the nosing of step to the top of the railing
Balusters Minimum 4” spacing in-between
Landings Minimum 36” by 36”, or should be no less than the stair width
Risers Minimum 4” to maximum 7”
Treads 10” to 11” which is measured from riser to riser or nosing to nosing
Nosing Maximum 1.5” projection beyond the riser
Miscellaneous Projections Varies. Railings project, 3.5” and stringers, 1.5” into the stair

What Are Other Factors To Consider Before Moving Basement Stairs?

Knowing the building code and the dimensions of your stairs is only the “tip of the iceberg” before getting started with your basement project. Below are other factors which are equally important to consider before proceeding.

Getting Professional Help

With the above requirements, it is always recommended to invest in the services of a building inspector, contractor, architect, or engineer throughout all the phases of your basement project. They can give you advice for any potential obstructions that could hinder your new stairs to be code-compliant.

The structural engineer would also give you advice if the new location of your stairs would have enough headroom, have adequate area for landing, and other requirements. 

Assessing the Structural Elements of Your House

You need to analyze the basement walls, beams, and floor frames that will be affected by moving the stairs. If you are not familiar with these structural elements, your structural engineer can do the job for you. The blueprint of your house’s layout should come in handy since it gives valuable information.

Are the affected walls load-bearing? If yes, you need to make temporary support before removing the staircase from its original location and also at the target location. In this way, you avert any catastrophic damage that may happen.

To learn more about load-bearing walls, you might as well check out this post: Are Basement Stair Walls Load-Bearing?

Determining if Any Wirings, Plumbing, Floor Heating Systems Are Affected

In many instances, the attached basement walls have wiring lines that run through them. Removing the walls may require you to reroute those wires. It would be a great help if you have the blueprint of the electrical layout of your basement.

It is not only the electrical wires. Also, if there are plumbing, floor heaters, and other appliances that are attached to the affected basement walls and floors, you may need a great deal of planning if there is a need for rerouting, and other appliances are difficult to move.

To find out more about basement floor heating, look into this article: Types of Basement Floor Heating Systems [By Flooring Material]

modern entryway to the basement staircase with carpet and wooden railings

How Much Does It Cost to Move Basement Stairs?

The project would require two contractors to move the basement stairs to a new location. This also includes the finishing jobs both at the area vacated and the new location. The total cost would range from $700 to $2,000.

Basement stairs usually cost less compared to the staircases on the upper floors of the house. The cheaper prices are more on safety and function rather than on aesthetics. A straight 12-step wooden staircase with a wood handrail is typical in this category.

The cost to move the stairs mainly depends on the extent of the demolition made to the walls and saving the materials of the old stairs to be used at the new location.

The greatest cost will be on the new stair treads. If you choose to build or buy new stair stringers, then the cost outlay increases. Fabricated treads will even cost more.

The cost of lumber to fill in the joists and build a wall and the floor finishing at the old stair opening and the new location should be minimal since only a small area is affected.

How to Move the Basement Staircase

The work involved in moving the basement stairs can be broken down into four separate jobs. Each job entirely depends on your floor layout and your budget. 

1. Removing the Existing Stairs

This demolition task will likely take the longest duration since it depends on how the staircase is constructed. You may have to remove the walls or a side wall if the stairs are built between or beside the walls. And most basement stairs are solidly attached.

2. Preparing the New Location of the Stairs

To make way for the new stairs, you make a hole at the top floor by cutting through floor joists. You also need to construct a temporary wall of studs right next to the intended top floor opening to provide temporary support before the stairs are installed.

3. Installing the Stairs at the New Location

In this step, you will decide on how you would frame the new stairs. You may add or refurbish the steps of the stairs depending on your renovation plan. Ensure the dimensions of the new stairs are code-compliant. Remove the temporary wall support once the stairs are correctly positioned.

4. Finishing Off Both the Old and New Stairway Areas

The finishing job will entirely depend on how you intend your living space will look after moving the stairs. It is quite common that the finishing is not only done on the vacated space of the stairs but rather on the entire basement for a more coherent look.

You may need to do sistering floor joists at the gaping hole created at the top floor at the original location of the stairs. Redo the flooring in the old stairway space and the top floor as well. Finish off all surfaces at the new stairway area.

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Moving Basement Stairs?

Having your basement stairs moved does offer these benefits:

  • It opens up a room for increased living space.
  • It adds height and headroom to the stairway.
  • It reuses existing materials instead of spending on brand new ones.
  • It can significantly alter the overall appearance of your basement.

Moving basement stairs may also have its drawbacks:

  • The job is more costly in terms of labor man-hours.
  • There might be electrical wiring and piping works involved. 
  • New sheetrock, floorings, and wood trim are needed for finishing work.

wood staircase going down to the basement with kitchen. Can Basement Stairs Be Moved [And What To Consider Before Getting Started]

In Closing

You may think that moving your basement stairs is your last resort in your basement renovation due to the complexity of the process notwithstanding the cost involved to suit your budget. Before embarking on the project, get professional help to ensure that your stairs are code-compliant in their new location.

You also need to determine if load-bearing walls are affected at the original and target location. Electrical wirings, plumbing, and floor heating systems that are affected may also require additional work.

And lastly, the project has its benefits as well as drawbacks. You can reuse existing materials instead of buying new ones. It can significantly alter the appearance of your basement with additional living space.

On the contrary, the project is costly in terms of labor. You also need to buy materials to finish off all surfaces affected to complete the project.

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