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Stairs are supposed to bridge vertical distances. Basement stairs also serve the same purpose. The bridging of the vertical distances is done by breaking the distance into steps. Stairs can be round or straight but not steep. How do you go about fixing basement stairs that are too steep? We asked experts in the building and construction sphere, and they gave us solutions.
Fixing steep basement stairs will result in reduced living space because you'll have to:
- Increase the tread depth
- Remove a section of the floor from the top landing to increase headroom
- Reduce the stair riser
- Extend the stairs into the basement
It won't take long for a well-versed professional to fix your basement stairs. You could do this too as a DIY project. Continue reading to see how you can go about this DIY with a minimal number of tools.
Fixing Steep Basement Stairs
If you want to properly utilize your basement area, it has to be completely safe and accessible. Ignoring steep basement stairs or believing that you will get used to them is creating a hazardous situation.
Use either some or all of these options to reconstruct your basement stairs, and make them safe.
Increase Tread Depth
Make the tread on your steps longer. You'll get a little more surface area when you put your foot on the step. The tread shouldn't protrude more than 1-1/2 inches from the nosing.
Take a look at this video to see exactly how to measure the tread for comfort.
Remove A Section Of The Floor
The removed flooring will provide additional square footage for the basement stairs. You'll have less floor area on the first floor as a top landing leading to the basement stairs. You will also gain more headroom for your stairs.
Reduce The Stair Riser
When the step is too high you'll have to lift your foot higher, making it inconvenient. The height of the stair should be reduced by 1 to 2 inches. Start by adding 1 to 2 feet from the start of the stairs. According to standard building codes, the stair riser is expected to be 8 to 8-1/2 inches high.
Extend The Stairs Into The Basement
The stairs shouldn't stop at the beginning of the basement floor. They could be extended into the basement while retaining the correct height and tread length.
How To make Basements Stairs Safer
Ensure that the stairs to the basement are safe for everyone. Apply safety measures that will enable all to use the basement stairs.
Do the following to have safe basement stairs:
- Ensure that you install a proper and stable railing for the stairs. Don't leave the basement stairs without a railing. In case someone slips while going down or up the stairs, there will be something to hold onto.
- Add some non-slip strips on the basement stairs. Slippery stairs can't be ignored because they are a hazard. Non-slip strips are a cheaper way to upgrade and make your stairs safe.
- Proper lighting is essential on the staircase. You could install a switch at the top and the bottom of the basement stairs. Alternatively, you could put lights directly on the steps that turn on automatically when there is any motion.
- Remove any carpet runners that are old and aren't attached properly on the stairs. It'll be better to remove the carpet runners completely.
- Use contrasting colors on the stairs for younger and older family members to help them differentiate each step. Different colors will liven a mundane activity like going up and down the steps.
- Finally, don't clutter the stairway. Don't leave any objects, such as toys or laundry baskets on the stairs. While going up the stairs you might trip and have a nasty fall.
How Much Does It Cost To Fix Steep Stairs
The cost of fixing your steep basement stairs may vary immensely due to the complexity of the work to be done and the time. Fixing the stairs will cost from $1,000 to $2,000 because they are being reinstalled. When you hire a professional to do the job, it will take two full days to complete.
Alternative Stairs For The Basement
To avoid your basement stairs from being too steep, you could opt for alternative basement stair designs for the basement.
Some of these designs will need more or less space. Therefore, choose which design will be suitable for your basement area. The design you choose must also meet the building codes and laws.
Apart from straight basement stairs, you could make them:
L-shaped stairs can be built in the basement that has enough space for them. They :
- Offer some privacy in between floors. No one gets to see what is in the basement if you haven't installed a partitioning or a door at the top or the bottom of the basement stairs.
- Reduce sounds and noises being transmitted up. Especially, if the basement is used as a family room without a door.
- Create a visually interesting look in the basement.
- Easily fit in the corner of the basement snuggly out of the way. They are space-saving because they don't use lots of basement space.
- They are safer than straight stairs for any part of the house.
The disadvantages of L-shaped stairs are not many but they are substantial. L-shaped stairs are:
- Difficult to build. You might need some professional help to install them in your basement.
- Difficult to navigate them when carrying items up and down the basement.
- Cannot navigate them without handrails that you'll need to mount on the wall.
- Need support at the landing.
These stairs are parallel with a landing midway with a 180-degree walk line. There are several benefits of these stairs.
- They present themselves as a worthy architectural design that presents a lot of interest for designers and builders.
- The landing can offer a lot of space for resting, particularly, for elderly persons.
- They are easier to fit in the plan especially, in basements that have ample space
The downside is that:
- They are more difficult to construct. You'll require the services of a qualified designer to implement the plan properly.
These stairs have an interesting design. Winder stairs have almost an L-shape with a triangular landing.
- Can be found in older homes and often occupy less space compared to other types of stairs.
- Visually interesting in the home decor. Particularly family room basements and basement apartments. They seem to meander around the corner.
The downside of these stairs is that they:
- Are a little harder to navigate if not well placed in the basement area.
- Need a center of support just like L-shaped stairs
- Difficult to add a handrail to them due to the curve.
Spiral stairs follow a helical arc with central support. The positive elements of spiral stairs are:
- Are very compact and occupy very little space in the basement area.
- Can be a design element by adding different styles of railings. The railing designs can be professionally done at a reasonable price.
- Don't need extra support because they already have central support.
They aren't meant to be the primary stairs for a basement. Because they are:
- Very difficult to navigate as they can be steep.
- Not easy to carry things up and down spiral stairs.
- Narrow, therefore, only one person can go up or down the stairs at any moment.
Spiral stairs can be put in walkout basements because walkout basements have an alternative exit.
These stairs don't have a full central circle but the helical arc has a wider radius. They are:
- Easy to walk on because they don't have a high riser and the tread is very comfortable.
- Elegant and give a great view of the basement.
The downside for many homeowners is that:
- They don't fit most basements.
- They are the most difficult type of stairs to build.
- They can be very costly to construct.
It is a costly affair to fix steep basement stairs. You can avoid these extra costs by ensuring that you build your basement stairs according to the building codes.
DIYers can follow the suggestions in the post to reconstruct their basement stairs and enhance safety. Look for other design options that might be more suitable for your basement area.
Read some more on basements in the following posts: