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Branden 11-29-2012 06:09 PM

Basement Steps
3 Attachment(s)
I am in the process of framing up my basement and wanted to get a few opinions on the basement steps.

As you can see below, the steps come down right against the block foundation wall. The steps need to be replaced/rebuilt. Both stringers are broken.

You can also see a support pillar and a drain vent on the other side of the steps. I will be enclosing the steps on this side in a wall and these will be hidden. I was then going to install a skirt board on this side of the steps.

The way I see it, I have two options for the side of the steps against the foundation.

#1 I can remove the steps, use furring strips against the block wall, hang drywall. Build my wall on the other side. Rebuild steps and then install skirt boards to both sides. Leaves the steps pretty narrow.

#2 I can paint the block wall (already dryloked) the same color as the room and leave it without drywall. Replace the steps, build a wall on the other side as planned to enclose the steps and skirt board 1 side.

If I went with option 2, I would have to butt the drywall perpendicular to this block wall in the corner and use caulking to fill the gap I guess. Doesn't sound like the best idea, but thought I'd get some opinions here and see if anyone had any other options.

scottktmrider 11-29-2012 06:30 PM

How wide will the stairs be if you fir the concrete wall out?I dont know what your code is but there is a min on stair width just some thing to keep in mind.If your not worried about code than your idea of firing the wall sounds allright to me.

funfool 11-29-2012 07:01 PM

For the wall, I would use plaster instead of drywall. That is just me.
Plaster is not that hard to work with. Get yourself a hawk and a plaster trowel, mix up a 5 gallon bucket of it and throw it on the wall.
Start under the stairs in a spot that will be covered or not so obvious to get the hang of it.
You can build it up really thick in first coat and keep working it with a trowel to smooth it out.
You would not get wall perfectly flat, but 90% will be fine and a few wavy areas in the plaster because of the block, will give wall character.
2 coats of plaster and then skim with regular drywall mud and texture as desired.

Is a game of inches on those stairs, if you some how nail drywall straight to block, will be lumpy and bumpy and lots of work to smooth out.
Proper way would be to fur out the wall and apply drywall.
You do not want to lose the width on the stairs.

joecaption 11-29-2012 08:28 PM

Make sure there's a landing at the top of those steps since there's a door there.
Make sure there's 3 stringers next time and make sure the made from 2 X 12's not 10".
Also going to need risers. and a hand rail.

Beepster 11-30-2012 08:14 AM

My first house basement gut/buildout was similar to this. The building inspector let me screw the drywall directly to the concrete block. The one thing that may be different is that the garage was on the other side, not outside. Less likely to be moisture issues. Sometimes you just have to do things like that.

Is there laundry downstairs where you may need to replace washer/dryer? You will need a minimum width for that.


Branden 11-30-2012 09:37 AM

Scott, I'll have about 30" if I furr out and drywall the block wall. So not terribly narrow.

Funfool, I haven't thought of applying plaster directly to the block. I think if I were going to do that, I would just leave the block as is and paint it though.

Joe, Definitely going to be 3 stringers, a landing and a handrail. Thanks though

Beepster. I have access to the garage in the basement, so there is no way I'd be hauling my washer and dryer up and down those steps. The moisture issue may be a concern though.

funfool 11-30-2012 05:14 PM

Branden, I was thinking of you today.
I was plastering a block wall today, looked just like yours.
Have a electrical question on the project in electrical forum yesterday. So electrical and drywall is finished and started on mud today.
Worst part was a block wall. It was a garage that had a closet for water heater and furnace, had drywall nailed to the block with roofing nails.
On both ends of closet was plaster and texture.
I removed the closet and ripped the drywall off the wall and brought that section back to bare block like your wall is. And your wall is bigger then the one I am working with ... but not that much.
I also had channels I dug out with my hammer drill to run new direct burial wiring for new light switch. It had holes from old outlets and long dead wiring that was covered with the drywall.
Trust me, it was ugly.

I stuffed the holes with insulation covering my new wiring and filling the old holes.
I used one bag of basecoat structolite (plaster) with one bag of easy sand 45 min hot mud.
1/3 of each in a 5 gallon bucket and add water and mix it up to a creamy stiff mixture.
I applied first coat first thing in the morning, Took about 1.5 hours and first coat is just for packing and filling, some areas were 3/4" thick, looked like heck when was done with first coat.
I spent a few hours skim coating ceiling and walls and went to lunch.
After lunch I had a bucket of clean water and a big yeller sponge and splattered the wall with water to add moisture and slow the curring process.
The hot mud kicks it off.
But it was ready for a second coat, Same mixture with plaster and hot mud.
After second coat, looks pretty dang good, is a little wavy here and there, but not bad.
2 coats of plaster and snuck out at 2:30 on Friday afternoon.
Monday morning will coat all the walls and ceiling with hot mud before lunch, after lunch will be a skim coat with regular mud, next day light sanding and paint.

A 3rd coat of plaster would bring my wall to near perfect, but would be way to straight for the rest of the apartment.

My point is, I know I was intimidated by plaster about 10 years ago, once I learned how to use it, I love it. 2 coats in one day and can get it so deep you could bury the neighbors cat in it.

rebelranger 12-05-2012 04:05 PM

If it were me I would create a landing just past the steel support beam and turn the steps towards the room. Although that depends on the rise and run of stairs you build.

TheCamper 12-05-2012 07:25 PM

The existing stair does not comply with usual building codes. If you are converting storage space (unfinshed basement) to living space and the stair is the access to the space from the main part of the house, then your local Building Dept. is likely to interpret the code to require a current code compliant stair. If that is the case then width and perhaps head height, as the stair may run out further, will be issues. I suggest you speak with your building inspector in the planning stage.

Branden 12-06-2012 06:43 PM

Rebel, thought about that but the living space will be pretty small as it is and I can't afford to lose that space in the middle of the room.

jagans 12-06-2012 09:27 PM

Soil STack
Whats with the soil stack in the middle of the room?

Seems to me the best thing would be to move that soil stack and get yourself some room to work. You definitely need a landing, and hand rail. What you have there looks like an accident looking for a place to happen.

I personally do not cut stringers like that, because you lose all the strength in the stringers. I dado them, glue and screw. Use pressure treated wood and stainless hardware. Use galvy cleats too if you want a lot of strength

Branden 12-07-2012 06:50 AM


The house was built in 1930, so I don't think that they thought basements would be used as living space back then. Probably the reason why the vent stack comes up right there to hit the interior walls all the way out to the roof. I considered moving it, but then decided to build a wall on that side of the steps to enclose both the steps and hide the pillar and vent stack.

You mention using PT wood for my stringers. While framing I've been using PT wood for my bottom plate with ACQ rated screws into it. Is there another reason why you would use PT wood for the stringers other than the fact that the bottom will hit the concrete floor below? I was considering using non PT wood for my stringers and using something between the concrete and the wood where it hits the basement steps. Please let me know if this is wrong and I should be working with PT stringers.

Like I mentioned above, there will be a handrail once this is all done and the steps are enclosed on both sides.

jagans 12-07-2012 11:11 AM

PT Wood
I am a belt and suspenders king of person, and I often ask myself what if? when building anything, so forgive the tendency to overkill. You can surely use common lumber against the masonry with No. 30 felt or better yet ice dams material so you can stick it. Considering the fact that it is nearly impossible to find KDAT PT lumber, gluing and screwing your new steps together will be stronger with #2 or better kiln dried Douglas fir or Yellow pine, which will be dry.

Another thing to your point is that ACQ is extremely corrosive. If you check out the manufacturers of galvanized hangers to be used with ACQ (I think the current ASTM Standard is 153) you will see that their hangers are only warranted for 20 years against corrosion, Thats why I use only stainless steel with ACQ. I expect what I build to last forever and a day, especially something structural, wherein people could be hurt in the event of collapse.

I would move that stack to get more width in the basement steps. There is a good change that that CI pipe is half clogged up since 1930. :wink: Have you considered how you will get stuff like sofas and chairs into the basement, or do you have an outside entrance?

Gary in WA 12-07-2012 07:14 PM

"3. Sills and sleepers on a concrete or masonry slab that is in direct contact with the ground unless separated from such slab by an impervious moisture barrier.

7. Wood furring strips or other wood framing members attached directly to the interior of exterior masonry walls or concrete walls below grade except where an approved vapor retarder is applied between the wall and the furring strips or framing members."
30# paper is a retarder, Grace I&W is a barrier.


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