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Old 10-21-2016, 04:48 PM   #1
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Redoing Basement Stairs


Hi guys - first time poster. Thanks in advance for your help/feedback.

We have a 1960s ranch with a basement that's currently unfinished, but in the next couple of years I plan to work through finishing it, budgeting about $3k/year for that project.

One of the first things I plan to do is improve the basement stairs which are original, but built pretty poorly ... they're not supported really well at the top of the stringers and while the rise/run is comfortable now (6 3/4 rise, 10 1/2 run) there's a clearance problem at the bottom of the stairs with the framing making it so anyone 6' or taller (like me) risks hitting their head.

Another issue is that the stairs have a small landing at the bottom, they don't run all the way to the concrete slab.

I realize that code is max 7 3/4" riser, but that won't leave me with a comfortable or code-passing head clearance at the bottom of the stairway if I re-do them, so I kind of have two options I think and I'd like any feedback:

1) Leave stairs as is, just reinforce. There won't be adequate headroom, but if we go to sell it won't be an issue since they're original and don't need to adhere to modern code.

2) Rip out staircase, and build a new staircase with measurements which aren't quite to code, but are close and have rise+run=18". I did the math, accounting for a new subfloor in the basement and engineered hardwood on top of that, and if I build a staircase with 8.7 inch rise and 9.3 inch run I'll have about 7' of head clearance at the bottom of the staircase, additional room between the last tread and wall (good since I'll be finishing that wall and will lose some of that space), and the stairs will go right down to the subfloor rather than to a landing which makes another step down to left and right with poor headroom so I'll be able to run continuous flooring throughout the basement which will help it appear larger.

I'm leaning toward option 2 because I feel like having a rise <1" above code and a 9.3" tread will still be pretty comfortable, although it'll certainly be on the steeper side. The risk I'm concerned about is that they get flagged during an inspection if we go to sell the house in 5 years, but I feel like if they "feel" comfortable and there's adequate headroom (something that isn't there now), it probably won't be an issue. Plus I would just rather build a new staircase using 2x12 stringers (right now the stringers are made with a 2x4 with triangle 2x cutouts nailed/glued on the top ... really not very solid when a big guy like me walks on the staircase).

Anyway - I welcome any thoughts from people who have experience with stairs. I've built deck stairs and stairs to our camp and stuff in the past, but never interior stairs, so while I'm assuming the measurements in option 2 above would be reasonably comfortable I'm particularly interested in hearing if I'm wrong about this ... if you've walked on stairs with a higher rise like the one I've described and they are absolutely uncomfortable or too steep I'd like to know. Thank you!
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Old 10-21-2016, 04:59 PM   #2
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


Build them to modern code or do not touch them.
Adding a picture of what you have now may help with replies.
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Old 10-21-2016, 05:02 PM   #3
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


How about #3? Turn the stairs 90 into the room about 3 from the bottom.

Edit: this is only feasible if the current clearance issue is from a low beam or something.
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Old 10-21-2016, 05:04 PM   #4
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


My old house had the same problem and I was going to cut the stair opening at the first floor to move them back some.
Any possibility of this?
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Old 10-21-2016, 07:54 PM   #5
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


That second option is too steep and the treads are too shallow for my size 11's.

Is the ceiling finished where you bump your head? If not, consider tweaking the joist or rim to achieve more head room. Cut it on an angle to get the head room you need.

My code is 6 ft 8 in. (2 meters).
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Old 10-21-2016, 08:27 PM   #6
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


Thanks all -
@joecaption - That's kind of what my gut told me, I just really hate having to stoop to get in/out.
@123pugsy - I thought of that but the joists are all at that same height so that wouldn't really work in my case. Also - the door to the basement stairs opens from the hall that runs down the length of my ranch, which is already on the narrow side so adding some room @ top wouldn't work.
@jlhaslip - Thanks for that comment. I wear 12.5's so I'd be screwing myself I guess! Not 100% sure what you mean about cutting the joist at an angle - it isn't finished right now, but that framing falls under a finished area upstairs so I was kind of stuck for how to handle it without degrading the framing for the floor above.

I'll try to take a few photos in a bit to show you all what I'm working with to see if you have any other ideas. Thank you
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Old 10-22-2016, 06:04 AM   #7
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Re: Redoing Basement Stairs


I would leave it alone. There is the rule, but also the safety, comfort (for all ages) and resale value. Only way you can gain some room is to see if you can remove some of the floor joist for more headroom. Some old framing put together without too much respect for load, such as my house, make this easy. Replace the joist with 2x4s on flat. I have the same problem and my mind keeps tell me to raise the headroom, but that's a luxury that can wait.
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