If you live in an older house, you may have noticed that the stairs in the basement are very steep.
This is a common problem in older homes. Not only is it inconvenient, it can also be very dangerous.
You are much more likely to trip on steep stairs, which can result in serious injury. Plus, they may be in violation of local building codes, which could get you a hefty fine.
Fixing Steep Basement Stairs: Basic Idea
To fix your basement stairs, you will essentially need to move them out horizontally. To do this without moving the entire staircase, you can simply add pieces onto each step.
Most counties require steps to be no more than 7 inches high. If your steps are higher than this, adding lumber to each tread piece is your only option.
To keep your new staircase from getting too long, you can build a landing with more steps down to the floor.
The basic steps for this are:
- Measure and cut new tread blocks
- Install the cut blocks
- Build a new landing
- Install the final landing steps
Fix or Tear Down?
If you have decided that your steps are too steep, you have an important decision to make. Do you try to fix these stairs or do you tear them down and start over completely?
While it may be easier to tear down the old steps, it can be more expensive.
Cut New Tread Blocks
The first thing you will want to do is measure and cut the new tread blocks.
Measure the lift of your old stairs. If, for example, the lift is 9 inches, adding 2×4 blocks will cut that down to 7 inches.
This will be in compliance with most house building codes.
Install the Tread Blocks
Secure the new tread blocks on top of the old staircase. Measure as you work to make sure each lift is less than 7 inches.
Secure each piece of lumber with long deck screws spaced no more than 3 inches apart.
This will ensure that these blocks don’t move when you step on them. Continue on until you get to the point you need the steps to stop and where you will build the landing.
Build a Landing
After you have reached the point that you want the staircase to end, you will then build a small landing.
This landing will allow you to make a hard right angle and a few more steps down the ground. Use the landing to cover up the remaining original staircase.
You will have to install a railing on this landing just like you have for the staircase. This is to ensure that it stays in compliance with building codes.
Install New Landing Steps
From the landing to the floor, you can install new steps at a right angle. This will allow the staircase to stop where you want it and keep the steps shallow.
Make sure that these new steps are no more than 7 inches high. They will be subject to the same regulations as the original steps are.
- How steep is too steep for stairs?
Any stairs with a lift of more than 7 inches are out of building code compliance.
Many old houses have a larger lift than this. If your stairs feel steep, measure them to make sure they do not need to be renovated.
- Why are stairs so steep in old houses?
Stairs are steep in old houses because building codes used to be more lax.
They were also designed for people who were smaller. This means there didn’t have to be as much headroom and they could save horizontal space.
- How do you make old stairs safer?
If your old stairs feel unsafe, you can add more ways to grip.
Install a second handrail to have one on each side. You can also install grip tape on the treads for better stability.
To avoid a costly fine on your steep stairs, renovation is your best bet. This job can take some time but it will be worth it.
It is incredibly important that you feel comfortable on your stairs and this project should do that for you.