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Check out our stairwell reno – $150 and we got rid of the ugly basement stairs.
Our house was built in 1999. A family of 8 lived here, 6 of whom were under 5 feet tall. Even though the house isn’t THAT old, a lot of wear and tear took place before we came along. That’s just to be expected in older homes.
As you can imagine a lot of damage was under the 4 foot high mark on the drywall. We’ve been here 12 years already and have made lots of cosmetic changes (and some repairs, of course) over that time.
In the early years, I literally spent days doing home reno with a tub of spackle and a putty knife in my hand. Most of it on my knees, filling holes from toy cars being smashed into the walls.
This stairwell reno is one of the very first projects we tackled that Fall. This had to be the ugliest stairwell to a basement than I had ever seen.
(There’s a much better “After” photo at the end of this post.)
What do you think? Pretty ugly, am I right? To make it even worse, when someone came into our house and looked to the right, this open staircase to basement is what they saw!
We had to change it and fast. Painting staircases is a huge pain in the you know what…it’s so high and so hard to reach every little angle. It can be difficult to paint around the banister and handrail.
We were pretty determined that we were doing this stairwell in house project once…and we’d do it right, so we would never have to touch it again. We totally fixed this area up by doing this DIY stairwell reno.
Our Basement Stairwell Reno
Stairwell Reno Prep
I moved a bunch of stuff, swept and then vacuumed the stairs. We got rid of the hand rail and will replace that with a better one.
Graham set up a ladder in the stairwell with boards with bracing. We could walk on it and not be worried at all about falling. Out came the bucket of Spackle and the putty knife. We spent hours filling holes.
Then we started sanding. We sanded and filled, sanded and filled again. Filling drywall needs to be done properly or you will always see where you have patched and filled.
We covered the top and bottom exits with plastic drop sheets to keep as much of the drywall dust in as we could. A messy, messy job.
We dragged the shop vac to the house and used that for the cleanup. Drywall dust is not something you want to ruin your vacuum cleaner over!
Painting a Basement Stairwell
Once the dust settled and we had wiped down the walls, we started painting. I managed to talk Graham into doing the upper trim part because I was still too nervous to get up on the ladder.
With an extension pole on a paint roller, I put three really good coats of paint on the walls. I’m NOT doing this stairwell again! We’re aiming for durability and longevity.
With the top part of the wall taken care of, we dismantled the risers. The lower half was much easier and quicker to get painted. The hardest part of this project was already done!
For the stairs, I painted them. They are just unfinished stair treads and we didn’t know how we wanted to cover them. So I just painted them for now.
That’s all I did, cleaned them and painted them white. Every couple of years when Graham’s away, I repaint them. Easier to do with just one person in the house to avoid stepping on a fresh coat of paint.
Great Tip for Painting Stairs
Here’s a great tip to use when it comes to painting stairs. You may think you won’t have to go downstairs for a few days, but you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, right?
Here’s a good hack to use for painting stairs:
I usually do every second stair, so I can still get down there if I need something. The next day, I do the other ones.
This way, if I simply have to use the stairs and can’t wait a day for the paint to fully dry, I can still get down there!
Stairwell Reno – The Woodwork for our Stair Landing
The landing is where Graham put in some extra time and it really shows. It’s very clean looking, and fits the country style we are looking for with the simple tile floor.
He trimmed it out in knotty pine panelling, which wasn’t expensive at all. He’s basically a local pro! And he didn’t need much – just enough for the two small walls, so it was fairly easy to install on the side of the stairs.
Instead of the paneling, you could use bead board or even lined wallpaper.
Basement Ledge Ideas
To cover that ugly ledge, Graham added a ledge from pine beetle killed wood that he cut and milled from a tree on our property. You can see the blue running through the wood – that is the effect of having the beetle in that tree.
Here’s a few dead standing pine trees killed by the beetle. It’s the best firewood because it is completely dry when you take it down.
You can split some and throw it straight in the wood stove, no aging required!
Finishing our Stairwell Reno
And here’s the finished basement stairs. After a long day of work it’s so much nicer than before, and I love the clean minimalist look! This project cost less than $150 and has made a huge difference when you first come in the door. So much better!
I added a wrought iron trellis – I wanted something with a lot of height and it was the easiest thing I could think of!
Decorations for stair landings
I dressed up the basement ledge (which looks so much better now!) by adding the the trellis and then some pretty Fall décor. Some tall grasses sit in a pretty galvanized bucket. A couple of old farmhouse canisters and a country bell bring it all together.
Now, I just change out the stair landing decor depending on the season. That’s it for stairwell decorating, we decided to keep the other walls bare.
This adds a nice homey touch to the new stairwell. Much better than the dingy path to the basement that was there before!
Other Home Renovation Articles
If you like our basement stairs idea, read some of our other reno posts:
- Here’s how we changed old ugly lime green counters to look like Granite for under $150 – How to Paint your Counters to look like Granite.
- Stuck in the ’70’s with ugly wood paneling in your home? Here’s how to Paint Grooved Wood Paneling to completely change the look of your home.
- How we added a ton of closet space by Building a Closet in the Loft – with sloped walls.
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Originally published 2017; updated June, 2022