The Basement Renovation: The Stairway Transition

The Basement Renovation: The Stairway Transition

One of the questions I faced when renovating the basement was, where does the basement end and the upstairs begin?

The stairs to the basement are parallel to the outside wall. This wall, like the rest of the basement, was finished with paneling. When I removed the paneling, I discovered that the builder had experimented with some sort of parging (?) on the foundation block. All sorts of wood scrap was nailed to the wall to serve as strapping.

Removing the strapping wasn’t difficult, but the surface underneath was uneven. Whatever the parging material was, it would be difficult to remove so that was not an option. Somehow, I would have to make the transition from the entrance, which was strapped with 2×2′s like the rest of the main floor, to the 2×4 framing of the basement.

Insulating an uneven wall

Insulated wall
New strapping and insulation on the stair wall.

Ideally, this wall should have been insulated to a minimum of R-12, like the rest of the basement. However, I could not afford to lose 3 inches from the width of the stairs. Any amount of insulation would be better than what had been there previously, so I did the best I could within the constraints of the space. I used a combination of 1×2 and 2×2 strapping to create as even a wall as possible. The wall is insulated with a combination of half inch thick foam board insulation and fiberglass insulation. The average R value of this wall is probably less than 5, but this isn’t as bad as it sounds, considering that there is no insulation at all in the main floor walls.

The milk chute

The house was built back in the day when fresh milk was delivered right to the house, and so, like other houses of that era, it had a milk chute next to the side door.  The chute had since been sealed up with brick and stucco on the outside while inside the old door remained.  It had been painted at one time and although someone sanded and refinished it, its appearance left a lot to be desired. As part of the stairway wall, it was an element in the transition from the main floor to the basement. I removed the door and casing.  When the strapping on the wall was removed, some of the plaster crumbled.  I carefully chiseled the damaged material away to the point where the wall was still solid. Moisture proofing paint was applied to the newly exposed block, and this area was strapped, and insulated with the rest of the wall.  The new wall sat proud of the door casing and the old plaster wall.  I used a variety of wood trim to conceal and protect its edges.

The wood ledge basically marks the point where the main floor ends and the basement begins.  The maple stain on the wood trim is the same stain I used for the closet trim, which closely matches the wood trim throughout the main floor.

The “dummy” stringer

The new wall was also sat proud of the existing stair stringer. To solve this aesthetic problem I made a dummy stairs stringer using a wide pine board.

The carpeting helps hide the imperfect cuts on the stringer, and the maple stain not only looks nice against the light green wall color, it also carries the design flow from the main floor through to the basement.  Of course, I could have just had the stringer covered with carpet.  That would have looked good as well, but it was not something I had considered at the time, and not covering it did save me a little bit on cost of installing the carpet.  Even though about an inch of its width was lost to the new wall, the stairway is still wide enough to move furniture and appliances.


The Basement Renovation

Basement Floor Plan
Hiding Stuff
Accommodating a Window

The Stairway Transition

The Laundry Room
The Pantry
A Diary of the “Home Stretch”
The Finished Product