To Build or Not To Build…
There are a few things to figure out before I can begin the process of building stairs. The first thing was if I felt up to the task of not just building stairs, but cutting a few trusses in our basement and constructing the load bearing walls needed to properly support the surrounding structure. Well, this would be a pretty short post if I wasn’t up to the challenge, so lets dig in!
Here are the items I needed to identify before moving on:
- Where exactly will the stairs be located in the basement & is there sufficient room to meet code requirements?
- What all needs to be moved? (plumbing, electrical, etc.)
- Doors at top and bottom of stairwell?
- Lighting, how many & what kind?
Building Stairs: Location Location Location
As you may expect, I started off this project by locating the footprint of the stairwell. We decided the best place for stairs was going to mean stealing part of a front room and have the stairwell entry off the front entryway. With that established, it’s time to see where things are going to be located in the basement.
This wall is eventually getting removed and I needed to get the drill as close to the corner as possible. Kathleen jumped at the opportunity to knock a hole in the wall.
I drilled a series of holes in the floor at three of the corners of the “soon to be” stairwell. Just to be clear, the flooring in this room had not yet been completed, so even if I totally screwed up the location it would have been ok…
In the basement, I used the drilled holes to layout the bottom half of the stairwell. I did this by using a plumb bob to transfer the hole locations to the basement floor. This is when a clear picture of the “prework” was painted. I now knew exactly what systems needed to be relocated during the project.
- Reroute about 5 electrical circuits
- Move two water lines
- Relocate two 5″ flexible HVAC ducts
I was happy to see that I did not have to reroute a gas line or a main HVAC trunk! I started off with getting the electrical circuits moved. With that done, it was time to do a little demo on the original stairwell. Luckily, the portion that needed to be removed was non-loadbearing, which made the process substantially easier and faster!
A Happy Coincidence
The cool thing is that the basement portion of the old stairwell was really close to where the new stairwell was going to end up. The plan is to use this space and the area under the new stairs as storage.
Here are a few photos so you can see what I started off with.
Demo to Kick Things Off!
I removed the last 18″ or so from the original stairwell.
Tools and Materials For Framing Stairwell
By no means would you have to use all of these items, but this is the list of things I used to get the job done!
Miter Saw (review here)
Hammer Drill (review here)
Drill (review here)
Circular Saw (review here)
Reciprocating Saw (review here)
Wood/Metal Freud blade (this blade rocks!)
Chaulk Line ( & plumb bob)
Level (I love my Crick Levels! Review here)
Tool Belt (No need to be fancy)
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Truck full of potential! Some assembly required…
Base Plate & Top Plates
I shifted gears into framing the basement portion of the stairwell so that I’d know exactly how far I needed to move the plumbing and HVAC. This started with laying the base plate and then positioning the top plates. I’ll be using 2x6s to build this wall, which is consistent with the other framing in the basement.
To fasten the base plates to the concrete slab, I used tapcons and construction adhesive.
With that installed, I dropped a plumb bob to transfer the location of the base plate to locate the top plate. With the corners located, I now used a chalk line to mark from corner to corner on the underside of the trusses.
Securing the top plate all by my ownsie was a bit more time consuming, but I used some quick grip clamps to hold one end of my boards in position while adjusting the other end until things were juuusst right. With the board in position, I drove one nail and then double checked the alignment to verify nothing moved. All good? It’s time for some nails into each one of the trusses that cross the top plate.
Since portions of this wall are load bearing, I made my top plate two layers thick. This arrangement essentially turns into a lap joint at the corners.
Here a shot once all the top plates are in.
Studs Goin’ In
You guessed it. It’s time for studs! Not those kinda studs, we’re building a wall here, people. Building a wall in place requires that you cut each stud to fit. Yeah, it takes a bit longer this way but it wasn’t that bad once I got into a rhythm.
Before I even started cutting boards I laid out where the studs should go by marking their locations on the base plate. I spaced these at 16″ on center. Now it’s time to start cutting some boards and finish framing in this stairwell!
To get the proper length for each stud, I rested one end on the edge of the base plate.
Push the stud against the top plate.
And lastly, strike a line where the stud and top plate intersect. This is my cut line. I cut just a touch proud of the line because a snug fit is better than a loose fit. It’s also easier to remove material than add it back, trees take a while to grow…
Here’s the framing job about halfway done.
Just for fun, a shot of the stud walls completed with some of that fancy bokeh photography stuff :).
Check the video below for a look see at how I do this.
Framing The Door Opening
I’m not going to say that this project was perfect… And this is when one of those DUH! moments hit. Lets just say I decided to take the scenic route when I forgot to omit part of the base plate where the door was going to be… No worries though. I just removed the tapcons, cut the base plate with my circular saw and removed the section I didn’t need.
To pinpoint the location of my door, I temporarily hung a stringer and based the location of the door off the end of the stringer.
I put in the king studs first and confirmed they were properly spaced (3″ larger to the inside than my rough opening) before adding the jack studs. With the jack studs in place, I installed the header. In this instance I only had 1/2″ of space to fill above the header so I just used a layer of OSB to fill in the void above the 2x6s. I used 3 2x6s and 2 pieces of OSB to build up the proper thickness for my header. I secured one layer to the next with nails as I stacked the boards into place above the door. Once all of the pieces are in place, I toe-nailed through the jack studs into the header above.
A Little Duct Work…
I’m not going to dedicate a lot of explanation on this portion as it’s pretty self explanatory by the photos. Feel free to ask questions though if it’s not abundantly clear. Basically, I had a duct crossing above the top plate in a no crossing zone… Not cool. So I had to close off an opening on the main truck, enlarge the opening at the end of the trunk, add a Y fitting, and reconnect the two ducts. Simple right?
Reinforcing & Supporting Trusses
You may have guessed, but there’s no way I’m going to get the stairs in without cutting some trusses. Fortunately though I only needed to cut two trusses where I was originally thinking I was going to need to cut three. Since there is a closet and room above a portion of the stairwell I’ll need to support the trusses in that area so the structure above isn’t compromised.
Before I go into too much verbal description, here’s a sketch of what is being done. It’s not print worthy, but hopefully it helps to visualize whats going on here.
I essentially built a header (technically a ledger) that is supported by a column on each side. These columns rest on the top plate and transfer their load to the stud wall I previously built. You’ll notice I used two 2x6s for each ledger, which is overkill. But, I had to notch the ledgers around the existing top chord of the truss in order to install them.
Ok, remember that first “header” I built? Well I built another almost identical and then ran some joists between them to support the small closet above. I went through the trouble of this step to maximize the usable space in the room above while meeting the code requirement for head clearance in the stairwell.
The headers are flush with the underside of the floor above and fastened to the vertical 2×4’s at the end of each truss. In addition, I added 3/4″ plywood on each side of the truss since I’d be eventually cutting the end of these trusses at an angle to allow for more head clearance in the stairwell. I added plywood from the top chord to the bottom chord and about 2′ long (not shown in these photos, I added more later). This essentially ties the top and bottom chords together and prevents the truss from sagging when its structure is changed.
Check out the video of this phase of the project
No really, this thing took forever to edit 🙂
With that done, it’s time to do some work in the room above to frame out the upper portion of the stairwell, do some drywall and painting, along with a little more electrical work.
Check back soon to see the next steps while we’re building stairs to our basement!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading y’all!