How to Finish Unfinished Basement Stairs

Maybe you just bought a new home or didn’t have the time to finish your basement stairs; whatever the case, the state your stairs are in is no longer acceptable to you.

Don’t worry. It’s common among homeowners to leave this step to be finished later. However, putting it off ’til later can make its design and execution seem like an afterthought. Just because it’s in your basement doesn’t mean no one will ever see it. Read on below if you are in the mood to revamp your basement, starting with its stairs!

Unfinished Basement in Toronto

How to Finish Unfinished Basement Stairs

Don’t be intimidated by the thought of revamping your stairs. It isn’t difficult to finish them because their fundamental structures have already been laid out. Right now, your stairs might look dingey with worn-out treading and exposed threads.

There isn’t too much you need to put into a basic finish. You can DIY this part at least and get into more intricate design and functions later. Here are steps you can follow to finish unfinished basement stairs.

To finish an unfinished basement staircase, conduct a proper examination to determine what else needs fixing before laying down its finish. Remember to examine each of its three main components.

Stringer Tread Riser
The entire side part of the staircase.
The surfaces we step on the staircase.
The connection between the tread and the base of the staircase.
Ex: Closed stringers
Ex: Wooden treads
Ex: Riser
Three types of stingers: housed (closed), sawtooth (open), mono
Six types of treads: wood, composite, glass, stone, tiles, steal
Two types of riser: base to top rise, tread riser

After an initial inspection, you can gather the appropriate tools you need and proceed with the following steps.

Step 1: Stringers – Fit & Trim

Take a piece of trim that measures the same length as the stringer: between the top and bottom of the staircase. Choose the same color as your walls that measure at least an inch for a basic trim.

Nail your trim to the wall with a distance of six inches between each nail. Cover the trim’s edges and nail holes with the same colored spackle. Here, you can layer spackle on any other imperfections anywhere on your stairs.

Don’t worry about perfecting your spackle around stringers or anywhere else. You will be sanding them down.

Step 2: Tread – Sandy Smooth

After your spackle has dried, take an electric sanding device, preferably a rotary sander, and smooth things out. Take your rotary sander and smooth out the surface of your stairs. Don’t just go over the spackle, but all around your staircase’s surface. You shouldn’t skip this step because this allows for a smoother finish. It also helps get rid of imperfections and loose fibers.

Use a flat chisel or any wide-tip scraping tool to carve off any dried adhesive from initial construction and spackling. Scrape off other materials protruding from the tread, riser, and trim.

finished basement stairs in toronto

Step 3: Riser – Cut It Out

Typically, an unfinished staircase will have treads that exceed the riser. You can opt to sand these down, but you should cut out the excess to level your tread with its risers below. You need to match the measurement of your tread to its risers if you are integrating a bullnose.

Measure how much of your tread needs to be taken out with measuring tape and mark your measurements with a marker to be precise. Take a circular saw to cut along the lines indicated by your marker. Remember to be precise with your measurements.

Step 4: Prime Time

Go back in with your rotary saw or use sandpaper to complete surface preparation. Sand through your incisions, surfaces, and other spots you may have spackled. If you are painting over your stairs, you must sand down any lumps, or they will show through the paint.

Ensure it is all smoothened out and adequately leveled. Use a primer to spray through cracks and crevices, especially near the trim. Without primer, the paint might be absorbed into the holes and create an eyesore.

The worst-case scenario of forgoing primer is the paint that leaks into the cracks, builds up moisture, and invites mold into your stairs’ bottom.

Step 5: Seal The Deal

You can choose between using paint or stain. The key difference between the two is that stain is absorbed into the material, whereas paint sits on top. The fibers of your materials absorb stains without being covered entirely. You can do away with one coat or go in with multiple layers for more vivid colors.

If your raw materials don’t have any characteristics you want to highlight, you can use paint instead. The great thing about paint is you can paint over various materials, including older paints. Stain cannot go through paint and is only suitable for wood.

Generally, we use stain on wooden treads and paint over trimming, rising, and stringers. You can stain your tread with dark mahogany colors and paint other components white to provide a contrast. This provides your stairs with more depth instead of a simpler look. Seal colors using a stain with a polyurethane sealant and use a polyacrylic one for paint.

Flawless Finish

Your stairs should be fully revamped after smoothening them out, coloring them, and sealing them. Remember finishing your stairs doesn’t have to be an entire production.

Of course, you can opt for more integrations into its designs, but a basic finish can give your stairs a whole new look. You can also add innovative functions like pin lights and sensors. It’s all up to you, but for a basic finish, you are all done!