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Basement Staircase Design

Though we spend time and effort planning the layout and look of our home, basement stairs are often overlooked in the design process. Most basement stairways are dark, enclosed hallways devoid of interest and decoration! The simple action of removing the door and opening the enclosed stairway can produce a light, airy feel and create a number of design options. The staircase design you choose will be affected by local building codes, available space and the style of your home.

The steps of your basement stairway can be made in a variety of styles.

  • Open stringer steps are breathable, efficient and cost effective. They help preserve lower level views and create a feeling of openness. 
  • U-shaped stairs add interest but require more floor space than a straight run of steps. They’re a good choice when a straight run would be too steep.
  • Spiral stairs minimize the footprint of your design allowing you to save space for other uses. They add elegance and a contemporary look to your basement. Remember that navigating a spiral stairs is more difficult, two people cannot navigate side by side and moving large or heavy items on these stairs is laborious.  
  • Floating steps hover as though bobbing on the surface of a lake giving your basement a sophisticated look. They’re created by attaching treads to a wall or staircase stringer on one side leaving the other side unsupported. Remember that they are unsafe for small children and people with poor vision or coordination and stabilizing a floating stairs can involve extra expense. 
  • Platform stairs offer less height (rise) per step and are much deeper than standard stairs. Besides being visually interesting, this style allows young children to balance before taking the next step and makes room for the use of a walker making the steps friendly to the aged or visually impaired. 
  • Stairs with a landing break up a long run of steps making it easier and safer to traverse. Consider using a landing to change the direction of the stairs providing visual impact and using less space. 

The floor of your staircase sets the look of your stairway. There are various style options depending on your budget, the level of maintenance you desire and your décor preferences. 

  • Carpeting gives the stairway warmth and coziness, reduces noise, and acts as a safety feature in case of a fall. Full carpeting covers every inch of your stairway and is handy if your present flooring is not appealing or your stairs have a bit of wear. However, it’s harder and more expensive to install. Carpet runners leave the edges of the stairs visible, adding warmth without completely hiding the flooring. Cheaper and easier to install, runners make a good D-I-Y project. Opt for a patterned runner that blends with your décor but still draws the eye towards the staircase and adds detail and texture to a neutral space. 
  • Hardwood adds beauty and elegance to a staircase though it comes with a higher price tag.
  • Ceramic tile adds a bold and colourful look to a basement stairs. Opt for a non-slip variety.
  • Paint lets you to cover your stairway without the cost of tile, hardwood or carpet. With a little creativity, it allows you to transform a plain stairs into anything you want. Go full out artsy and create a nature scene!

Railings, posts and balusters are the most important elements of a stairway, next to the flooring. Though their primary role is functional (providing an easy and safe way to traverse the stairs), they effect the decor of the staircase. Mixing and matching components can produce a wide variety of styles. Try glass with steel rails, nautical rope railings, wood spindles (square or tapered), stained glass inserts, metal spindles with a twist or two, or smooth aluminum railings. Run your balusters parallel to the railing for a minimalist look or leave out the bottom rail to avoid blocking light. Try thick distinctive posts or add an interesting cap to the newel post.

Lighting has both functional and aesthetic roles in a basement stairway. Poor illumination is a safety hazard, especially for children and the elderly. Consider at least two fixtures to ensure the stairs is well lit. Flood the entire staircase with light by installing a fixture on the wall of the stairway landing. Try staggered recessed lighting along the wall or a recessed, continuous LED strip that illuminates each stair. Underside lighting is eye-catching and a great way to illuminate without casting harsh light into people’s eyes. Try a series of pendant lights. A couple of can lights ensures that the light beam points downward, even on a sloped ceiling. Two well situated closed wall sconces would supply enough light.

Bring your boring basement stairway to life! Whether you choose a grand staircase, a warm traditional style or an industrial look, make your stairway an important part of the look and feel of your home. Use flooring, railings, lighting and colour to create a style you enjoy. 

When you are ready to build a stunning basement stairway, call the Calgary basement experts, Econo Basements at (403) 768-0256 or email at

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