Basement Stair Makeover

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Today I am sharing a budget basement stair makeover and how to update an old set of stairs by carving out a portion of the wall and installing stair balusters to open up the staircase.

The ranch home we recently renovated got a huge staircase makeover! Many homeowners find themselves inheriting previous owners worn-out basement stairs, complete with shabby old carpet and noisy wooden steps.

This is very common when you buy an older home. I am going to show you the easiest way to transform a basement stairway of an old home into something new and modern while sticking to a budget.

I love the basement stair makeover at the ranch flip house

What Is The Cheapest Way To Renovate Stairs?

Let’s face it, budget is often the biggest constraint when updating an part of a home. 

When we first started thinking about ideas for our basement staircase makeover, we quickly decided against removing a larger portion of the stairway wall simply because of budget.

As you can see below, the original 1950 basement stairs were old, dated and in need of some serious modernization.

1950 basement stair makeover before and after
before the basement stair makeover, the staircase was dark, dated and ugly!

We opted for strategic upgrades that delivered a big impact without breaking the bank. 

The cheapest options when improving an old staircase is to work with the risers and stair treads that are existing. 

If you have the budget to replace the stair risers and treads, those will make a huge improvement but if not, painting the existing stair treads and adding a carpet runner is an inexpensive option. 

New Stair Treads

The first thing we did was assess the existing staircase. Overall the structure was find but the existing stair treads and risers were both in tough shape so Jim replaced both.

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

We opted to install new treads in oak, giving the stairs a fresh modern look. We bought premade unfinished red oak treads with the stair nosing already one piece.

Often times in narrow stairways like this one, the bottom step ends with no transition and this is where a larger landing can make a big difference.

​The old stairs did not have a newel post at the bottom but if it did, we would have addressed that as well.

basement stair makeover

If you don’t have the budget to replace the old treads, an easy way to update is sanding and repainting them with floor paint. Paint is the best option if you are on a tight budget! A carpet runner is also a great way to dress up older stairs once painted.

The overall goal was to tie in the basement steps with the rest of the house so we opted to stain the stair treads a similar color to the basement floor as well as the hardwood floors throughout the house.

This instantly created a cohesive flow, making the new stairs and landing leading to the finished basement feel like a true extension of the main living space. 

For another example of tying in your basement stairs with the rest of your home, visit this post, why we opened up our basement staircase in our own home. 

New Stair Risers

After the new oak stair treads and risers were installed, the next step was to paint the stair risers white which created a nice contrast. 

Here are the stair treads and risers before we removed and replaced with new ones.

basement stair makeover with white paint
basement stair makeover with white paint

We used the same white trim paint on the interior doors, baseboards and trim moldings throughout the home which helped create a seamless look. 

A word of caution, I will say that painted white risers are not always the best if you want less maintenance. 

Here are the basement stairs below featuring the new oak stair treads and risers.

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover with white painted walls and black stair balusters

Pretty dramatic transformation right?

Helpful Tip: It’s a good idea to save any leftover paint for quick touch ups 

Shoes, especially the black sole boots, will leave scuff marks over time on the white risers which means you will have a little extra cleaning or touch ups to deal with. 

For me, I love white risers so I’m ok with that! 


Paint is the best way to transform any space and one of the most budget friendly home improvement projects. 

Below, you will notice we decided to paint the existing wood paneling which required 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint (we used Sherwin Williams Greek Villa).

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

If you are replacing your stair treads and risers, I would suggest sanding and painting the walls first to minimize any damage to the new stair treads. This isn’t always feasible when dealing with different subcontractors as sometimes you just have to accept the work when they show up but if you have the option, paint the walls first! 

The transformation was nothing short of amazing! These old basement stairs were completely changed by replacing the stair treads, risers, paint and cutting out a hole in the middle of the wall to open up the stairway.

basement stair makeover before and after
basement stair makeover before and after

The existing walls were a combination of a wood paneling and sheetrock which required a lot of work sanding and filling in the gaps with caulking. 

We kept the existing iron handrail and spray painted it with 2 coats of Rustoleum satin finish

Remove Partial Stairway Wall

Finding a way to create an open staircase, even if you are on a strict budget will make a huge difference.

The first step is to ensure that you do not have any electrical outlets on the wall that you want to remove. Thankfully, we didn’t but don’t worry if you do! Simply hire an electrician to remove and relocate and you will be good to go!

basement stair makeover
a basement stair makeover with an open stair wall

Cutting out a portion of the basement stairway wall was what really transformed this otherwise, narrow dark stairway. 

basement stair makeover by removing a portion of the wall to install black balusters
basement stair makeover by removing the center portion of the wall and installing black balusters

We wanted an open feel but removing the entire stairway wall was out of the question so removing a tiny portion was the next best thing!

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

This simple tweak of carving out a triangular shape in the wall, allowed natural light from the finished basement to flow into the staircase, instantly making it feel more spacious and inviting. 

Here is the final view of the basement stair makeover from the end of the hallway. Doesn’t it look spectacular?

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover before and after

Older homes like this one, will often have a staircase in the living room or hallway leading to the basement and opening up the interior stair wall will give your basement stairs a whole new look. 

Black Stair Balusters

Once we had the small opening in the wall, Jim installed simple modern black stair balusters for a fresh new look. 

black balusters split level entry remodel

Stair Balusters

See Balusters Here ↗

This is a DIY-friendly option that with a little bit of skill, you can install new stair balusters in no time. 

Visit this post, DIY basement stair remodel with $2 balusters to see another example of how removing a stair wall can have a huge impact.

Increase Lighting

The existing staircase didn’t have hardly any lighting which needed to be addressed.

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

Strategic recessed lighting or a new modern light fixtures will do wonders for a basement stairs. 

Good lighting is crucial for any staircase not only for safety and but aesthetics!

Basement Stairs Makeover Before and After

Here is a picture of the basement stairs before we remodeled.

1950s basement stair makeover before
basement stair makeover before we removed a portion of the wall and bottom step

I had to take a screen shot of my video because I have no idea where my before picture went but you will get the idea, the white paint and carving out a small portion of the wall really helped modernize this staircase.

Stepping into the transformed basement now feels like stepping into a whole new world!

basement stair makeover before and after with white paint
basement stair makeover

You will notice above in the before image, Jim removed the awkward step that was at the bottom of the stairs which now leads into a laundry room.

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

DIY Staircase Makeover Tips:

  • Paint the basement walls the same color as the risers: This creates a seamless flow and makes the space feel larger.
  • Consider black iron balusters: They add a modern touch and can be surprisingly affordable.
  • Modern stair runners that are designer friendly and not your typical “wall to wall carpet” runner will make a big impact.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of natural light: Even a small opening can make a big difference.

Even opening up the lower portion of the basement stair wall helped! As you can see below, the small opening at the bottom of the stairs not only provides visual interest but allows the light to flow into the stairway from the lower level.

basement stair makeover
basement stair makeover

This project is perfect for beginners with basic DIY skills and a little creativity! Do you have a set of basement stairs that are in need of a makeover? Tell us in the comments below, we would love to hear what your dream stairs would look like!

More Stair Ideas

Get caught up on the rest of our ranch home remodel by visiting the links below.

More Ranch House Renovation Series Posts

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Meet Jessica

What started as a hobby, Jessica’s blog now has millions of people visit yearly and while many of the projects and posts look and sound perfect, life hasn’t always been easy. Read Jessica’s story and how overcoming death, divorce and dementia was one of her biggest life lessons to date.

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