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Tight on space? If your home has a staircase, you might be overlooking some square footage that's right under your nose -- or more accurately, right under your steps! The area beneath your stairs is a common household dead zone, but it's actually the perfect place to stash your stuff. Here are three brilliant DIY building projects that let you convert this neglected nook into a smart storage solution.

Project 1: Under-Stairs Shelving Unit.
Who knew that in one day, I could have a full set of strategically placed shelves for storing everything from books to bedding? Check out these printable plans and easy-to-follow tutorial from DIY Advice. They're particularly helpful if you're a visual learner like me. The printable shopping list -- plus the tons of awesome photos -- make this project totally doable. It's also a budget-friendly: affordable particleboard will be your only major investment, provided you already own -- or can borrow -- the required tools (listed below).

Time investment: About 8 hours depending on your skill level.

Skill level: Beginner and up, if the under-stairs space is already exposed. Intermediate and up if you first have to cut open the wall.

Cost: $50-$100. The exact cost depends on how many cubby units you build and how much finishing of the wall and trim is required.

Supplies: 3/4 inch-thick particleboard (quantity required will vary depending on your space); #6 x 1 1/2 in. particleboard screws; and wood glue. You may also need framing supplies to finish up the job. These should match the rest of your existing wallboard and trim.

Tools: Tape measure and/or carpenter's ruler; pencil; set square (framing square) and/or level; circular saw with a straightedge jig; 2 saw horses; electric drill with screwdriver bits; and a bench vise or long clamps. A table saw is useful but not essential.

Directions:
1. Measure and determine which size storage cubbies will fit your space. Just use DIY Advice's supplies printable as your guide, replacing the suggested measurements with your own as needed.

2. Go shopping for particleboard. If you don't own a circular saw, ask the hardware store guys very nicely if they would cut the pieces for you. If cutting the pieces yourself, it's good to have a buddy to help you out. Label the pieces as you cut.

3. Begin joining pieces together to form cubbies, clamping one side of the unit to your work table for stability. Glue entire edges, then drill in screws at uniform intervals (about every 6 to 8 inches) as you go. Pre-drilling of holes is unnecessary if you use particleboard screws. If using regular screws, simply pre-drill all holes using a 1/16 diameter drill bit.

4. Assemble pieces as follows: long sides, tops/bottoms, inner shelves, then backing board.

Tip: At each step of the way, it's critical to use your set square and/or level to make sure everything is evenly aligned.

Project 2: Under-Stairs Storage Bin.
This Popular Mechanics how-to is short and sweet, and I love the idea of installing large roll-out storage bins under a stairway. Think of the possibilities for storing bulky items like sports equipment or spare bedding!

Time investment: About 8 hours depending on your skill level.

Skill level: Intermediate and up.

Cost: $150-$200.

Supplies: 1 pair heavy duty drawer slides; 2 large plastic storage or recycling bins; 1/2 or 3/4 in. birch plywood; white pre-primed wainscoting front panel; #6 x 1 1/2 in. wood screws; wood glue; 1 or 2 screw-on drawer pulls. Finally, you will probably need wood that matches your existing wall and trim for framing up the finished project.

Tools: Tape measure and/or carpenter's ruler; pencil; set square (framing square) and/or level; circular saw with a straightedge jig; 2 saw horses; electric drill; manual screwdriver; and a bench vise or long clamps.

Directions:
1. Measure your available space and determine what size bin your space will accommodate. Buy the plastic interior bins first, before settling on an exact measurement for the exterior rolling bin!

2. Buy birch panels and wainscoting. Again, beginners might want to have the pieces cut to size at the store.

3. Assemble the pieces as described in project 1 for under-stair shelving units. This time, though, you will definitely need to pre-drill all holes first. Finish up by attaching the white wainscoting panel to the front of the drawer and screwing on the drawer pull/s.

4. Install the drawer glides. Ron Hazelton's post on making a pull-out kitchen trash drawer shows how this part is done.

Tip: All wood, screws etc. are best purchased at your local hardware store, but you may want to shop around locally or online for deals on the drawer slides and plastic bins.

Project 3: Under-Stairs Alcove.
Now we jump over to DIY Network to discover how to install an under-stairs alcove for household storage, for hanging coats and bags, or simply for seating. Added bonus: this how-to explains how to remove wallboard and non-load-bearing studs – your first priority if your under-stair area is fully enclosed.

Time investment: 8-16 hours depending on your skill level.

Skill level: Intermediate and up.

Cost: About $250.

Supplies: Plywood, beaded board panels; 2x4 boards (for seating area); large and small wood screws; drywall patching compound and drywall tape. As above, you will need framing supplies to finish up the job. These should match the rest of your existing wallboard and trim.

Tools: Tape measure and/or carpenter's ruler; pencil; putty knife; sandpaper; utility knife; hammer and nails; stud finder; set square (framing square) and/or level; reciprocating saw (for cutting wallboard); circular saw with a straightedge jig; 2 saw horses; electric drill, manual screwdriver; and a bench vise or long clamps.

Directions:
1. Measure the available space and sketch out a design for your alcove. Make sure there are no load-bearing studs, wires or pipes in the way.

2. Cut away drywall and non-load-bearing studs with the reciprocating saw. Double-check the available space against your
measurements, then go shopping for supplies.

3. Create a seating area with sturdy 2x4 boards, anchoring pieces to the floor and to exposed studs.

4. Frame up the alcove's interior with plywood, then finish with bead board panels.

5. Finish off all edges by replacing trim and repairing damaged drywall.

For an easy way to utilize your basement stairs for storage, check out this video:




  • Edward Thirlwall

    Thank you for this wonderful article! I have to admit I myself have been shelving away plans, forgive the pun, for the construction of useable space under the staircase. I like the alcove particularly as it frees up more possibilities for the storage of different size items. I’m thinking of keeping it door-less which opens up the storage space a lot more and in it, I will place a small drawer for small items like my first aid kit and other useful household items, and the rest of the space the ladder, the brooms, and the vacuum cleaner go. I have a few friends who are pretty good at DIY projects and I hope I can get them down for a weekend not for this construction project and a barbecue!

    Reply
  • edward.thirlwall

    I have to admit I myself have been shelving away plans, forgive the pun, for the construction of useable space under the staircase. I like the alcove particularly as it frees up more possibilities for the storage of different size items. I’m thinking of keeping it door-less which opens up the storage space a lot more and in it, I will place a small drawer for small items like my first aid kit and other useful household items, and the rest of the space the ladder, the brooms, and the vacuum cleaner go. I have a few friends who are pretty good at DIY projects and I hope I can get them down for a weekend not for this construction project and a barbecue!

    Reply
  • 2 Comments / 1 Pages

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