Before packing your seasonal or otherwise unused items into boxes and heading to the nearest storage center, take a look around your house. Your home may have additional storage space that you walk past every day but never notice. Areas under the stairs provide terrific opportunities for additional storage space but are often overlooked by people needing some extra room in their house.
Areas under the stairs can also be pulled out and renovated to create coat closets, tool wracks, pantries and other miscellaneous storage areas that can clean up clutter in your home.
Converting a walled-in space under the stairs into a storage cabinet takes some time and effort. You’ll need to remove the drywall covering the empty space, clean it out and clean it up, and then build shelving or drawers.
Check out thes videos from HandymanClub.com for more tutorials:
Cutting out the drywall:
Cut out the drywall flush with the bottom of the stair stringers. Stringers are the structural beams that support the tread or risers (the vertical height of each step), there are typically two stringers. You may need to cut through nails with a reciprocating saw. Remove the 2-by-4 framing members.
Cleaning it out and up:
Use a level tool to draw a vertical “plum line” at the lower edge of the framing. Set the lip of a speed square at the opening of the cut, with one side of the square even along the opening in the drywall and the apex of the square intersecting the plum line. Read the degrees where the plum line intersects the apex and write down the angle.
You will use this reference angle to cut the bevel of framing blocks, these provide backing in the recessed area between the drywall and the stair steps. Line up the framing block to check the fit and make sure that it is accurate. Cut the blocks to length to fill in gaps between studs or between the stair steps, and then nail the blocks in place flush with the bottom of the stairs.
Screw the loose drywall edge to the framing blocks, placing the screws about ten inches apart.
If you will be installing cabinets, you will need to install an additional 2-by-4 framing system to give the cabinets something to attach to. Nail one of the 2-by-4’s to the top inside frame of the opening and the other vertically against the back wall of the stairs. You may use a scrap piece of 2-by-4 as a spacer. Place a nail approximately every sixteen inches.
Mark the width of the recess on a plywood board. Cut out enough of the wood to wrap the opening at the top and both sides. If you’re concerned about the appearance of the plywood, you can use iron-on edge banding to finish the visible edges of the plywood. This will give the appearance of solid lumber for a cheaper price.
Mark the vertical piece of plywood for length against the opening under the stairs, and make a bevel cut. Slide the piece into place, lifting it up tight into the framing if you’ve cut it too short. Nail the board in place with two inch nails. Cut and install the top piece of plywood the same way, carefully fitting the joint between the two boards.
The floor of your opening may not be level, so use your tool to measure it. Rather than building the bottom of the cabinet off square, cut the bottom of the cabinet to fit the floor and provide an even resting place for your storage items.
Rather than using plywood as you did when building the frame of the opening, use solid lumber when constructing your cabinets. Since your cabinets could be holding quite a bit of weight, it’s important to make them from strong wood.
Begin by making a frame for your cabinets. Measure the wood often against the actual opening to get the most accurate cuts possible. The frame should include top, bottom and side planks to literally “frame” the area for the cabinets. You will need several vertical members that stretch the height between the bottom of the frame and the top. The space between these members will depend on the size of the items you wish to store.
One of the benefits of making the cabinets yourself is that you know exactly how much space you will need to fit the types of items you plan on storing there. You may simply install shelving, or you may construct several cubbies to help with organization. You can also build drawers into the cabinets. Decide now whether your cabinets should have doors or should be open, since you will need to leave room for hinges if you’re building doors.