How to Remove Walls to Open a Basement Staircase

The basement staircase sometimes has two walls all the way down the staircase.
One way to open up a basement staircase is to remove one of the walls. This allows you to see into the basement as soon as you step on the stairs. Usually the staircase is against the side of an exterior wall on one side with a non-load-bearing wall on the opposite side. Before tearing out the wall, though, it is a good idea to have a building inspector check to ensure the wall you are removing is not a load-bearing one.

Step 1

Cut off power to the wall you want to remove. The circuit breaker might disconnect power to the entire room; if so, hook up temporary lighting with extension cords from an upper room before turning off the circuit breaker.

Step 2

Lay drop cloths on the floor next to the wall you are removing. Remove the cover plates from any outlets or light switches with a flat head screwdriver. The junction boxes for outlets and switches attach to the wall studs.

Step 3

Pry the baseboard away from the wall with a small pry bar and hammer. Once you remove the baseboard, it might be possible to see where the wall studs are located. If not, run a stud finder across the wall and mark the stud locations on the wall with a pencil.

Step 4

Score through the drywall with a utility knife at the center of each stud. Score lines across the wall and intersect the stud scores every 4 feet up the entire height of the wall. These score lines will help make less of a mess when removing the drywall.

Step 5

Punch a hole through the drywall in between the studs at one of the horizontal scored marks with the hammer. Once you have a large enough hole to put your hand through, begin pulling the drywall away from the studs by hand.

Step 6

Remove as much drywall as possible and avoid pulling on any electrical lines. Remove drywall screws from the studs with a cordless screwdriver or drill with a Phillips head bit. It might be necessary to pull the screws out with the hammer or pry bar. This helps remove the remaining pieces of drywall that attach to the studs directly.

Step 7

Check the area under the stairs for any electrical lines and duct work. Electrical lines should be moved by a qualified electrician. Consider installing a half-wall to cover the side of the staircase if there is duct work present as it is difficult and expensive to move duct work. Before cutting through any studs, determine which ones you want to remove and which ones will stay. Sometimes a small wall at the first few steps is desirable.

Step 8

Cut the top of the studs even with the ceiling with a reciprocating saw. Ask a helper to hold the cut stud while you cut it where it meets the sill plate on the floor. Do not cut any studs that attach to the bottom of the staircase stringers.

Step 9

Pry the sill plate off the floor with a crowbar and hammer. The sill is the 2-by-4 inch board that attaches to the floor.

Things You Will Need

  • Extension cords and temporary lighting (Optional)
  • Drop cloths
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Small pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Stud finder
  • Reciprocating saw
  • Crowbar
  • Cordless screwdriver or drill with a Phillips head bit

Warnings

  • Always contact a building inspector or contractor to determine if a wall is load-bearing before attempting to remove it. Contact an electrician to remove or reroute any electrical wires.
  • Wear gloves and eye protection, when removing the wall, to protect your hands and eyes.

About the Author

Kenneth Crawford is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience. His work has appeared in both print and online publications, including "The American Chronicle." Crawford holds an associate degree in business administration from Commonwealth College.