If you’ve decided to take the plunge and move a set of stairs in your house, you might have a little anxiety about the scope of the project. There’s no sugar coating it – moving the stairs in your home is never a small job and can be a big (and expensive) one depending on where in the home you are moving the staircase.
Moving an interior set of stairs can be done, and it can dramatically alter the landscape of your house. While each circumstance is different, stairs typically don’t bear any structural load for your house. That means you can take them out without risking your roof falling on you.
On the other hand, your desired location for your staircase may be in an area that bears a load for your home. In that case, you’ll need a structural engineer and an architect to draw up plans and get them certified. If you want to move your stairs over a foot or two or knock down a wall to open up one side of your stairs, then you’ll have fewer obstacles in getting the job done.
But before you do any actual work, you should read below first. We’ll go over all the pros and cons of moving your stairs, plus common problems you might encounter, tips for ways to move your stairs, and ideas for relocating your stairs in your existing home.
Can You Move a Staircase in Your House?
Yes, you can move the stairs in your house. Without knowing the layout of a house, it is impossible to indicate how complex a job moving a staircase might be for a home. On the other hand, there are instances when moving stairs can be relatively straightforward and other times when it might be difficult – and costly.
The first issue is if you can do it yourself. Sure, you can move stairs yourself, but you need to have a really good understanding of your house floor plan and structure. If you are moving stairs around or between structural members, you can probably move stairs yourself. But if you have to move or knock down load-bearing members, you’ll need a contractor and structural engineer.
But the real question is: why would you need to move your stairs in the first place? Open-concept floor plans have come into style in the last decade or so, but some homes with closed stairs – walls on both sides – can prevent a home from looking “open”, especially if they are in the center of your home.
Moving stairs to, say, an end wall and away from the center of your home can open up your home tremendously and change the entire look and feel of a home. Moving stairs could also give you more space, more line of sight, and brighten your home.
Do You Need Planning Permission to Move Stairs?
Absolutely you’ll need a building permit – in fact, this is why the process of building permits exists, so homeowners don’t go moving around stairs without knowing what they’re doing. Moving stairs without doing your due diligence is highly dangerous.
If you are moving stairs, then you’ll need a permit. Regardless of where you are in North America, changing your stairs means altering structural elements of your home – floor joists, mainly – and anytime you change the framing of your home, you need a permit.
There isn’t an instance when you wouldn’t need a building permit that involves changing the location of a staircase. Why? When you move stairs, the location occupied by the original staircase will then become a gaping hole. You’ll have to frame that in, which requires adding structural members to the open space, such as sistering floor joists.
You’ll also need an inspector to approve your new set of stairs to ensure they abide by the appropriate staircase code. Erecting a set of stairs requires a permit by itself, so moving a set of stairs, demolishing an old set, and erecting a new one will require permits.
How Much Does it Cost to Move Stairs?
The cost to move a set of stairs depends on how much demolition you will have to do in terms of walls and saving your old set of stairs to use as your new set. If you are keeping your old stairs and just moving them, then you could do this job for under $1000.
The cost of the dimensional lumber to fill in your joists and build a wall or two is nominal. Depending on how you finish the flooring around the old stair opening and the new set of stairs, you are still only dealing with a smaller area.
The greatest cost will be new stair treads if you opt for something like hardwood treads. If you build or buy new stringers, then your cost outlay increases. You could use 2x12s to make new stringers, which is cheaper. Pre-made treads will cost you more.
While moving a staircase doesn’t have to break the bank, it will cost you time and effort. This is not a weekend job.
You’ll have to remove the finishing from the existing steps to expose the framing. Then you’ll have to detach the stairs. This may require removing walls on one or either side of the stairs. Then you’ll have to remove another wall or part of the floor to make way for the new stairs. Then you’ll have to move the stairs and finish everything off to make it look nice.
Therefore, if you are short on time but not on money, then moving a set of stairs yourself is probably not the job you will be able to take on.
How to Move a Staircase
Moving stairs is four separate jobs:
- Removing your existing stairs.
- Prepping a space for your new stairs
- Installing stairs in the new area
- Finishing off old stair area and the new stairs
Each depends on the specific layout and plan of your house in terms of how much money and time it will cost you to do each step. But these steps are a minimum of the amount of work it will take you to do the job of moving steps.
Can I Move a Staircase Myself?
Yes, you can move a staircase yourself. Planning the actual job will take some time, as you’ll need to be sure your new desired space for your stairs will allow you to install a new set of stairs that is code compliant. But if you are comfortable with your plan, understand house framing, and aren’t afraid of some demolition work.
How Long Will it Take to Move Stairs?
The actual removal of your old stairs will likely take you the longest. Depending on how your stairs are constructed and if they are between two walls, then you’ll have time to get them out. Often stair removal means you’ll need to get rid of a side wall, too. Stringers may be nailed into wall framing or floor framing – all of these considerations will require time.
Expect to take a day or a whole weekend to remove your old stairs fully. If you are removing unfinished stairs from a basement and moving them to another part of your unfinished basement, you could do this in less than a day. But a fully finished set of stairs in your house will take much more time to get out.
If you are installing brand-new steps, this will also take a while. If you’ve never installed steps before, then it can be a tricky and frustrating experience to do it for this first time. Consider hiring a pro to cover this aspect of the job, especially if you plan on your new stairs being a centerpiece of a space. Finishing a set of stairs will take you a weekend, minimum, from start to finish.
The other aspects of the job depending on how you intend to finish your living space after you’ve moved your stairs. You’ll need to fix up the old stairway space. In some cases, this may require you to redo the flooring in an entire room. Or, you may have to erect or take down another wall. In that case, expect a month of work if you plan on using your weekends only.
When is the Best Time to Move Interior Stairs?
Ideally, the best time to move an interior set of stairs is when you are already renovating. While this seems like common sense, moving a set of stairs often isn’t considered during your average kitchen or living room remodel.
Let’s say you are renovating your kitchen. You’ve pretty well gutted the kitchen and you’re down to studs and insulation with a little laundry tub until you can get everything fixed up. If you have a set of stairs that divides your kitchen from your living area, why not investigate if you could move those stairs to the other side of the kitchen? That way you open up the kitchen to the living room.
If you do opt to move the stairs, then at least much of your demolition has already taken place, and installing the new set of stairs would be easier. The best part is that you would be able to tie all your finished work together.
The most difficult part about moving a set of stairs is the finishing. If you don’t opt to completely gut your space where you are moving the stairs, then you face the task of trying to tie in new finish work with the older design of the space, which often ends up looking patchwork. Moving stairs when everything is already taken apart makes the finishing uniform.
Are Stairway Walls Load Bearing?
If the stairs run along an exterior wall, then the exterior wall side is load-bearing because it holds up one end of your roof. The interior walls may or may not be load-bearing. You would need a blueprint of your house or exposed framing to be able to tell. Don’t just assume a wall isn’t load-bearing based on where it sits in the house or how your roof runs.
Stairs that run parallel to the length of your house may have a load-bearing wall. If they run perpendicular to the house, they likely don’t have a load-bearing wall. This is based on your standard, basic rectangular house with a single gable roof.
In that instance, the main beam of the house runs lengthwise in the basement and the main floor. Stairs perpendicular to the length of the house would have walls running parallel to a floor or roof joist. Walls parallel to joists aren’t load-bearing – only walls that are parallel to beams are load-bearing.
Your roof and attic can tell you a lot about your house framing, or your basement is unfinished. Notice main beams and how your joists sit over the beams. Any walls in the direction of the main beam(s) are likely load-bearing.
And if you have a really large house, it will be more complex in terms of the framing and you’ll have several beams holding up different parts of your house. In those instances, hiring a professional to tell you where your load-bearing walls are isn’t a bad idea.
To move your staircase, follow these general steps:
- Remove all finish work from the old stairs. Strip it down so you can see the framing members. This will show you which fasteners need to be removed or cut.
- Detach old stairs from floor framing at the top and wall framing – if applicable. This will take time as you’ll find that your stairs are likely very solidly attached to your house. You may need several different types of saws for this step.
- Prep the area that will receive the new set of steps. If you have to cut a hole in your top floor, that means you’ll be cutting floor joists. You can’t just cut a floor joist without providing temporary support. Therefore you’ll have to construct a temporary wall of studs – standard 16” on center – right next to the opening to support the cut joists – otherwise, your top floor might collapse.
- After you’ve made your temporary wall, cut your opening for the new stairs. You’ll have to decide how you will frame around your new stairs now, but first, install your new set – or the old set – of stairs.
- Once you’ve installed the stairs in their new location, it’s time to finish everything off. Start with the old steps. You have a large, gaping hole in your floor. You’ll have to reframe the hole with joists of the same size as your old ones. You can sister each joist, meaning you can run new ones to bridge the gap and fasten them side by side like a sandwich instead of connecting them end to end and fastening them with some type of fastener.
- Once you’ve fixed the hole, you can go about the fine finishing of fixing the flooring, finishing the treads on your new stairs, and making everything look nice. You’ll also be able to remove your temporary wall provided you’ve found an alternative for the temporary wall you’ve constructed. That could be a new beam or you could opt to make the temporary wall permanent.
- Finally, remember to make your new stairs up to code, including a proper width, rise, and run. You’ll need stair nosings and hand railings, as well.
How to Move Basement Stairs
More than likely, moving basement stairs is easier than moving stairs on the main floor going up to a second-floor if only because basement stairs are more likely to be already unfinished. If this is the case, the job of moving a staircase becomes much easier.
The job itself is not any different than moving other stairs on the main floor, but it would differ in terms of time and effort as the job would be shorter since the walls and steps are already stripped down.
Moving Basement Stairs
Again, moving basement stairs does not differ from moving main floor stairs. However, consider that your framing in the basement holds up your entire house. Therefore, you want to make certain that when you remove a wall or cut into your main floor joists, that you’ve properly supported them.
Failure to support your main floor joists could result in catastrophic damage. While it likely won’t result in the immediate and epic collapse of your house, it could bend walls, shift your main beam, cause your roof to sag, crack all the drywall in your house, and more. So go slow, get a second opinion, and create solid, temporary supports.
Sometimes the most difficult home renovation jobs yield the greatest results, and moving stairs would fall into that category. Stairs are the highway of your house. Not a day goes by when you don’t use them. Moving them and altering the flow of your house changes the way you interact with your living space.
Also, consider stairs as simply a small room that inhabits the same space on two different floors of your home. If that space was in the middle of your home, imagine having that space for living space instead of stairs? A staircase move would prove highly beneficial.
When it comes time to move your stairs, make sure you have all the information you need regarding your house layout and framing. IF you still aren’t quite sure you can do it, call a pro. Get an estimate – they cost nothing and the contractor may give you some tips you hadn’t thought of. Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck on your next project!