When you are improving your home, it is easy to forget about the staircase. This utilitarian part of the home gets a lot of use, but often little attention. And that is a shame, because small changes to the staircase can make a big impact on the look and feel of your home.
If you want to make your staircase more attractive, one easy change is to add or upgrade a skirt board. A skirt board is a large piece of wood or synthetic material that runs along the base of the wall alongside the stairs.
To install a skirt board, you’ll need to measure your stairs, choose your board, cut it to fit, attach it and then finish it.
Table of Contents:
- 1. DIY Fun or Hire Someone?
- 2. Steps to Install Skirt Board
- 3. Tips and Tricks for Stair Board Installation
- 4. How to Maintain Your Skirt Boards
- 5. Other Projects to Improve Your Stairs
1. DIY Fun or Hire Someone?
If you’re not very handy, or if you don’t have the tools you need, you can always hire a contractor to install a stair skirt board for you.
That said, installing a stair skirt is a feasible project for an experienced DIYer. It just requires a few tools and some patience and precision.
Whether you hire it out or do it yourself, your staircase will look more elegant and upscale, and you’ll be ready to move on to other projects, like painting the stairs, changing out the railing, or adding a stair runner.
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2. Steps to Install Skirt Board
A. Decide on an installation method.
- a) There are two ways you can install skirt board. The first is to keep the board whole and to slide it into a gap between the stair treads and the wall. The benefit of this method is that you won’t have to make as many cuts.
- b) The other option, and one you might have to use if your stairs are already in place, is to cut the stairstep outline into the skirt board and install it on top of the existing steps.
B. Measure your stairs.
- a) To figure out what size of skirt board you need, the first step is to measure the distance from the top of the stairs to the bottom. This will tell you the length of skirt board you need to buy.
- b) The other measurement you’ll need before you buy your skirting is the width. Lay a level or a board across the tops of a few stairs, flush with the wall. Measure from the back corner of one stair up to the line of the level or board, meeting it at a 90 degree angle. This measurement will tell you the minimum width of the skirting board.
- c) Next, decide how far you want the skirting board to extend beyond the tops of the stairs and add that measurement. That will tell you the width you need to buy.
C. Select your skirt board.
- a) Now for the fun part: choosing the board you want to use. You can buy skirt board at your favorite home improvement store, but for better selection you can shop online. Skirting board from Skirting World will give you many options as far as size, finish and design.
- b) First, you’ll have to decide what material you want to use. Two good options are unfinished pine and MDF. While wood has a more natural look and can cost less, MDF is durable and lacks some of wood’s imperfections and variations.
- c) Next, decide on the finish. Some skirting boards come unfinished, while others are primed, undercoated or even prefinished.
- d) Finally, you’ll need to choose a design. Many skirt boards have decorative grooves and shaping. Choose the design that works best with your home, but remember that more complicated boards may be more difficult to keep clean.
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D. Mark up and cut the board.
- a) If you have a gap between the steps and the wall, you may not need to cut the edge of the skirt board. But if your stairs are already in place and you aren’t going to create a gap, you’ll need to cut the stairstep pattern into your board so it can sit on top.
- b) This is the most difficult step in the process. You may need to use a video tutorial or step-by-step illustrated guide. Here is one way to mark and cut the board:
- c) Lay the skirt board across the top of the stair treads with the bottom corner resting on the lower floor. Attach the board to the wall using small nails. Mark reference lines by tracing the top of the board just above the bottom and top steps.
- d) Use a wood stick to measure up from the floor to the top of the first step and mark the stick at that height. Drill a small hole the center of the mark. Place a sharp pin through the hole and make sure the height of the pin is the same as the top of the step.
- e) Slide the stick along the top of each step, keeping it straight up and down, scratching a line into the skirt board. Do the same on the top landing of the stairs.
- f) Remove the skirt board and cut off the bottom segment, at the first line.
- g) Reattach the board to the wall, but this time with the new cut edge flat on the floor.
- h) Mark the stick again, this time at the depth of a step from back corner to front edge.
- i) Hold the stick horizontally. Keeping it level, slide it along the vertical part of each step to make a vertical scratch on the skirt board. If the top of the step has a nosing that sticks out farther, be sure that is marked on the board, too.
- j) Remove the board from the wall again and make cuts at all of the scratches.
E. Adjust the ends to meet up with other trim pieces.
- a. If the stair skirt overlaps existing trim pieces, measure and cut so they meet in a tidy way. If there is no trim at the top or bottom, you may want to cut the top end of the board at 90 degrees with the floor.
F. Finish the board with paint or stain.
- a. If you chose a board that was not already finished, now is the time to paint or stain it. Follow the directions on the paint or stain you choose and make sure it has dried thoroughly before you move on to the next step.
G. Place the skirt board
- a. Slide the skirt board into place on the stairs, tapping with a rubber mallet to get a snug fit. Nail it into place with finish nails.
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3. Tips and Tricks for Stair Board Installation
A. For a nice, tight fit, slant your cuts at a slight inward angle instead of cutting them at 90 degrees. This will remove a little extra material and prevent it from getting in the way when you install the board.
B. If you have an extra stair tread or piece of the nosing, trace that onto the skirt board once you’ve made your markings. This will give you a more precise outline to follow when you cut.
C. In some cases, particularly with unfinished stairs, you may be able to cut the stairs themselves to create a gap between the stairs and the wall.
4. How to Maintain Your Skirt Boards
Once your new stair skirt board is in place, you’ll want to maintain it to keep it looking its best.
First, dust the board with a feather duster or similar tool, or vacuum with an appropriate attachment.
Next, wipe them with a damp cloth. You can use water with a little bit of fabric softener, which may help loosen grime. Or try wiping with dryer sheets, which may help prevent dust from sticking to the boards.
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5. Other Projects to Improve Your Stairs
Now that your stair skirt board has your staircase looking fresher and more sophisticated, you might be ready for another stair-related improvement. Here are a few ideas:
A. Replace carpeting with wood.
Remove your old carpeting and add hardwood or laminate riser pieces and tread caps.
B. Paint them.
Paint your wood stairs a new color, or try painting just the treads and risers different colors for a new look.
C. Add a stair runner.
If you have wood stairs, a new stair runner can add traction and visual interest to your staircase.
D. Replace the railing.
A new railing can give your staircase a completely fresh look with relatively little effort. Or paint your existing railing for a subtler upgrade.
E. Get creative.
Search the web for clever staircase ideas. Have you ever considered painting book spines on stair risers? Or adding vinyl numbers? There are plenty of unique and whimsical ideas out there.
Staircases are workhorses. You probably go up and down several times a day without even noticing. It doesn’t take much, though, to take a stairway from boring to impressive. A simple skirt board can be enough to add elegance and sophistication.
Once you’ve found the right stair skirt board, all you need is some time, patience, and a few basic tools to install it, and then you’ll get to enjoy your handiwork every day.
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