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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Do It Yourself: Beautiful Staircase Board and Batten

Adding board and batten is the easiest and most inexpensive way to add interest to a basic basement staircase!


You guys, I can't even tell you how good it feels to type those words.   Refinishing our basement stairs and adding board and batten to the walls has been a project I've wanted to do ever since moving into our home over 12 years ago.  It's also been one of those projects that I just could not get motivated to finish.  I was so unmotivated that I decided to proclaim on Instagram (to hold myself accountable) that I was giving myself two weeks to complete this half-finished project.  I'm happy to report that I not only finished the molding, but I did it in less than two weeks and it looks amazing. 
bright basement making with board and batten

Before I get to the reveal, I wanted to back up and share how this space evolved over the years.

When we bought our house, the basement walls were covered in paneling and the steps were bare and clear coated, definitely a little dated and not my style.  

      1970's basement before
We eventually tore out the paneling, added drywall and carpet and that's how it stayed for a couple of years. 

           basement progress
I always wanted to refinish the steps and keep them bare, but my husband really wanted them carpeted while our kids were little.  It was nice having them covered with little ones in the house, but the carpet wore out fast.  I lived with it for a while, but after I accidentally flooded the basement and destroyed the carpet I knew the stair carpet had to go too. 
flooded basement before board and batten
I removed the carpet, painstakingly pulled out hundreds of staples then sanded, stained and sealed the steps.  (You can read more about that process HERE)

Removing carpet from basement stairs

refinished basement staris
As much as refinishing the stairs improved the staircase, the walls still needed to be repainted and I really wanted to add a wall treatment.   I eventually bought all the wood, started cutting and nailing the chair rail and batten pieces to the wall then quickly got frustrated.  The vertical boards were not hitting studs and angles were not lining up.  So, what did I do?  I quit and let it sit for over a year.

I walked up and down the stairs hundreds of times, just waiting for motivation to strike.   Eventually, (with my dad's nudging) I finally got my butt in gear and finished the molding. 

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- 1'' x 4' x 8' boards (for chair rail)
- 1" x 2" x 8' boards (for top of chair rail)
- 1/4" x 3"x 4' Poplar boards (for battens)
- Tape measure
- 2 inch nails for nail gun
- Fine grit sandpaper
- White semi-gloss paint


I started with the chair rail first.  I used my stud finder and a laser level to mark the wall and studs all the way down the stairs and along the wall.  I then measured and cut the 1x4x8 boards to size (mitering the ends) and nailed them into studs with my nail gun.   

After the chair rail was complete, I added the 1x2x8 boards on top to create a little more character. 

Caulking and filling holes in board and batten
Once the chair rail was complete, I started measuring and nailing in the batten boards.  You'll want to measure and cut each piece separately in case your floor is uneven.  Most of the vertical boards are nailed into studs, but I also used adhesive glue to make sure they were good and tight on the wall.  After I had all the vertical boards nailed up I caulked all the gaps and filled in all the nail holes with wood putty.

I let everything dry, sanded the wood putty smooth then finished off the steps with a couple fresh coats of paint.
Completed board and batten staircase wall treatment
The walls are painted using Sherwin-Williams Accessible Beige, the trim is straight off the shelf Sherwin-Williams Super Paint semi-gloss and the door is Sherwin-Williams Iron Ore.
How to add board and batten to basement stairs

DIY board and batten wall treatment
Can I just say how much I dislike painting stairways?  Thankfully, my brother owns his own painting company (Painting Contractors of Maryland for all you locals) who was nice enough to come over and do the cutting in.  I just had to roll the walls, but it was enough for me to say that I am never painting a stairway again.  There, I said it.
Basement staircase with board and batten wall treatment

          Board and batten basement staircase

          Remodeled basement with board and batten wall treatment

DIY board and batten wall treatment
I've been kicking myself for not completing the DIY board and batten on our stairs sooner.   I can't even express how good it feels to be able to walk downstairs and have this project complete.  It just goes to show that a few hundred dollars in supplies and a little hard work can make a dramatic difference. 

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Before and after basement staircase makeover with board and batten

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Would you like to comment?

  1. Beautiful! Love the clean, bright, airy look. Cheers to never giving up!

  2. This may sound a little crazy but can you explain how you made your cut on the top molding from the bottom of the stairs to the wall. I am working on a similar project and I am struggling to get it to look right.

    1. It was a little tricky since the boards don't line up. I cut the diagonal board (running down the steps) on a 45 degree angle, but since the angle made the board longer than the horizontal chair rail molding I had to trim off the bottom of the diagonal board. I'm not sure if that's the "right" way to do it, but that's what worked for me.

  3. Do you do all of the carpentry yourself? Looks great!

    1. Yes, I do all the carpentry work in our home. If I didn't, nothing would get done. Haha!

    2. That's how I learned my skills!😁

  4. This is so gorgeous! Great job!!! That's an amazing before and after! Just wow!!

  5. Beautiful job. It looks amazing. I painted stripes on my stairway a few years ago so I completely understand your frustration on trying to figure angles. And no, I doubt I will ever do it again either.

  6. Oh my goodness!!! I love chair rail and board & batten. It looks Fan_Dang_Tastic!!!!

  7. You never cease to amaze us!!! Great job Katie.

  8. Looks so good Katie! The stairs are amazing!

  9. We want to pull-up te carpet of our basement stairs, after looking at your results, which is amazing! I think I am ready to get going, although I know it will be lot of hard work. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I want to do this project so bad! My husband wants the carpet just to get redone which is what we have now and it’s so gross! We have three kids aged 9-2. Wait on the project til they are older or do it now? What do you think?