How To Build A Knee Wall For Stairs

Framing knee walls for stairs can be easy if you have the right direction. Otherwise, it can be a very intimidating undertaking. The good news is that even without any serious carpentry experience, you can frame a knee wall for your staircase and complete this project in less than an afternoon.

With little to no carpentry experience, you can easily build a knee wall for stairs.

If you have never built a knee wall before, or are not an experienced carpenter, building one is easy and can be done in a few hours. You need only a few tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Hammer and nail set
  • Carpenter’s square
  • Saw

Step 1 – Determine The Location Of Your Knee Wall

  • Determine the location of your knee wall
  • Select an area on the staircase that has enough space to install the knee wall (enough width and height)
  • Typically, the middle of a staircase works best. This allows you to build a flat vertical plane parallel with each stair tread so that you can drywall it directly onto your framing. If you choose an area close to one side, then you’ll have to frame some walls at odd angles and will have difficulty drywalling them straight up and down without making mistakes.
  • Measure and mark two lines 28” apart down the center of the floor to determine where your joists will go (the joists are what holds up your subfloor). Make sure they are not over any obstructions like doors or beams! Use a tape measure with 1/16” accuracy when marking them; if you don’t have one then use something else like chalk lines instead so that all measurements will be consistent throughout this project

The first step is determining where on the staircase you want your knee wall.

The first step is determining where on the staircase you want your knee wall. It’s important to choose an area that has enough space to install the knee wall, as well as enough height so that it doesn’t hit your head when you’re using it. The best place for a knee wall is usually at the center of a staircase, since this allows you to use it easily no matter which direction you walk up or down.

The next thing to consider is width: Your chosen spot must be wide enough for your knee wall and allow for easy movement around it when someone else is using it (and vice versa). This can be especially problematic if there’s already furniture in front of or behind where you plan to put in your new addition; if this happens and those pieces don’t move easily (or aren’t removable), they could end up getting in each other’s way while going up or down stairs.

Select an area on the staircase that has enough space to install the knee wall (enough width and height).

Select an area on the staircase that has enough space to install the knee wall (enough width and height).

The middle of a staircase works best. If you have a large dog or cat, consider installing a knee wall on each side for added protection.

Measure and cut two inches by 4 inches lumber for your base plate, which should be at least 8 feet long so it spans all three treads of your stairs. Then drive in 2” screws at 12 inch intervals along its length to secure it in place.

Typically, the middle of a staircase works best.

The middle of a staircase is the most stable area on which to install a knee wall. Typically, this area will be naturally reinforced by the stringer (the horizontal support beam) that runs underneath the stairs. If you choose to install your knee wall at this location, you won’t need to worry about adding extra support for the safety of others using your stairs.

In addition, having your knee wall in the center of your steps will make it easier for people who use wheelchairs or walkers to navigate around it and avoid any obstacles they may encounter along their path.

When selecting an area take into account the height of the stair treads above. A 7″ rise is ideal.

Before you begin building your knee wall, it is important that you take into account the height of the stair treads above. The 7″ rise is ideal because it matches the standard stair tread height (8″ plus 2 x 1/2″) and will allow you to use a standard size sheet of plywood.

When selecting an area take into account the height of the stair treads above. A 7″ rise is ideal. The rise is the distance from the top of one stair tread to the top of another stair tread (the difference between 2nd and 3rd step). Mark your outline with a pencil and make sure all marks are level from top to bottom! Use a stud finder to mark where your joists are so that you can cut along them instead of through them!

To begin framing, measure and mark two lines 28” apart down the center of the floor to determine the location of your joists.

To begin framing, measure and mark two lines 28” apart down the center of your stairway. This will be the location of your joists.

  • Measure from the center of the opening.
  • Measure from one edge of the opening.
  • Measure from one edge of the stair tread (the horizontal piece).
  • Measure from one edge of a stair nosing (the vertical piece).

If you have an existing knee wall and want to extend it to meet your new stairs, measure this distance as well for reference purposes later on when installing your new knee wall panels.

Step 2 – Build Your Base Plate & Bottom Plate

  • Select a ledger board that is slightly larger than the stair stringer. The stair stringer is the beam that runs parallel to your stairs and supports them.
  • Use masonry screws or decking screws to attach the ledger board to the staircase stringer (see image below). Make sure you use Star Bit Screws for this step, as standard Phillips-head screws will not work for this application.

Measure and cut two inches by 4 inches lumber for your base plate and use a ledger board to attach it to the staircase stringer using masonry screws or decking screws (Star Bit Screws are recommended).

  • Measure and cut two inches by 4 inches lumber for your base plate and use a ledger board to attach it to the staircase stringer using masonry screws or decking screws (Star Bit Screws are recommended).
  • Ensure that the base plate is level, so you can attach your knee wall to it later on.
  • Use a drill with either an auger bit or hole saw attachment in order to drill holes through both your base plate and ledger board that will be used as anchor points for attaching your knee wall when built later on in this project

Conclusion

It’s important to keep in mind that these recommendations are not a substitute for professional advice. Before starting any project, it’s always best to consult a licensed builder.

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