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Hidden Storage Under Stairs (with Modern DIY Basement Railing)

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Intro by Robin Steps by Ed

Work continues oh-so-slowly on our Cozy, Industrial Basement Pub and Hobby Room. We’ve made progress, but pandemic burnout and material sourcing challenges have delayed things. I’m sure you can understand. The last few months have been A LOT.

Our goals for this room are to create a fun and functional space.

One of the functions is storage. We are designing and building so many storage solutions – including this hidden storage under stairs solution – and it turned out so cool!

storage under basement stairs before
This area under the stairs links to our basement storage room/workshop. Under stair storage has such potential! But one of the challenges is it’s just too deep to be useful day-to-day.

Our solution: we built our storage to be accessible from both sides and made the shelves half as deep. This way nothing gets “lost” underneath.

We can access the bulk items we use on a regular basis without pulling out a mountain of other things that end up in the way.

This is the new home of the giant pet food bags and other pet dodads. Dog cones are tricky to store!

This hidden storage under stairs is also combined with a sleek, modern stair railing and pillar. We devised and DIY’d this storage solution to maximize the under stair storage and make our basement stairs safe. Plus – it looks pretty great, no? What follows is Ed’s step by step tutorial…

Hidden Storage Under Stairs (& DIY Basement Railing)

Materials List:

  • Misc. plywood, MDF or panel board to create whatever shelf configuration you desire
  • 2″ x 2″ x 8′ clear pine lumber for railing (number depends on how many you need for stair run)
  • 2″ x 4″ x 8′ studs to frame post
  • 5/8″ x 4.5″ primed MDF to wrap post with
  • Piano hinge
  • Trim/baseboard of your choice
  • screws, nails, construction adhesive and caulking
  • an Electric nailer is helpful (we LOVE this one)
  • Paint (used Loggia from Sherwin Williams)

Steps for DIY Hidden Storage Under Stairs (with DIY Basement Railing)

First: Build the Post and Balusters

Step 1: Clear out space and install a post for the handrail to attach to.

basement stair railing securing post
“Our stairs have no load-bearing walls on either side, so clearing out the space was easy. We then installed a 2″ x 4” post to anchor a handrail to when the whole project was complete.

It is anchored to the joists in the ceiling…
basement railing making pillar post square
…and anchored to the stair stringers at the floor. Be sure to use a level to get it plumb.
basement railing pillar covering post
Wrap the 2″x 4″ with a box beam made from 5/8″ x 4.5″ primed MDF. We added a few chunks of scrap, off-cut 2″ x 4″ for nailing the MDF to.
basement stair railing covering pillar
Nail the MDF in place. Have we mentioned how much we love our Ryobi electric nailer? Not today? Well, we love it.
building modern post for basement stairs
This isn’t really a step, it is just a cross section photo to show you what the profile of the box beam looks like around the 2″ x 4″ post.

Step 2: Build the space for hidden storage under stairs

nail bracing below shelf
Not a lot to see here – this is pretty utilitarian storage space, so we built it out of scrap plywood and only put one shelf in it.

Plan out what you want your storage for and build the shelving appropriately. You may decide that you don’t want any built-in shelves at all.

We built our shelves to be half as deep as the stairs. This made for useful storage accessed from both sides.

Step 3: Prepare and attach the 2″ x 2″ baluster railing wall

seal knots on wood before painting
Start by cutting the 2″ x 2″ to length and using a heat gun or blow torch (Careful!) on the knots.

Sap will literally boil out of them and reduce the chances of it bleeding through the paint for years to come.

Sand them all and choose the straightest pieces for the long, uncut sections.
Most Building Codes want a maximum gap of 4″ between the stair rail balusters, so we measured out the total distance from our post to the wall and worked out a spacer that allowed for a uniform gap that also met building code.

We then cut a piece of scrap wood to fit that space and used it to draw lines where each baluster/wall rail would land. This will also help you plan out the door to access space underneath.
nail stail railing at top
Work your way across the space, nailing the balusters at the top and into the stair stringers.

You will need to cut each one individually based on the opening and the stair slope.

Next, build the hidden storage under stairs

trial fit door under stairs storage
This picture tells the best story of the whole layout.

The first and last balusters are floor to ceiling. The others are where the door opening will be and cut off exactly where the top of the opening angle begins. No railing can overlap into the space or the door will be impacted.

The other thing you can see in this image is the door/ wall. I cut it from one sheet of 1/2″ birch plywood. The angle was carefully measured (use your Rise/Run = slope math from high school).

We then cut the door section to appropriate size and used the cut offs to fit into either end of the opening to create the wall.

Step 4: Install the door and add the railing face.

under stair storage hidden door how to build
As mentioned above, cutting the door requires careful measurements to get the angle correct.

Use a piece of cardboard or any scrap you have to make a practice door/angle if you like. You’ll only get one shot to cut it and a little practice makes perfect.

It will not fit tight on any side/angle, or the door won’t open. The best you can hope for is an even gap all the way around.

Once hung on a piano hinge (see next image), you can use a straight edge to transfer the baluster lines down onto the door and create a template for attaching the decorative facing rails.
screw false ballusters to back of door
Okay, two things here. First, the door is attached to the wall frame by a piano hinge. It won’t be invisible, but it will be about the same size gap as the rest of the space around the door, so no worries.

We added additional wood to the back or the door to screw the piano hinge into as plywood end grain isn’t the best.

The other thing you can see is an additional line I drew on the back of the door to screw through into the rails. They were also glued on the front.
hidden storage under stairs tape and paint
Work your way down the door.

Each time you attach a rail, try opening and closing the door.

There will need to be a small gap between the wall rail and the door rail or it will bind. Basically, there are lots of spots the door can jam in this project and you need to check each new piece as you install it.
hidden storage under stairs progress before painting
All the rough structure and hardware stuff is done! Time to make it pretty/hide the ugly.

Step 5: Trim and paint

hidden storage under stairs baseboard trick
We used a short profile chair rail as our baseboard. It had a nicer scale and worked well with trim we used in other rooms.

The pieces you put between the rails will need to the cut individually – lots of fitting and fiddly cuts in this project sorry.

We did a piece on the door that moves with the door, but you don’t like that, it could be cut in half and split between the wall and door sections.

The baseboard next to the hinge will need to have an angle cut into it or the door won’t open.

Again, test the door every time you nail a new section to it.
hidden storage caulk gaps before painting
Home Stretch! Once the trim is on and everything still opens and closes, caulk all the seams with painters caulk.
hidden storage under stairs tape and paint
A couple of coats of paint and your secret under stairs storage is complete!
Peel away your painter’s tape and hide all your junk in your new hidden storage!
DIY Stair Railing with Hidden Storage Under Stairs
Did you catch a glimpse of our next project reveal: our DIY Copper Stair Risers!

They’re so good – and surprisingly easy!

Click here to see all of our Basement Stairs Makeover projects

And in this very same room we created more built-in storage: Our DIY Built in Cabinet – How We Out Basement Storage in a Beautiful Custom Way

We’ve been making over our entire basement one room at a time! You can see all our DIY Basement Renovation projects here

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Sunday 6th of March 2022

What a fantastic project! I so want to come for a visit and take a tour of all your projects in real life.


Tuesday 8th of March 2022

Yes! That would be so much fun, Lynn! Thanks for all your encouragement. :)

FDS Brokers

Saturday 12th of September 2020

I really appreciated the extensive pictures of this project. I liked the idea and I liked that the storage was not obvious because of the trim you put on the bottom next to the floor. Excellent job!


Thursday 30th of July 2020

How cute and practical. Keep up the good work!


Thursday 30th of July 2020

Thanks for the encouragement, Loveland! It’s so very appreciated! :)


Thursday 30th of July 2020

I really appreciated the extensive pictures of this project. I liked the idea and I liked that the storage was not obvious because of the trim you put on the bottom next to the floor. Lovely job!


Thursday 30th of July 2020

Thanks so much, Mab! I’m really happy you like this - and took the time to let us know. :)