Can I place a stair skirt on the top of basement stairs instead of between the stairs and the wall? The gaps between the stairs to the wall are all different so instead of dropping the skirt between the wall and stairs I need to place the skirt on top of the stairs to cover the gaps. I hope this can be done and that someone has instructions on how to do it.

  • 1
    Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Would you add a picture of the area your asking about? And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to participate here. Aug 28, 2019 at 21:16
  • How much difference is there between the wall and individual stairs? (1/8" from one to the next or 3/4"?) And are the gaps from one stair to the next are significantly inconsistent, or is it generally a different gap from the top to the bottom of the staircase? A corollary question is: Why are they so inconsistent? Is there an underlying problem that needs to be addressed? As mentioned, some pictures and "context" are pretty important here to get the answer you want/need.
    – gnicko
    Aug 29, 2019 at 16:22

2 Answers 2


I think this may work for you:

This article, "Scribing Skirt Boards" by NORM YEAGER, provides a pretty good explanation of a technique to install a stair skirt "on top" of an existing stairway. You might want to do a couple of "practice runs" before you do the actual skirt...depending on your skill level and the steadiness of your nerves, etc. It isn't difficult, but it is one of those things that gets easier with a bit of practice.

What they're detailing here is laying a 1x12 across the top of the stairs and scribing the outline of the steps onto the board, for cutting out the profile of the steps and then installing it above the steps instead of between the staircase and the wall.

Personally, I think that I'd use a pencil instead of a sharpened brad to mark the cut lines, but both methods should work.

If there is an existing skirt, you could install your new skirt over the top of it to effectively make the two skirts into one thick enough to cover the gaps.

If there isn't an existing skirt, making one out of 1x12 might be thick enough to cover the gaps, but you may want to use a 2x12 to make the skirt so that you'd have the additional thickness to cover the gaps.

Depending on the surrounding woodwork, etc. you could augment the existing molding to match and blend in the additional thickness of the skirt.


I've done basically this using mitered trim rather than a continuous skirt board. The trick is to trace the nosing against the trim and notch the nosing, so that the trim fits tightly against both the tread and the riser, sliding past the nosing. Something like this:

|   /|
|  / |_____________________
| /                       /|
|/______________________ / |
 _______________________)  |
    ^-- tread      | |/    |
                   | |     |
                   | |     | <-- mitered trim
        riser -->  | |     |

A handsaw works well to notch the nosing. You could create a jig block 1/16" thinner than your trim, then press it to the wall and slide the saw along that.

You won't fit a jigsaw in there. You could maybe make an undercut saw work if you're in a hurry, but you'd have to set the depth for each cut. Maybe an angle grinder with a 4" circular saw blade.

The cut from the front is critical, as it mates to the trim, but the cut parallel with the tread gets buried.

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