I would like to utilize empty space in my house and there are two areas I would like to add extra drawers for my family.

First area would be the actual staircase. It would be optimal to cut out a hole in the step and add a drawer but the execution is complicated. The finish result

enter image description here

I would imagine a possible soft pulling cloth on the top or bottom of both sides to pull open so it wont hurt or cause you to fall when you walk up the stairs.

Another area I would like to use space is below the actual steps such as this:

enter image description here

Now for my questions.

  1. How can I structurally and efficiently execute this improvement in the steps?
  2. Should I reinforce the steps to accommodate for the weight of the drawer, contents, and slider?
  3. I debated to save time and hassle to go to Lowes/Home Depot and buy unfinished kitchen drawers and remove the drawers with the hardware and create a template for the opening. Would that be a good idea?

I have searched for many tutorials and DIY projects but nothing that discusses structure, orweight popup. I have debated buying unfinished kitchen cabinets and muddying them in. Any advise or guidance would be great. I mentioned both the steps and underneath because I thought the focused on both areas which may result in similar answers.

EDIT: another design suggested in the comments:

enter image description here

  • 2
    What is under your stairs? Dead space? I would put a small door in the wall for a small closet before I attempted a project as labor intensive as what you propose. Both of those pictures show stairs that were built with the drawers at the same time. A retrofit will be much more difficult.
    – longneck
    Aug 13, 2013 at 17:56
  • 1
    Agreed. If you have typical stair stringers, both of the images above wouldn't be possible without a major redesign of the structure. You could do something like this though, which sits below the stringers: media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com/736x/6c/1d/a6/…
    – John Smith
    Aug 13, 2013 at 18:01
  • 1
    John's link is the only practical retrofit option. As longneck points out, the two photos above were engineered from the get-go for drawers. The John's example is essentially just building your own built-in in the empty space under the stairs.
    – DA01
    Aug 13, 2013 at 18:17
  • edited picture to include the one John posted. Any answers on how to utilize space like John's picture would be great. Aug 13, 2013 at 18:22
  • 1
    The first image looks like a great way to break an ankle (or worse), no matter what kind of safety precautions you try to engineer into it.
    – whuber
    Aug 14, 2013 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


Stringers are the zigzag style angled beams that hold up conventional stairs.


They are used on each side ot the staircase and sometimes in the middle as well. They hold up the treads and the risers (the vertical boards) are attached to them.

Image 1 is basically floating treads on the stringers and using the risers as faces of drawer fronts. As the comments reflect, this is easily done when building a staircase, but quite difficult to retrofit. It also won't work if your treads are wider and there is a stringer (or the need for a stringer) in the middle.

Image 2 is a hybrid. There are no stringers on the near face of the staircase in the area of the drawers, and none in the middle. There may be conventional stringers above that level. It appears that there are horizontal and lateral supports built around the drawers and supporting the treads in place of stringers. Again, something that can be done when building a staircase, but not practical as a retrofit.

Image 3, based on a comment by John Smith, leaves the staircase intact, preserves the supporting stringers and gives you flexible storage possibilities.

The weight of materials in the drawers is not really a consideration unless you plan to store gold bars or some other really heavy materials. The weight of people on the stairs is much greater than any strain from linens or even books.


I guess I don't see what the problem is. A stairway's structure is the stringers and treads. The rest—risers, sides, and underneath—is decoration.

The steps and stringers have to be strong enough to hold a lot of dynamic weight, typically thousands of pounds. Adding a few hundred pounds of static weight in drawers isn't going to be a problem unless there was one to begin with. Putting a cabinet underneath has nothing to do with anything.

  • 1
    see the OP's original photo. usually there are at least three stringer.
    – mike
    Aug 13, 2013 at 19:18

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