The stairs in your home serve two primary functions. It’s the path that leads to the upper floors, and it has an aesthetic appeal. The stair skirt board gives the staircase a finished look and sometimes appears to be a continuity of the baseboard.
The stair skirt board is a long, unbroken piece of trim, 9 ½ inches wide and ⅝ inches thick. It’s fitted along the closed end of the stairs and is made from a range of materials. Hardwood is usually used to match the stair treads. MDF and softwood are used if the skirting board is to be painted.
The stair skirt board removes the need to prepare individual trims around each step. It saves time, and you can easily make your skirt board as attractive as you want. In this article, I’ll discuss everything to do with skirt boards.
What Is a Stair Skirt?
The stair skirt, also known as skirting board or stair stringer, is installed on the stairs, usually on the side aligned to a wall. Some stairs have a single stair skirt, while others have two stair skirts, depending on their location.
A stair skirt is a single piece with features similar to baseboards. However, unlike the baseboard, it’s fitted diagonally, not horizontally. It lies along the wall, from the top stair to the bottom. It seals the gaps between the stairs and the wall and gives the stairs a finished look.
Stairs that aren’t fitted close to the wall don’t need a skirting board. However, those close to the wall need the stair skirt for a finished look. Otherwise, the gaps between the stairs and wall will be unsightly, and the area will soon start collecting dirt and dust.
What Is the Purpose of a Stair Skirt?
At a glance, it looks like it’s a part of the stairs since most stairs have it as a finish. However, the stair skirt has multiple functions.
The purpose of a stair skirt is to add support and strength, hide the gaps between the wall and the staircase, and protect against dents or scuff marks. The stair skirt also absorbs vibrations, and over time, helps the stairs to maintain their shape.
There are several reasons for adding a stair skirt to your stairs. They’re decorative, and they make cleaning easier. They also keep dust from gathering in the gaps between the stairs and the wall. You don’t need to worry that your furniture will ruin your wall, especially if you move the furniture around tight corners.
Do You Actually Need Skirting Boards on Stairs?
The decision to have or not to have skirting boards on the stairs is a personal one. It’s natural to assume they’re an integral part of the design, and they are. However, they aren’t a must-have. You can choose not to have them on the stairs.
You don’t need skirting boards on stairs if you don’t have baseboards. You also don’t need them if your stairs aren’t connected to the wall. However, the skirting board on your stairs gives your home a finished look since they connect with the baseboard at the bottom.
Before adding skirting to the stairs, you need to determine if you need them. Skirting is difficult to add to an existing staircase, especially one that cannot be removed easily. Seek the help of a professional carpenter skilled in skirt board cutting and fitting.
Stair Skirt Board Size
The size of the skirting board varies. However, the standard size is a minimum of 9.5 inches wide and ⅝ inches thick. You can choose to make the skirting wider or thicker if you wish. However, you need to meet the minimum size requirement.
The skirt should be at least ½-1 inch above the stair nosing. The length of the skirt board will depend on the length of the stairs.
Things to Consider When Choosing the Stair Skirting
If you’re unsure of the best skirting size, you can consider the following when choosing the right stair skirting.
- The size of the room. The stair skirting should be suitable for the room, both in scale and proportion. If you have high ceilings, you can have the skirting sit higher than the stair nosing. However, if you have a low ceiling, avoid tall skirtings. Using tall skirting in a room with low ceilings will give the illusion that your room is shorter.
- The design. Before deciding on the size of the skirting, you need to know the design. Will it be plain, or do you intend to make it decorative? If you want to add some decor, you should make the skirting taller or thicker.
- The age of the house and the architectural style. Adding modern skirting designs and dimensions to an old house will make it look out of place. Likewise, an old skirting design will look out of place in a modern house.
- The material. Wood tends to offer greater flexibility when it comes to size. You can make the wood skirting as thick or tall as you would like. MDF tends to be a standard size, usually ⅝ inches wide.
- Interior decor. If you want to draw attention to the interior decor, you should opt for a smaller skirting board. However, if the skirting board is an important piece of the interior decor, you should opt for a larger skirting board.
- Color scheme. Skirting boards usually contrast with the color of the wall for a powerful aesthetic appeal. The larger board will have a greater impact, especially if the wall has a strong color. A small skirting has less of an impact.
- Obstacles. When deciding the skirting height, you will need to consider the presence of obstacles, such as sockets and radiator pipes. If you’re fixing the skirting on a newly plastered wall, you have greater freedom to choose a skirting of greater height.
Where to Buy Stair Skirt Board?
You can buy stair skirt boards in home improvement stores. Some popular stores that sell stair skirt boards include StairSuppliers, Menards, and Stair Warehouse. These stores provide high-quality stair skirts made from various materials and in different sizes.
Stair Warehouse sells different stair parts, including the stair skirt board. It offers skirtings made from different wood types, including the following:
- Red oak
- Soft maple
- Hard maple
- Brazilian cherry
- American cherry
The type of wood, the thickness, and the skirting size will influence the price.
This warehouse sells stair skirt boards in two main sizes:
- 0.75 (w) x 10.5 inches (h)
- 0.75 (w) x 11.5 inches (h)
When placing the order, you’ll need to specify the preferred length of the skirt board. However, some woods may not be available in the length you want.
If the skirting is longer than 5 feet, you may be asked to pay extra.
Menards is the other home improvement store that sells skirt boards. They’re made from two main types of wood species, primed white pine, and unfinished oak.
The maximum length of the skirtings is 8 feet and 9 ¼ inches in height. The maximum thickness is 7/16 inches.
Stair Supplies sells stair skirt boards made from soft and hardwood and are available in a range of grain patterns and colors.
Some wood options include African mahogany, soft maple, hard maple, walnut, and red oak.
One of the advantages of buying a stair skirt board in this store is you get more than 30 finishes from which to choose. You also get the option of getting a skirting board in its natural form, minus the finish. The finishes include:
When placing your order, you get to choose a length of 3-14 feet. The standard thickness for all the stair skirtings is 0.75 inches.
How Do You Make a Staircase Skirt?
If you don’t want to buy a staircase skirt, you can make your own.
To make a staircase skirt, you’ll need purchase a piece of wood and adjust it to fit the wall against your staircase. Place the wood against the wall, and draw marks that indicate where the stair skirt will go. You’ll then cut around those marks, secure the wood in place, and give it a good sanding.
Even if you’re new to making a stair skirt board, these detailed instructions will help you make the perfect skirting for your stairs.
- Get the piece of wood for the skit board. Choose a length that is at least 12 inches longer than the length of your stair. You can also get two pieces of wood connected end-to-end.
- Temporarily fit the skirt board oblong the wall. Place the board along the wall. Ensure the bottom of the board touches the nose of each stair. Temporarily hammer the board on each end.
- Use a ¼ x ¾ x 18-inch stick to draw vertical and horizontal lines along the skirting board. This will give you an outline of where the skirting board will be placed.
- Cut along the horizontal and vertical lines until the point where they intersect. Be careful not to go over those lines.
- Place the skirting back along the wall to see if the gaps fit into the stairs. If not, use a pencil to mark the faulty spots so that you can cut them a little deeper until the skirt board fits. Don’t worry if the fit isn’t perfect. You can sand it to achieve perfection.
- Sand the skirt board with a 100-grit belt sander. Occasionally fit the skirting on the wall to see if it fits into the gaps. Keep sanding until you get a tight fit. Avoid overdoing it because you don’t want the skirting to have gaps on either side.
This is how you can make the staircase skirt. It may appear complicated, but you’ll get the hang of it once you start making it.
If you want excellent tips on how to make skirt boards, watch this video for a step-by-step guide on how to make a skirt board from scratch:
What Material to Use for a Stair Skirt Board
Stair skirt boards are made of different materials. The material will depend on your intentions, preference, and the type of baseboard. If your baseboard is made of MDF, then it may be best to have a stair skirt board made of MDF. If you have wood trims, then wooden skirting is most suitable.
You should use medium density fiberboard, hardwood, jointed pine, or PVC for a stair skirt board. Fiberboard is used because of its affordability, while hardwood is chosen for its durability. At the same time, jointed pine doesn’t require as much sanding, and PVC is easier to clean.
Here’s a breakdown of the best materials to use for stair skirt boards:
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
MDF is one of the cheapest materials to use for stair skirt boards. It’s easy to use, soft, and is pre-primed. If you’re new to carpentry and would like a material that doesn’t require much work, the MDF is the ideal choice. It’s also fungus and mold resistant.
If you’re considering MDF, you also need to look at the interior decor. MDF doesn’t stand out as a decor piece. Instead, it works best as a minimalist and simplistic decor.
Unfortunately, MDF isn’t easy to repair because it cannot be sanded like wood. It’s also susceptible to water damage. If the stairs aren’t used heavily, then the MDF can work great. However, if the stairs are exposed to heavy lifting and traffic, you need a material that will offer better support than the MDF.
Hardwood is a common material used for skirt boards. Its grains add to its appeal as an artistic piece that improves interior decor. Wooden skirt boards are easy to install, and you get to choose from a range of colors and finishes.
With the right care, wooden skirt boards can last a very long time. It rarely cracks, neither does it give way when used in areas with heavy traffic and weight exposure. So, even though wood is expensive, you may never need to spend money on repairs or maintenance. So, it’s worth the cost.
You can also find the perfect match for your baseboard, especially if you’re adding the skirting as an afterthought or when redecorating your home. You can stain the wood to any color, so if you don’t use cherry hardwood but would like the wood to have the same color as the baseboard, you can stain the wood to match it.
Jointed pine has the same advantages as hardwood. However, it’s cheaper, and since it’s pre-primed, you need not worry about sanding the knots. Jointed pine is also not as solid as hardwood, so you can easily nail it into place during the installation process.
PVC, also known as vinyl trim, has been an option in home finishes in recent years. It has been used for baseboards and stair skirt boards. It has several advantages. It doesn’t scratch easily, and it’s easy to clean. Unfortunately, it’s also brittle. Since you’ll use screws to hold the skirting in place, the PVC may crack in multiple places during the drilling process.
Stair Skirt Board Installation
Before installing the stair skirt board, you need to ensure there’s sufficient space between the stairs and the wall. The space should be at least ⅝ inch wide. If the space is narrower, it’ll be difficult to fix the skirting in this gap.
If you’re installing the skirting board before the flooring, you need to know the type to be used. If you opt to use carpet flooring, you need to fix the skirting ⅜-½ inch about the floor. This way, the carpeting will be fitted underneath the skirting.
The stair skirt boards are installed the same way, whether the skirting is store-bought or you made one yourself. When installing, you can either use a caulking gun to apply glue or fix it with screws.
Use a Caulking Gun to Apply Glue on the Skirting Board
You can either do this in dots or waves. Leave a space of about 10cm between the glue waves or dots. You can now stick the skirting board to the wall. Since you had checked to confirm the space between the wall and stair is sufficient, this shouldn’t be a problem.
The Bates Caulking Gun, available on Amazon, is a sealant gun you can use to apply adhesive on the stair board. It makes application accurate, less messy, and has a smooth pressure rod.
Alternatively, you can use screws to fit in the skirting board.
Drill Holes Along the Skirting Board With a 3mm Drill Bit
Ensure the gaps between the drill holes are at least 30cm (11.81in). Use a countersink bit so that you can cover the screw heads with a filler and coat of paint. Place the skirting on the wall and mark the screw positions with a pencil. Drill holes in the wall using a 6mm drill bit. The larger hole will allow you to use plugs. Screw the skirting board in place.
If you opted to fix the skirting with screws, ensure you use a filler or liquid wood to cover the holes. If there’s still a gap between the skirting and the wall, you can fill it using an acrylic kit. Fortunately, you can smooth it out using a wet finger. Once the acrylic kit dries, use a new coat of paint to hide it.
This video offers great insights on how to install skirt boards, especially if you’ve opted to do it yourself:
Stair Skirt Board Alternatives
Although skirt boards have multiple functions and are an important feature in your home, there are alternatives that you can use. Having alternatives is necessary if you’re attempting a DIY project and the skirting looks too complex for your skill level.
These are some of the alternatives to stair skirt boards:
Shadow Gap Skirting
Shadow gap, also known as shadow line skirting, is a 10mm (0.39in) linear, horizontal gap usually installed along the walls. This alternative to skirt boards is ideal for minimalistic designs.
Unfortunately, since it only has a height of 10mm (0.39in), any mistakes are easily noticed. Additionally, the delicate nature of making a flawless free shadow gap comes at a cost.
Wooden Beading Skirting
Wooden beading skirting is an excellent alternative for homes with low ceilings and along stairs in small spaces. Beading was traditionally done to hide faults, such as gaps and rough edges. For example, it hid gaps when new flooring was fixed without removing the skirting board.
The materials for wooden beads are similar to those of skirt boards, such as MDF and hardwood. Sometimes wooden beads are added along skirting boards for a decorative finish and to provide additional protection if the skirting isn’t tall enough.
No Skirt Board
The other alternative is to avoid the skirt board altogether. Skirting boards have been used for so long that it’s natural to imagine you cannot do without them. However, you can choose to have a “naked” staircase if you wish, though this comes with a cost.
For example, you’ll need to clean the gap between the wall and stairs because it usually collects dust. You also risk seeing scratches, water damage, scuff along the wall because this area is prone to knocks, especially when furniture is being moved around.
Skirt boards also absorb natural house vibrations, which can cause cracks in different places in the home, such as walls and stairs.
Since the stairs won’t have the support of a skirting attached to the wall, it’s most likely going to weaken over time, so you’ll have to incur preventable maintenance costs.
Although stair skirts are important decor finishes, their value is strongly linked to their other functions. They may appear problematic, especially if you have to paint them every couple of years. However, their purpose outweighs the cost.
Fortunately, you can choose the material that requires little or no maintenance, and you never have to think about the skirting board once it’s installed.
See also: Best Non-Slip Stair Treads on the Market