Easy DIY Board and Batten Staircase

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Obviously, I am biased when it comes to my DIY projects and I am pretty sure I often say, “this one is my favorite!”. That said, for the 1st phase of our basement remodel, I did this easy DIY board and batten staircase and all I can say is “WOW”! This one is my FAVORITE!

how to build a board and batten staircase

I’ve been doing our home renovations for a long time. The more that I do the better I get. I think the same goes for my writing, to be honest… I was going over some old posts last week and yikes. lol…

Or maybe I’ve just built more confidence… Either way, I have definitely started to envision and tackle more. More intricate DIY ideas and projects around my home.

Basement Renovation Ideas

We have been in this house for 5 years and have been doing loads of renos. The whole time we have really wanted to renovate the basement but it always seems to get shoved to the back of the DIY list.

Admittedly, it is still low on the list of priorities but I have decided to get it going at least, albeit slowly. Our kid’s bathroom has been in demo mode for the last 5 months so that is the top priority right now or at least hopefully. Especially since we are getting sick of them in our bathroom making a mess.

I am really not consistent with my builds and projects though so we shall see how far I get. If certain wood or a specific item happens to go on sale at the hardware store… well, that is all it takes and I will stop one project and start another.

Ok, let me get on with it… We have a massive basement with incredible limestone walls. Right now, it is where my kids spend a ton of time playing hockey and rollerblading.

I figured that I’d just start at the very top and work my way down. That left me staring at the staircase… at the top of the staircase. Which was really an awful, unfinished mess.

staircase reno
Here is a pic of what it looked like… I have some of the drywall already started but you get the idea of how bad it looked…

As always, I spent a ton of time on Pinterest admiring all the amazing DIY projects that others had done and gained inspiration. This is a big step in my creative process. I really need to spend time in the space that I am working on. I find the easiest way for me to collect and gather ideas is researching Pinterest to see what all I can do with the area.

Pinterest is a visual platform so basically it is all about the pictures. I know that I mention Pinterest a lot but it is a really beautiful space and unlike other social media platforms, there is no-nonsense to deal with. You can just be there, relax and enjoy the pictures and blogs that everyone shares.

After spending far too long searching, I decided that I loved the board and batten look for our basement staircase.

Since I was starting from the top that was what I was focused on and now that I had the idea in my head, I was all set!

Board and Batten Staircase Plan

Having never done any board and batten work I had no clue where to begin. Back to Pinterest and Google to figure out what the best approach would be…

I learned that board and batten come from the style that was typically used on barns years ago. Narrow boards, called batten were used to create a layered look over wider boards.

The look can be created using almost any material; wood, fiber cement, steel or vinyl. Ok, can you tell that I got really distracted… lol

It seemed like the cheapest DIY idea for the home board and batten was MDF board cut to look like board and batten. Of course, when it comes to building, I am all about saving so that was what I was going to do.

If you already have a wall down the stairs then you simply attached the batten boards to the drywall. Unfortunately, my staircase was just studs and no drywall was up. I needed to drywall the entire staircase first seeing as I had bare bones to start with. Not my favorite job…

Measure

For my staircase, I was going to need about 5 pieces of drywall. I needed to figure out how many MDF boards I would need as well. Seeing as I am big on saving, I don’t like to waste any material. I decided that I wanted the batten boards to be four inches wide.

In order to not waste any of the MDF I bought 4×8 boards. One thing that I would consider next time is having the strips cut at the hardware store. Seriously, that would have cost me a buck a cut but saved me a crazy amount of time.

Tools and Supplies

  • Drywall (if you need it)
  • Drywall screws (again, if you have to put the drywall up)
  • MDF board
  • Skill saw
  • Nail gun and nails
  • Tape measurer
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses

It was pretty awkward doing the drywall alone, especially the top. I had to hold the drywall and screw it into place but somehow managed. If you have someone that can help you with this part, it will make it much easier.

To cut the drywall, all you have to do, once you have placed your cut lines are to score the board a few times with your gyprock knife and then turn the board over and bend slightly. It will simply snap in two pieces and I really like that part of the drywall process. It is the sanding that I absolutely hate.

drywall tool for screwing in drywall screws
I used this bit on my drill to screw in the drywall screws. It screws them into the perfect depth.

Once I had the drywall up it was so satisfying. Drywall changes a space by giving it that truly finished look.

Taping and Mudding

After you have all of the drywall in place, you need to tape and mud the joints. Mudding is pretty fun now that I am used to it. What I don’t like doing is the sanding afterward.

drywall tape for diy staircase board and batten project
Drywall Tape

Typically I go with the premixed mud. I tried to mix the powder product myself a few times and it was ok but for the jobs that I do, the premix is perfect. No huge mess and it is already the right consistency.

drywall mud for staircase project
This is one mix that I used. I still prefer the premix since it is so much easier.

Caulking

I learned a lot about caulking doing this process. I have used caulking a lot in kitchen and bathroom renos but I didn’t realize al the differences when t comes to caulking drywall.

Lowes has a great article on the various types of caulk, when, and how to use each type. It would have been so great had I actually researched caulking before I went ahead and did the majority of the staircase…

Making a huge mistake, I bought the cheapest option at the store. It said it could be used on drywall and it was paintable so I was sold. Until I put it on… It was so difficult to put on, it cracked with an hour of drying and looked horrible.

After spending hours on this project, I was not going to leave it looking like that. I headed back to the store and bought more expensive bottles thinking it was brand or quality. Nope… the same thing happened.

I was so upset at this point. One of the things that I love about DIY is that you truly do learn what not to do. Finally, on my third trip to the hardware store, I spent a lot more time reading the calling labels. I realized that I had been using silicone caulk and that there was painters caulking. Painters caulking is latex and boy, is it better!

How I Installed the Board and Batten

This part was awesome! It is so much fun when you start to really see a project come together.

Did I mention just how much I hate sanding drywall mud… lol

MDF board is super easy to work with. That was a huge relief after finally finishing all the sanding and mudding. Honestly, I looked like a snowman the whole time I was sanding.

I highly recommend that if you have the funds to have the store cut the strips for you. I’m super frugal so I lay each piece on a table and drew a 4″ line to follow. Using my skill saw I cut each one by one. It was a lot of extra work.

Time needed: 14 days.


This project took me about 2 weeks but the amount of time that it will take you will vary. I was only able to work on it during my free time so that limited my time per day.

  1. Drywall if needed. Luckily my staircase was already framed in so I was able to move right to the drywall stage.

    staircase renovation

  2. Decide how wide you want your batten to be.

    I went with 4 inches wide and love it. If you have a small space you can go with 3 inches but I personally like the wider look.

    how to install board and batten

  3. After you have all the batten in place, you need to mud the screws and the joints.

    I used the same premix drywall mud for this. You want to make sure that you do 3 layers and that the first layer is very thin. I used drywall tape on the joints where the batten came together. If you don’t, the mud will just crack and you will not be happy with it. You need to apply the mud to each drywall screw as well and if you skip doing that then you will have a wall full of nails showing.

    board and batten for diy staircase

  4. Sanding

    I used a small angled sanding sponge for all of the sanding work on the board and batten. The sponge gets into all the corners and gives a very professional look.
    how-to-make-a-board-and-batten-staircase

  5. Prime and Paint

    I used this primer and SICO paint. There paint line is a bit expensive but I find they offer sales often and it is really good quality.

    This cute little light gives the best illumination in the space.

    diy staircase

Conclusion

Even though this project was a lot of work, I would definitely tackle another DIY staircase. I just cannot believe how beautiful it is!

Remember to follow all of the steps and use the proper caulking and mud all of the drywall screws to get a uniform and sleek look.

I would really love to see any of your DIY staircase ideas. Post a comment or even a picture so that I can take a peek! The best way to learn is to share our experience and tips.

Easy DIY Board and Batten Staircase

Tammy Seed

I am a passionate, goal oriented girl that loves DIY home projects and sharing with others how they can create and build easily as well!