Fix-It Friday: Conquering the Abyss… How To Put The Space Under The Stairs To Good Use

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under the stairs-pantry
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“My kitchen pantry is under the stairs! It’s not closed in and my husband says he wants to make sure he does it correctly to code. I’ve been waiting 7 years!! While I am waiting, I put my pots and pans on a wire free standing shelf. I am constantly knocking pans back into the abyss and having to pull out the shelf tower and crawl back to get them. How do I close the opening and have it up to code? Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!” – WYSK Reader Wendy Teare

NV: Hi Wendy! I love putting that space under the stairs to good use! By the way, the only formal names I’ve ever heard for that abyss, as you say, is “space under the stairs (or staircase).” Many years back I helped my cousin install a powder room under the staircase (toilet on one side, sink on the other) in his Brooklyn townhouse.

under stair pantryTo answer your question about installing a pantry door “to code” – the illusive code that has put your door project on hold for 7 years – are you ready for the answer?! Drum roll please… there is no code for this type of door!

As I suspected when I first read your question, and confirming with the ICC and IRC (International Code Council and International Residential code), there is no formal code or standard for this type of door because it is (a) not a point of egress and (b) the space is used solely for storage.

Now that the code quandary is shut, the question becomes what kind of door can you install? Like most things, it’s a matter of money and effort. If you want to go high-end, you can have the door custom built according to style and materials of your choice. You can hire a master craftsman in your area to custom build one according to your design preferences. The other option is to custom order one through a business that specializes in custom doors.

With either of these options, the sky’s the limit! Colonial raised panel, double doors, French door (with glass panes), louvered – it all depends on the look you want. You might want to check out Pinterest for a ton of great design ideas. The image above is from a site called the kitchn that featured a coat closet turned pantry reno.

non mortise hingeAs for a simple do-it-yourselfer door project, you can build a door with just about any material (veneered plywood, lattice, etc.) and hinge it with non-mortise hinges. Non-mortise means hinges that are designed to be installed without having to recess the hinge into the door and doorframe, making for easy installation.

I would install the door to swing out, so as not to block anything inside the pantry. I’d hang the door right in the opening frame of the pantry, using that as the door jamb (the “jamb” is the frame where the door is hung).

doorlatch pullsThen, to create a door stop, I’d install wood molding, even simple 1×2’s, around the opening to prevent the door from swinging through into the pantry. As for a closure you can use an simple latch that would attach right to the door at a convenient height with a simple dummy door knob (fixed pull), again not having to mortise a hole in the jamb for a formal door knob lock. You can even find gorgeous door latch-pulls in one.

Ok, Wendy, don’t make this door project go into an 8th year! Armed with this info, you can finally get your pantry door issue closed!

Norma sig


Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!

If you have a DIY home repair, maintenance or improvement question for Norma, now is your chance to ask-the-expert and have her answer. Your burning question may just be the “star” of an upcoming Fix-It Friday column.

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.

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