Determine if a wall around a stairwell is load-bearing, that is, whether it supports elements of the building above it, before removing it. If the walls around the steps are not load-bearing and have been removed, the guidelines for enclosing them on two sides are as follows (a side and an end). You will need to hire someone to help you remove the wall if you plan to take it down.
Ensure that anyone working within reach of the stairs is clear of the path up them. Never use ropes or cables to assist people in getting into or out of buildings. They can cause serious injury or death if used improperly.
If there is a handrail attached to the wall at the top and bottom of the staircase it is called a "staircase balustrade". This should be solid, with no gaps between the rails, and must be kept clean. It is your responsibility to ensure that the staircase is safe for users. Do not allow children to play on staircases or under staircases unless supervised by an adult. Adults need to be aware of how many people are using the staircase and try not to let anyone climb it too quickly. Consider installing step lamps to light your way up and down the stairs.
Stairways provide a dangerous means of access into buildings. It is everyone's responsibility to keep stairways clear of clutter so that people have easy access when they need to get in or out of a building.
You can detect if a wall is load-bearing by inspecting it. If the property has two stories and the identical wall is set out on the second story, the wall below is a load-bearing wall. If you see any sign of damage such as cracks or holes in the wallboard, contact a building inspector immediately before starting any work.
The best way to know for sure is if there's a written list of walls that are supposed to be load-bearing and this one isn't listed. If so, then this wall doesn't provide any support for the floor above it and can be used for storage or anything else you want it to be used for.
Load-bearing walls should be solid and flat. They may have openings for doors or windows but they shouldn't have any cutouts except for maybe a light switch cover or toilet tank fill valve. Load-bearing walls should be free of any signs of water damage such as stains or wet patches. Load-bearing walls should also be free of any structural defects such as broken windows or doors. Load-bearing walls should be protected from any wear-and-tear that could weaken them such as carpeting or drapes hanging on them.
Tom recommends going down to the basement or attic to examine which direction the joists go to assess if a wall is load-bearing. If the wall runs parallel to the joists, it is not likely to be load-bearing. The wall is most likely load-bearing if it is perpendicular. However, even if a wall is not load-bearing, you can still build walls against it if you want. Just make sure the building code doesn't require it to be load-bearing.
Load-bearing walls provide support for the structure and prevent it from collapsing. They also protect living space inside the building from damage caused by heavy loads applied to non-load-bearing walls. Load-bearing walls are either vertical or horizontal. A vertical load-bearing wall supports the weight of other walls and any ceilings that it does not have access to. For example, if a third floor is not planned but would be desirable, a vertical load-bearing wall could be used instead. These walls need to be strong enough to support the weight of all floors above them.
A horizontal load-bearing wall connects two opposite sides of a room. It prevents other walls inside the room from collapsing due to the weight of buildings above it. Horizontal load-bearing walls do not support the weight of other walls or ceilings above them. For example, if a second story is not planned but would be desirable, a horizontal load-bearing wall could be used instead.