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Question DetailsAsked on 1/14/2014

Putting in a walk up basement.

We are looking at buying a home and the one we found does not have a walk out basement. It was suggested that we put a walk up from the basement. My question is how expensive is that process and would it hurt the foundation of t he house. Also I was told it would increase the value of the home. Is this true? Thank you.

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1 Answer

Voted Best Answer

A few add-ons to Ben's good comments:

1) Some locales consider this both a fire door location and an egress door, so be sure to check on door type and size needed - I have worked several jobs where a finished new stair had to be totally redone before the house could sell because the stair width was too low, stairs were too steep, headroom too low (for covered one), and/or the door was too narrow.

2) To avoid making a weak point in the foundation at the door, which can lead to sagging in the foundation at the door and upstairs damage, breaching the foundation has to include putting in structural trimmers and header to carry the overlying house load across the opening, and to handle the compression load at the top of the wall, which resists the tendency of the opening to close in at the top. This is usually a welded metal frame made of about 1/4" thick steel channel the thickness of the wall (flat side to door), bolted with concrete anchors into the footer and the wall on both sides. Some doors, especially metal security or fire door models, may with an outer metal frame, but it is usually not heavy duty enough to actually provide the strength needed to reinforce the foundation. The concrete block or structural brick voids on each side should also be filled solid with grout for 3 feet each side of the opening - usually done by grouting from holes drilled in the doorway opening to avoid having to work down through the house walls

3) With a walk-up, assume water and bugs are going to accumulate at the doorway and plans accordingly for drainage and cleaning and avoiding places for bugs to congregate or get into the basement. It is a good idea to use the maximum height allowed by code for the doorsill, with solid concrete underneath, to act as a water stop.

4) Don's rise/run numbers are code standard - check your locale, an amazing number of local codes have different maximums, both larger and smaller.

5) Consider stairway icing, and how you will handle tracking in of mud/gravel/snow/water on feet.

6) Will increase value of house, but like most improvements I doubt it will ever equal the cost, whereas a walkout entry and full-height windows can increase value more than cost at times. One way to boost the value at low cost, depending on your land configuration and drainage considerations, is to open up the area around the door and make a small veranda or patio down there, then lead out with very wide fanned-out steps or even a ramp to make it a place to set and sun or party, not just a narrow dingy set of cellar stairs - makes it look more like a walkout basement, which most people like more. Just remember, the more you open up the below-grade area around the door, the more rainfall/snowfall you have to plan to handle.

7) If in snow country, plan for snow control (snow fencing around opening ?), or maybe cellar stairs with enclosed staircase or canopy or awning overhead, or a covered exit up along the side of the house rather than straight out from it.

8) Don't forget security - metal door, security locks, possibly interior bar, light (mandatory), as this type of door is a preferred entry point for burglars because it is usually out of sight from the street and neighbors. Also, if you have a covered entry to the "bottom" door, consider outer door security to keep vagrants/homeless out, if a problem in your area.

9) Before getting carried away, check for utilities and french drains - they may make it more economic or desireable to put the door elsewhere. Also, check local codes on distance from door to gas or electric meter - most areas requirem as I recall, 3 feet laterall clearance from electric meters, and 10 feet from gas meters to below-grade doors or windows.

10) While providing an exit, consider size and location to allow for easy movement of furniture and storage items in and out, both for you and potential buyers. Costs very little more to do full 3 foot wide door than 30 or 32 inch (if not already required by code for egress door), and even a 4 foot wide door is not prohibitively more expensive in most cases.

11) Unless you have a totally enclosed, sealed access entry to an upper door, I strongly suggest putting a window (security mesh type if needed) in the door so you can look out and see the full stoop area, as depressed stairwells like this tend to accumulate snakes, toads, lizards, skunks and cats and such. Keeping it well lit at night can discourage some of the warm-blooded animals, but the cold-blooded ones tend to explore holes, and then stay the night next to the warmer door, especially if warm air is coming out under it.

12) In considering if to use open stairs to ground level or enclosed, and type of stairwell, consider safety (top sides need deck standard railing if more than 3 feet deep, any depth over one step height in many areas), and consider if area is susceptible to flooding as you may need a monolithic concrete stairwell with raised floodwall around it and elevated outer door or stoop, then back down to the ground level.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


If done properly & correctly , adding a walkout entrance from the basement will indeed add value to your home and does not weaken the foundation.

The obstacle to overcome is introducing this stair carriage and the accompaning stair well into the first floor . The present day code requirements mandate a 7-11 minimum , 7 inches of rise, 11 inches of tread for each tread along with accompaning railings on each side, balusters- pickets being not more than 4 " apart. To determine how many steps you need , measure the height from floor to floor , divide by 7 .

Breaching the foundation for the door will be the most expensive and dirtiest part, costing

$2500-5500.00 , the door costs between 300 & 800 , and the stair carriage rails etc

could cost $ 2000-4000.00 ,all depending of course , on location & !

The unknown costs are those involved in enclosing the steps or introducing a door and new walls into the present structure

Answered 6 years ago by BentheBuilder

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