Nice! Um… where’s the door?

Being an area that’s been flat-out nuts in the housing market the last five plus years, I’m betting we have a good number of folks here who have purchased houses and had work done on them. So I have a funky question – has anyone reading this ever had an external entrance added to a basement?

My darling girlfriend and I are looking around at housing – both rentals and purchases – and we came across a property that was very nice, except the basement had no outside access. Being as the basement will be where the woodshop will live, this is somewhat of a problem. Could I pass lumber in and out of a window? Yes. Do I hate myself enough to do so? Probably not.

So, have any of you or anyone you knew ever had an additional entrance put into a home? It can be done, of course, but I wonder how weird an occurrence it is. Would Joe Average contractor have done it before? I’ve done a lot of construction in my life but I’ve never retrofit a door into an outside wall, much less one that’s partially below ground level. In my home town we call the area below ground level “underwater.”

6 Comments so far

  1. David (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 3:39 pm


    I’m sure there are enough competent contractors out there that could help… Mainly you’re not looking to kill a load bearing area. But if it’s below ground, you have a lot more fun to deal with…

    You could always put in an elevator!

  2. poo poo (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

    our contractor is an all around guy, and he turned a window into a door on our second floor. he removed the window, and literally whacked out the brick to make it a big enough opening, and installed a door, in a day.

    i’m assuming it’d be the same thing there, except that you’d have to dig out some dirt to accomdate the bottom part of the door. you could then pour some concrete steps, or as you seem to be the ‘woodmaster’, perhaps you could toss up some wood steps.

    i was amazed at how easy our guy did the door. our house is all brick and built in 1890.

  3. Don (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 4:27 pm

    Only my darling girlfriend gets to call me the woodmaster, poo poo.

    My presumption is that in order to do this you have to dig out enough room, knock the hole in the wall, put up retaining walls on the sides and build in some stairs. And the door, of course.

    I was primarily wondering if this was terribly esoteric or not too uncommon.

  4. poo poo (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

    eh… you get points for that one. and no, i’m not terribly envious of your woodmistress. ;o)

    our contractor gets subcontracted by home depot to install doors in the dc area, BUT he also poured our concrete driveway, so.. he’s pretty general.

    when i mentioned changing the window to a door, he didn’t even blink. he just asked me what size door. so.. i suppose it’s pretty common.

  5. Wayan (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 5:54 pm

    Its quite common to change a window into a door in a basement, but you have to make sure you have drainage at the doorway floor or you’ll have an indoor swimming pool after any decent rain.

  6. danny (unregistered) on August 14th, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

    Check to make sure you don’t need a permit or something to do that. I currently rent the walk-out basement of a SFH that could use another window. When I brought this up with my landlord he said the county (Fairfax, in this case) would not allow any changes to the exterior of the house, which would include the window installation I suggested. Not sure if thats true or he just said that as an excuse. NB: He said it was the county, not the HOA that restricted this.

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