Door to Basement from Main Floor

motherof3sonsJanuary 11, 2012

Our plans were drawn with no door to the basement. In framing the steps, the builder had to adjust the number of steps.

The entry door from the garage swings toward the basement opening. If someone were standing at the top of the stairs, it literally could knock them down the stairs. This leaves a very dangerous issue with an open basement stairway.

We decided to add a door, but DH and the builder are not liking my idea. I am considering a dutch door to keep it open for when the grandkids are playing in the basement area. This will allow us to keep an "ear" on their activity.

DH & builder do not like the look. To me the look is a non-issue. Anything can be made to look good and we can modify a door for the purpose. My issue is how to swing the top section. I would prefer that it could swing both ways, but do not know if this is possible.

If I had foreseen this problem, the basement opening would be elsewhere. That is why hindsight is always 20/20.

Any possible solutions GW members?

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I know your basement door has to swing out unless you have a landing at the top of the stairs. Honestly, I would prefer the top to swing in so if someone comes in from the garage, they won't hit the top of the dutch door if it is open.

Not sure if it is possible, or code compliant, to have the top of a dutch door swing one way and the bottom to swing the other. You may be stuck with them swinging out - but does that affect the garage door?

Can you reverse the swing on the garage door so it swings to the other side, away from the basement?

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 10:37AM
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You can use a french door for the basement door (glass with mullions). It allows you to see who is coming and going and eliminates the potential to hit a person on the stairs. I've seen it in a few homes and it looks good. It also allows light into the stairwell and basement - important if it isn't a walkout with some natural light.

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 3:34PM
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I really never thought of the entry door swinging into the garage. That may be a perfect solution. The french door is another great idea for visual issues.

Thanks much for responding!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 5:44PM
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It's hard to give an opinion without seeing your plan, but this is just another idea. In our previous home, the door to the garage had glass on the top, like this one from Therma Tru. Our back entry was a narrow hall, and the window actually prevented the door being swung into someone or something on occasion.

I would check your local codes on entry/exit door swings. Not sure there would be a problem, but better to check before you do it just to be safe.

Here is a link that might be useful: Therma Tru door

    Bookmark   January 12, 2012 at 6:26PM
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Here is an older version of the plan that provides a snapshot of the problem area.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 12:40AM
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It looks fine to me as drawn - with the door opening against the flat wall. For some reason, I thought the door opened towards the stairwell. There appears to be a large enough landing for it not to be dangerous to me . . . Glass in the garage door would seem to solve any issue that may arise.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 5:47AM
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My understanding was the same asathensmomof3. If the garage door does open against the wall, as it should, what is the measurement of the floor from the wall behind the door when it's open and the top edge of the first step?

We have the exact same setup (also Laundry to the left, but Mudroom where you have a walk-in closet). Our finished measurement from the drywall of the wall the garage door flattens against when open, to the finished top edge of the floor before you go down onto the first step is 4'6'. We've had 3 very young grandchildren living with us for over 3 years, who constantly go up and down from the 2nd floor to the lower level walkout (DH and I mostly inhabit the 1st floor). Somehow, they haven't knocked their siblings down the stairs yet, or even hit them with the door, not that I haven't been concerned that this might happen! And that's with coat hooks on that wall behind the door to the garage, in addition to the mudroom hooks.

I would not have the door to the garage open into the garage; it's just too difficult, since we almost always are carrying something in from the car. With a couple of steps from the garage into the house, it would be very awkward to be on them to open the door, then have to back away to get the door past me, get into the house, and then with stuff in my hands have to reach back and pull the door in!

You could have the door to the basement on the landing. I've seen it both ways--at the bottom of the long run of stairs opening against the wall on the right, or at the top of the short run of the stairs opening onto the landing against the wall, not over the stairs. Or is there room to put the door at the bottom of the stairs? I'd do any of these before I'd put any door at the top, which seems to me would create more problems.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 9:51AM
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I think most building codes do not allow an exterior door, such as yours to the garage, to open into the garage. Exterior doors must open into the building. I think it has to do with fire safety, but I'm not sure about that.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 8:13PM
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Thanks for the posts everyone. JimandAnne - we lost the landing space at the top of the stairs because of a problem in the original drawings. The contractor had to use the top step otherwise the stairs would have been too steep.

If the door swings into the garage we will build a standing platform (similar to a porch). Decisions, decisions!

    Bookmark   January 13, 2012 at 9:59PM
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Based on the plans, I really do NOT think you have a problem but if you try to put a second door at the top of the stairs, you will be creating one.

I understand that the builder wound up having to make an extra step so that the first step down is closer to the door than it was supposed to have been and that this is making you nervous.

But, unless the hinges to the door have been reversed from the way they are shown on the plan, the garage door really does NOT swing "toward" the basement opening. The hinges are on the side that is farthest from the stairs. So, the door actually swings AWAY from the stairs as it opens. At at no point would it push any object that it hit DOWN the stairs.

Seriously, if you were to place a ball on the floor in the locations shown by the blue dots in the diagram below, and then open the door so that it strikes the ball, the red arrows show the direction that the ball would be pushed.

At the worst possible spot, the ball would be pushed parallel to the top of the stairs, NOT DOWN the stairs. Everwhere else the force is AWAY from the staircase. Same thing if a person happened to be standing in one of these spots. They might get a bump but they would NOT be knocked down the stairs. You really should try this for yourself because seeing for yourself the direction that the ball moves may help to relieve your anxiety.

Furthermore, a door of any kind across the top of the stairs will CREATE the very problem that you are worried about. The door would have to swing out into the hall because code won't allow you to have a door that swings over steps. So, assume you hinge the door on the right side of the stairs. Suppose it is standing partway open in the way in the way of a "Alex" who is heading toward the garage. Alex pushes the stairway door closed so that he can reach the garage door. But just at that moment, Bobby comes up running up the stairs toward what was an OPEN doorway. He runs smack dab into a door that is closing TOWARD him. That force of that door is directed almost straight down the steps and could literally knock Bobby down the stairs.

Try it for yourself. Take a ball and a meter stick or a 3' piece of 2x4 and go out to your house. Place the ball on the floor to represent the spot where Bobby's head might be as he reaches the top of the stairs not expecting that door to suddenly close. Then set the 2x4 on the floor and hold it where on the side where the hinge would be then swing it the way a closing door would move. You can see for yourself that the ball will move in the direction show by the red arrow - i.e., DOWN the stairs.

Granted, a stairway door hinged on the other side would be less dangerous because, if it were standing open, a person who is in the garage and wanted to get inside would have a hard time forcing the stairway door to close. In fact, a door standing open like this in front of another door forms a pretty effective barrier to opening the door at all. You CAN do it - but it takes awhile and usually results in scratching the blocking door up pretty badly.

Do you want to be standing out in the garage with your arms full of groceries trying to get in when the door is blocked because one of your grandkids left the stairway door standing open?
Finally, most people coming up the stairs and intending to go into the main part of the house will tend to stay toward the inner wall as they reach the top of the stairs (shortest path and all that) so 99.9% of the time, they won't arrive at the top step immediately in front of the door anyway. As you can see in the first diagram above, even if side of the step next to the garage is really close to the door's swing path, the other side of the first really isn't that close. Put the handrail on the inside - which is the logical place to put one anyway - and that will reinforce the tendency to stay to the right as you climb the stairs which will further reducing the chance for any possible possible collision with the door to the garage when it opens.

Get a half-light door for the garage so that you can see in when opening that door and then stop worrying.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2012 at 2:47AM
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I agree with chispa. Really, you can use a French door for the basement door. That may be a perfect solution. Thanks for sharing..

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 4:50AM
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The garage door can open into the garage (it is not part of an egress path) if it swings over a level landing at least 36" x 36". This seems like the better solution since a garage door with glass in it would be required to have a 20 minute fire rating which means fire-rated/wired glass.

If you can't decide which way to swing the glass basement door make it a pair of glass doors with 2/5 true panes. You will be able to hear most of what is going on in the basement if you undercut the doors an inch or more or one of the doors could be left open without restricting use of the hall too badly.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 2:29PM
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Renovator8 - Thanks for the feedback. Your suggestions will certainly be considered. We chose to "leave it as is" for the time being.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 11:07PM
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