basement options? walk out, look out?

gingerjennyMarch 6, 2012

What are you doing for your basement? Our builder suggested a look out basement. i like the look of these in the basement. gives you tons of light. However, i feel like they look funny on the outside at the back of the house. I see people with really raised decks and awkward backyards. I worry about the landscaping in the backyard and what that would cause. One lot we are looking at is sloped and would require a walkout basement. I am not sure how I feel about these either. Could you really even do a deck? Would the landscaping be weird going from the sides of the house to the back? thoughts?

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We're doing a walk-out because the slope of the land pretty much dictates it. With a walk-out, you gain some and lose some. The pluses are that the basement is much more pleasant, and better for converting into living space. The downside is that walk-outs are kinda ugly, what with a big house sticking way up out of the ground. I have seen some very nice treatments, though, Sorry, I don't have any links or pics; maybe someone else will come along with some.

We're going to have a deck off of the back of ours. Due to the lay of the land, few people will ever see the back of our house anyhow, so I don't really care how it looks.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:12PM
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Most houses around us are walk out, but we did look out, as it was really important for us that the main level be at ground level. we have a large patio that we use all the time. The look out part is to the side of the house with a retaining wall. the lot slope down to that side of the house The basement has a bedroom with an egress window and 3 other smaller windows that we use as an exercise room. this room is really bright. the rec room has one big window. home theatre doesn't need a window. the rec room is used mostly at night anyway.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 4:30PM
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Do you want to access the outdoors, from the main floor or the basement? Do you want to have stairs down from the main floor to the lower area?

With a walk-out basement, you can have a lovely patio on the lower level and a deck on the upper level...but even better, why not screen the upstairs deck? That way you'd have extra living space, no bugs and still have an entertainment area, downstairs? Some people only have the deck/screened area, for half the upstairs area, so there's more light on the downstairs patio. For instance...the deck is off the dining room or great room, but not both.

As for landscaping, you'll have sloped sides and need to terrace or grade it somehow...but the back can be a normal type of landscaping...with swingset, gardens, etc. This is a great option, if you want outdoor access, from the lower level...especially with kids :)

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 5:09PM
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I grew up in a hilly area and walkouts are very common.

As long as it is treated right they can look very nice:

Take the exterior finishes to grade. Its not that much more money usually and you don't have to deal with the grey stripe of concrete block.

Put in decent sized windows and doors in the basement--like the same size as upstairs.

Make the deck nice, like a porch, rather than looking like a giant pressure treated wart hanging on the side of the house.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:07PM
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I guess it depends on what is typical for your area. We are in hilly Kentucky, so walk-outs are pretty much expected. We got 10' ceilings out of ours so we think it will turn out nicely. IMO, landscaping will look best with some type of retaining or terrace wall(s).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 6:54PM
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I think it depends entirely on your lot.

Here, it's super hilly, so walk-outs are extremely common. Almost always finished. Actually, I don't think we even looked at a house without a walk-out basement when we were looking at existing houses - and we looked at a lot!

We're getting a walk-out and our ceilings will be high so it will feel just like extra living space.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 7:03PM
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I live in a pretty flat area (northern indiana). But some lots have a little slope

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:59PM
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Depends on your lot. Ours required it and we are very happy with how the architect designed the home to the site. Decks are not an issue - we have multiple decks from the main and upper level and patios and courtyards on the side and at the rear. We requested 10ft ceilings in the basement and will finish a portion as an in law suite - bright and open with the full windows. Walkout are also great for tweens/tweens to hang out - we don't have kids but planned for aging parents down the road.

These are not the best but you can see how they designed the home to the site.


    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:26AM
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We are also doing a walk-out basement with full size windows and taller ceilings. We will have a patio on the basement level and a deck on the upper main level. Walk-outs are very common around here and with our lot it was the only option. Bricking the exposed basement was a must for us.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 11:58AM
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I love what Michelle has. If we could have found a lot with half a walkout and half a regular, that's what we would have picked. DH really wanted a walkout, but after talking to other parents we decided against it. Our home will be for raising kids, and we have really little kids right now (3,1,& newborn). The down side to a walkout basement is that when you're on the main floor of your house there's a blind spot on the ground. I wouldn't be able to see my kids playing close to the house. Also, it puts me pretty far away from them should I need to run out quickly. Obviously the high deck is scary too. In the end it just wasn't worth it to us.

we had the option of grading our lot to allow for a lookout basement, and we chose against it because of landscaping/hardscaping issues.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:11PM
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While there are advantages to walk outs, which I listed above...personally, I would want my outdoor living areas, connected to the main floor. We have too much snow to deal with stairs and I like a short trip, between kitchen and garden :)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 2:22PM
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A few other points. Our home was built in an established neighborhood with mature trees. In order to do a walk out, we would have had to take down all of the trees to regrade. It's really a matter of personal preference. We could have done what Michelle is doing, but i want the backyard to be level to play catch or soccer. I'm wondering, how much time do people actually spend in the basement? I don't go down there unless I'm working out. it's a nice space- 10 ft celings, windows, but we already have this huge main level and it's just the 3 of us.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:54PM
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This is not a good picture but my steps from my porch are on the left and lead out to the more level part where the fort and trampoline are. I have a good view from the living areas of the house. The porch is concrete and doesn't obscure the light in our south windows of our basement. French doors under the porch.

I can sit there in the summer and watch my kids and their buds swim without getting cooked in the Midwest sun.

Landscaping was fairly extensive, but we did a lot of it.

We will have at least a partial walkout in our next house. Plus, our house fire in 2003 originated in the basement and I like the escape route.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:57PM
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Redlover - I so wish we could have done the steps off our deck like yours! We have a high set of stairs, but it was what worked on our property. We are on a sloping hill.

My basement is a full light, walk out basement and I love it! We only had a look out basement in our other home. I operate my design business from a basement studio and I'm so glad now to have a door and great windows!

Our son's bedroom is in the basement and he has a large window - it doesn't feel like a basement! His suite will be a future in law suite if needed.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:03AM
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From a technical perspective, the walkout provides for drainage away from the house for surface water and for water that may get in the area around the foundation. Really helps for having a dry basement.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 8:42AM
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We have a lower level walk-out that is open on three sides, but we are empty nesters. We had a main level walk-out while we raised our three children. That said, our house suits our day-to-day living and lifestyle.

Same as a few above, we poured tall walls so that the lower level would not be a basement. Ceilings are 10.5 feet. Finishes are the same as the main level, so it's not a basement and does not have that feeling. The view helps. lol

Large windows, French doors, etc make it nice.

Here's a few from across the lake taken just after we moved in:

We built on the ridge of our lot, so there was a natural place for lower level. Main level is walk-in. I like how the house is not revealed from the front.

Part of the front is hidden by the stone garage (barn) when coming up the main drive to the garage. A wide flower bed runs along the driveway and the Kentucky 4 Board fence is installed along the retaining wall, the largest of two:

During construction, before fence installed:

The other end of the house has a much smaller wall:

Another plus is we have three large verandas to enjoy. I did not want steps going from the upper veranda down to the backyard, personal choice.

Here is a link that might be useful: house tour

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 9:12AM
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Downey-we have two llarge bedrooms in our basement and a dance/exercise room, that are all flooded with light. A good basement is a great place for an office like yours. My kids practically live downstairs, giving me a little peace and quiet upstairs.

In the Midwest we call the other type of basement "daylight" basements.

Bus driver- good point. I agree, we have never had water problems. In our old house, our sump pump ran all the time and I was always freaked out that my basement would flood.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 11:32AM
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We also have a walkout that is only accessible to the outside on one side of the basement. It is a good compromise because it allows us to retain an outside living area on the first floor without having to use a deck. It may or may not be possible depending on your site.

This model gives a good perspective:

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 1:16PM
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We have a sloped lot and are in the planning stages of a walk-out basement home. I am loving all of these pictures! Thank you to those that are posting!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 5:49PM
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We are using a portion of our basement as an in-law suite and and a bright space for crafting/quilting. If it were not walk-out, I probably wouldn't want my crafting area in the basement. First draft so it will change but gives you an idea of what you can do.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2012 at 1:27PM
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We just built a walk out basement and love it! We came from Missouri so we were VERY accustomed to walk outs with the hills, but when we moved to Oklahoma, the land is just to flat. But we found a hill! Most people here have no idea what a walk out basement is until they see a picture.

We have very young boys but I am not nervous about having the walk out. The deck is high but really the railing is tall and tight so I have no worries about them falling. I like having a level front yard and level backyard.

Our landscaping is simple, we built a boulder retaining wall to hold back the dirt on one side of the house but the other side has a gentle slope so we just graded it off. Most people see the front of your house anyway and it just looks like a normal house. The basement ceiling is over 9ft and with huge windows so it is very bright open and doesn't feel like a basement at all.

There is no doubt that we would do a walk out basement again. I love being able to access the backyard from the basement and having a patio and deck is nice. We planned the deck so we could add stairs from the deck to the backyard later if we decide to, but I like how useable the space is without stairs. The energy efficiency of the basement is so much better than a normal 2 story would be and we still get the space without a huge footprint.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 6:23PM
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