converting an Englsh basement to a walkout

dgmarieFebruary 27, 2010


My home currently has an english/lookout basement. I'd like to dig down the remaining 3/4 feet and convert this to a walkout basement, with a small patio and stone steps to take you up to the mail ground level.

As we were planning to dig down to the foundation on this part of the house anyway to insert a gravity drain off our draintile (the back of the yard slopes away at the end, and attaching a gravity drained pipe would reduce the load off the sump pump), I thought we might consider this while we're digging.

I've seen photos of this done, but am wondering if this is really as easy as digging down, cutting through the concrete foundation and installing a door. We are planning to replace the windows in the basement anyway, so this all seems to be a good idea to do.

Would love to here anyone who hs done this, seen this done etc. We'd contract this out of course.

This isn't exactly what I mean, because my windows are already above ground, but you get sort of the idea I am looking for:

Here is the current back of the house. I'd do the walkout on the left side.

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...wondering if this is really as easy as digging down, cutting through the concrete foundation and installing a door.


Assuming you're not in a desert or the deep south, you will need to underpin the existing foundation with a new foundation wall or columns to prevent frost damage; also, you may have to install a drain at the walkout area. See your local building officials to find out their requirements.

Rear walkup of Risi stone, a man-made retaining wall system.

If you're going to that expense--and you don't have space constraints--it would add more value convenience and utility to have the walkup facing the backyard rather than up the side of the house.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 8:28AM
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Thank you. Nice photo, too. Yes, I am outside Chicago, so that is a concern. I'd make the walkout towards the backyard. I have plenty of yard for that.

I've read project like this is only $16-20K. I think the added value is more than that. Husband thinks I am inviting a basement flood, however.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 5:09PM
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Husband thinks I am inviting a basement flood,

Not if you have a drain connecting into the house weepers or out to the yard as local regulations require. Our Code even provides for no drain as long as the walkout is covered.

The walkout integrates finished basement areas into the outside, especially useful for homes with kids, pools and partiers.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 7:17PM
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In the photo of my backyard, on the left side, all the drain tiles and the gutters collect into corregated black pipes, buried into the yard, and exit the house to the back of the property. The very back of the yard is a swale/fen/wetland area (build for the purpose of drainage, not a protected area). This area is much lower than the house and the GC suggested digging down to the draintile on the left side of the house and tapping into the draintile and running another pipe down to the drainage area and gravity feed water away from the house (and subsequently away from the sump pump and relieve the sump pump we have only one, and a very large footprint of the house). He's done this successfully on other houses where there is a good gravity slope away from the property.

What needs to be done regarding frost footings? How does that all work?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 8:06PM
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The drainage sounds sensible. But be sure it's acceptable by your local building authorities.

I've only done walkouts on new homes from scratch in a similar climate to yours. In those cases, the foundation had to: 1) extend another four feet into the ground beside the walkout and 2) on four feet either side of the walkout, it had to extend only two feet further into the ground. In addition, XPS insulation had to be adhered to the first two feet in depth inside of the section of the wall beside the walkout.

Again, check with your local authorities. Frost-heaved foundations are serious business; you don't want to take any chances.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 9:18PM
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The frost heave is a real problem.

If the frost depth is 30 inches, the now exposed foundation will be at about 0 inches.
This is were it can get expensive to shore up under an existing foundation to get back to the new frost depth from changing the elevation beside the foundation.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2010 at 3:16PM
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