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STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
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SURFACE GRADING, SITE DRAINAGE
Thermal Expansion Cracking of Brick
TREES & SHRUBS, TRIM OFF BUILDING
TRIM, EXTERIOR CHOICES, INSTALLATION
VINYL Siding or Window PLASTIC ODORS
WATER BARRIERS, EXTERIOR BUILDING
WATER ENTRY in buildings
WINDOWS & DOORS
Basement walkout doors & covers: this article describes basement walkout doors & door covers, also called bulkhead doors - exits from a below-grade building basement directly to the exterior should be protected from the weather. Without a safe and weather-tight cover basement water entry and even building flooding are likely in most climates. Traditional wooden and site-built basement exit walkout covers are fine if maintained, but as we illustrate here, rotted walk-out door covers can be dangerous. We include information on where to buy bulkhead or basement walkout doors.
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Steel Basement Walkout Door Covers
Shown at left is a traditional steel basement walk-out door cover. Bilco®, a manufacturer of steel basement walk-out doors has been widely-enough used in North America that some people refer to these doors as "Bilco doors" - which perhaps Bilco appreciates.
You'll notice that the installer built a foundation for the basement exit door that extends above ground level - a step to keep surface runoff water from entering the outdoor stairwell down into the basement.
[Click to enlarge any image]
Watch for these defects and hazards at this type of steel basement walkout door installation:
Our photo at below left illustrates what looks at first glance like a perfectly nice basement walkout door cover installation.
Looking more closely at the lower right door panel you'll see it's covered with green algae; We think that a history of roof spillage onto this door invites rust damage to the door and leaks into the building.
At above right the basement walkout door was cleverly installed against an entry porch to give headroom for the basement entry stairwell. But take a look at the moss and algae growing around the foundation of the door (look out for rust-perforation in those locations).
And though it's not quite obvious in this photo, in-slope sidewalk paving around this basement entry drains towards the steel "Bilco-type" door rather than away from it. As this basement walkout was installed without an above-ground curb water freely runs down the steps into the basement in wet weather.
Damaged, Leaky, Unsafe Basement Walkout Doors
These photos each show a rotted and unsafe bulkhead door made of wood.
The photo at above left is so horrible that it's condition is obvious to just about anybody who might visit this Poughkeepsie home. But what about the un-expected injury to the heating service technician who was asked to enter the home by this pathway to perform emergency heat repairs when no one was at home to let the service person into the basement by another, safer entry?
At above right the wooden bulkhead door shows a hazard that some homeowners may not anticipate: a fall-through collapse of this door when visiting children or workers stand on its surface.
At left we illustrate fresh evidence of a leaky home-made bulkhead door. The door structure looks as if it too may be rotted, and we note that the steps are uneven in slope, pitch, and rise. And wet steps add to the slip trip fall hazard.
This stairway is rampant with trip hazards and thus is unsafe.
Access to these doors should be blocked and marked off as unsafe. The doors also leak, inviting basement water entry at each rain. When these doors are replaced, build the curb up above ground level and provide locking security as well.
Frost Damage to Basement Walkout Door Foundations & Walls
Despite construction on footings below the frost line, in freezing climates we often find frost-damaged foundation walls around the stairwell beneath a bulkhead door intended to protect the basement walk-out.
You can see that the block foundation wall on the right side of the stairwell shown above has been patched from time to time, apparently in an attempt to address leakage and frost cracking.
And at left you see very severe frost damage to a concrete block foundation that occurred only at the basement walk-out stair and foundation for the bulkhead door at this home.
Basement Walk-Out Stairway Drain Clogs
At above left the green algae in this basement walk-out stairwell tells us of a history of wet conditions and a serious slip trip and fall hazard on these stairs. (SLIPPERY STAIRS, WALKS)
At above right we illustrate how reliance on a basement walkout stairwell drain to keep water out of the basement is a chancy proposition.
Unprotected Basement Exit Doorways to the Outside
Basement exits to outdoors should be protected from the weather by a roof or other means.
When a basement exit stairway such as the installation at above left has no protection from the weather we expect to find one or more occurrences of basement flooding or at least water entry over the life of the building. At above right we see that a drain was installed in this basement exit passage. We hope that the bottom of the basement walkout stairwell is below the level of the basement floor slab so that when leaves or snow cover block the drain we don't end up with a basement flood. But what about when the drain just stops working?
This was a well-kept home, but nevertheless basement leakage had been chronic through the basement walkout stairway. The owner finally constructed a raised masonry platform indoors to reduce recurrent water damage to the floor.
Nevertheless, when the exterior basement exit door stairwell drain clogs and floods water can certainly rise high enough to enter this room and flood the basement again.
That's just what happened.
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