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Walkout Basement Explained: Pros and Cons

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V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com

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Walkout Basement

A walkout basement has windows or doors that open to the outside on one or more walls. This entrance allows for natural light and ventilation, making a walkout basement feel more like an extension of the home than a dark, traditional basement, thus increasing the value of your property.

Walkout basements are often unfinished and used for storage, but they can also be finished and used as living space.

Many homeowners choose to finish their walkout basement and use it as an extra bedroom, family room, home gym, or office.

In this article, I will explain the pros and cons of walkout basements, and some tips for designing and building one.

Pros and Cons of a Walkout Basement

ProsCons
Enhances the aesthetics of the buildingHigh construction cost
Increased home valueLeakage risk
Additional spaceIncrease in property taxes
Potential earningsSusceptible to flooding
Additional emergency exits
Improved basement accessibility

Pros and Cons of Walkout Basement

Pros of a Walkout Basement

What are the benefits of having a walkout basement?

Enhances the aesthetic of the building

Basements are often dark, musty, and uncomfortable. However, windows and doors can bring much more light and fresh air to improve the atmosphere.

You might not even notice that the entire space is a basement when one side of the basement has doors and windows, and the other is well-lit with artificial lightning.

Right interior decor can make it more appealing.

Increased home value

Generally, a walkout basement is more desirable because it increases the liveable space in your home.

You’ll have opportunities to transform the walkout area into various spaces that are impossible in a traditional basement.

Additional space

With a walkout basement, you won’t have to go through your home to enter it. Instead, you can enter from a lower level.

While a traditional basement provides more space, a great living space may suit your liking.

The walkout basement alleviates the underground, dark feeling and encourages your guests and family to relax.

Additionally,a walkout basement is useful if you need extra furniture or car storage space.

They are also suitable places to build a home office, as it is nice and cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Potential earnings

If you want to make extra money, consider converting the walkout basement into a separate apartment.

A walkout apartment has the added benefit of allowing you to have a tenant without sharing a common entrance.

When it is time to sell your home, a walkout basement adds value.

The real estate agent may include the home’s overall square footage. Additionally, they’ll show how much extra “livable” room there is in the basement.

Additional emergency exits

When you have a walkout basement, you have the option of adding entry and exit points to your home.

The additional egress makes the basement more habitable.

Improved basement accessibility

A walkout basement has the added benefit of being easier to access and a great place for storing bigger items.

For example, moving a big cupboard downstairs is much easier if you have a door straight to the basement.

Cons of a Walkout Basement

Exorbitant installation cost

Adding a walkout basement to a home is extremely expensive.

If you have a basement, the first step would be to excavate a significant amount of earth, remove a portion of the foundation wall for the door, and then, if you want windows, more excavation is required.

Additional drainage is necessary to ensure the excavated wall does not leak into the walkout basement,increasing the installation cost.

Leakage risk

Leakages are more common in walkouts that are not at a steep angle, suggesting that the basement was excavated at a considerable slope and retaining walls were put up on either side of the walkout.

Moisture can be collected in the walkout area in these cases.

This can result in the degradation of wooden components such as basement beams and joists.

Joist drying can significantly lessen the extent of the damage.

Installing a drain near the walkout entrance can also help to solve this issue.

Increase in property taxes

A permit from your local building department is required to add a walkout basement.Doing this will notify the property tax assessors.

Taxes on your home depends on its value,so when the value goes up,the tax will also increase.

To avoid extra taxes, many homeowners prefer semi-finished basements, making them functional but not fully finished.

Make sure you consider this before you make any large investments.

Susceptible to flooding

A home located in an area with heavy rains face a higher risk of flooding.

If you suspect water seepage into your basement, a basement knee wall might be a good option to add to your basement.

Also,talk to your contractor about ways to mitigate them.

Walkout Basement vs Walk-Up Basement vs Daylight Basement vs Traditional Basement

A walkout basement is a type of basement that has its entrance, typically at ground level.

Walkout Basement
Walkout Basement

Walk-Up Basement

The term “walk-up basement” refers to a basement with all walls below grade and an exterior entrance via stairs leading up to ground level.

Walk-Up Basement
Walk-Up Basement

Daylight Basement

A daylight basement typically includes full-sized windows that can let in “daylight” and naturally brighten the basement space.

But it does not include an exterior door on the ground level. The entrance is typically at the side or back of the house.

Daylight Basement
Daylight Basement

Traditional Basement

A traditional basement is usually only accessible from the inside of the house.

Traditional Basement
Traditional Basement

How Secure is a Walkout Basement?

Although a walkout basement wall is not traditionally made of concrete, it is designed to withstand loads from one or more floors above.

While most people think of walk-out basements as desirable, it’s important to consider security when they are planned or constructed.

A building engineer will not sign off on the plans unless the walls designed are structurally sound.

If the basement has windows and a door that leads directly outside, it may be easier for someone to break into your home.

Is a Walkout Basement Considered a Story?

While some people may not consider a walkout basement an “official” story, it can be a valuable addition to your home.

If you’re considering adding one, check with your local building codes to see if there are any special requirements for this type of construction.

Remember that even though a walkout basement might not be regarded as a story in the conventional sense, the square footage does matter.

How is a Walkout Basement Constructed?

Construction of Walkout Basement
Construction of Walkout Basement

To have a walkout basement, your home must be built on a sloping lot.

The slope of the land will determine the required slope for the walkout basement.

In general, you will need at least an 8% slope (or 1 foot of elevation change for every 12 feet of horizontal distance) for the basement to qualify as a walkout.

The elevation change for a walkout basement will depend on how deep the excavated area is and how high the foundation walls are.

In most cases, you will need at least 2 feet of elevation change for a walkout basement.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to build a walkout basement in your home:

Step 1: Excavate the Area

Use heavy equipment such as a backhoe to excavate the area for the basement.

Step 2:Construct Foundation

Pour the foundation for the basement.

The foundation must be engineered specifically for a walkout basement to support the weight of the additional floors above it.

Place the footings for the walkout basement at a depth below the frost line in your area.

The average depth of the frost line is 4 feet, but it can range from 2 to 6 feet, depending on where you live.

This means the footings for your walkout basement should be placed at least four feet below the ground.

Step 3: Construct Walls and Ceilings

Frame the walls and ceiling of the basement using lumber and metal studs.

Be sure to use fire-resistant materials if you plan on finishing the basement later.

Step 4: Install Waterproofing Membrane

Install a waterproofing membrane on the exterior walls and floor of the basement to prevent water from seeping in.

Step 5: Drywall Installation and Finishing

Hang drywall on the walls and ceiling and finish as desired (paint, texture, etc.).

Professionals with experience, like a painter or drywallers, can do this for you.

Also,add desired finishes, such as flooring, trim work, and lighting.

These steps transform your basement from a blank canvas into a beautiful living space that you and your family will enjoy for years.

How Much does a Walkout Basement Cost?

Your project’s complexity and size will determine the answer.

Generally, you can expect to pay between $10,000 and $30,000 for a basic walkout basement.

However, if you need features such as plumbing or an extra bedroom, the cost will increase accordingly.

Conclusion

Walkout basements are certainly appealing, but they are not for everyone.

Many homes cannot use a walkout basement design because they lack a sloped terrain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What Type of Soil is Necessary to Build a Walkout Basement?

Different types of soil can be used to build a walkout basement, but the most common and recommended type is sandy loam.

This soil type has just the right amount of sand and clay, and drains well.

Additionally, excavating and leveling it is easy.

Can I add a Sliding Door to my Walkout Basement?

Yes, adding a sliding door to a walkout basement is possible.

When adding a sliding door to a walkout basement, consider the size and type of door, the type of track, and the installation process.

However,sliding doors are typically more expensive than regular doors, and can be difficult to install.

Do Walkout Basements Take a Lot of Time to Build?

The answer will depend on the size and scope of your project.

However, most walkout basements can be built in two to three months.

V Susan
Hi! I'm Susan. I am passionate about woodworking, general DIY and home improvement. If you'd like to connect with me or talk about something you like at mellowpine, drop me a mail at susan@mellowpine.com