I'm thinking about buying a three bedroom, one bathroom ranch home in Maine. The home also has a bulkhead basement. I would like to enter the basement from inside the house, as well as have a door that allows me to walk outside from the basement. Is is possible to remodel my basement in that way? What would be a ballpark cost of this basement remodel project?
Bill M. ~ Raymond, ME
Hi Bill. I assume by bulkhead basement you mean a basement with a foundation that is totally in-ground and the only access is from a set of exterior stairs that are covered with a bulkhead. If you don't have interior access to the basement from the finished level of your home, that's often just a matter of finding some space where you can build a set of stairs -- perhaps you have some spare square footage in your living or dining rooms?
Of course, you don't want to interfere with the structural integrity of your home so you should get an architect involved in the planning stage. They can take a look at the load bearing walls in the finished part of your home and the basement and come up with a plan for the most feasible location for the stairway. You might mention to them that cost is also a factor as some have a tendency to forget that issue.
Adding a walkout door from your basement to the exterior is a whole different ballgame as I assume the reason the basement is in-ground is due to the grade around the home. The only way you're going to be able to add a walkout door will be to adjust the grade so that one of your foundation walls ( the sides or back) is totally exposed. However, you might be able to reduce the amount of regrading by having the wall still partially below grade and having a set of stairs, but they would not need to be as many risers as those you currently have. You would still be able to install windows on that wall, but they might need to be higher than normal to be above grade.
I can't say for sure without seeing the house and yard, but I think it's pretty safe to say that neither of these options is going to be cheap as both will require extensive grading and the strong possibility of having to install a retaining wall. Cutting a masonry or concrete basement wall to add a door or windows is a major undertaking in itself. If you are serious about moving ahead with this project, I highly recommend getting at least three bids from very reputable contractors for your basement remodeling cost and working closely with an engineer or architect during the planning stage. It's almost impossible to price this type of project without plans or seeing the jobsite. You will probably need to get a building permit for the basement work and also adding the interior stairway.