What is a Walk-Out Basement?

Do you know what a walk-out basement is? If not, check it out by reading this guide.

The basement is the first thing to think about when building a house. After all, a house isn’t much of a home unless it has a solid foundation. When it comes to your basement, however, you have options other than four block walls and a load of backfill. Many homeowners prefer walk-out basements, but what exactly is it?

Learn more about this type of basement below.

What is a walk-out basement?

A walk-out basement is exactly what it sounds like: a basement that you can walk out of. Typically, these basement designs include a wall with windows and a door that leads to the ground level. A walk-out basement is a basement in which at least one wall is entirely above grade. This allows homeowners to install a door in their foundation wall, giving them direct access to the basement.

The lot of the house frequently has a slope to the back of the property where the walk-out basement will have access to the backyard, and it may have a raised patio or covered roof from the upper floor of the house. These are some of the top benefits of choosing a floor plan with a walk-out basement when looking for a new home. Homeowners can create a one as a renovation, but this is typically a large and costly undertaking. Adding a walk-out basement to an existing house is also only feasible if the house is on a slope. It is less effective for homes below grade, which would necessitate a dug-out stairwell to “walk out.”

What are the advantages of this kind of basement?

This kind of basement has numerous advantages, the most important of which is increased livable space. While a basement can have liveable space, many people prefer a walk-out because increased light makes at least part of a basement feel like the rest of the house. Other advantages include:

  • Increased natural light
  • Option for basement apartment or office
  • Potential to add a space for extra income
  • Increased home value
  • More desirable living area
  • Access to the outdoors
  • Additional emergency escapes
  • Access to the basement for moving items in and out

What are the disadvantages?

While the benefits of a walk-out basement usually outweigh the drawbacks, there are some drawbacks to having one in certain situations. Let us investigate.

  • Can be expensive
  • Increased property taxes
  • Potential for leaks

Can any house have a walk-out basement?

No, it is determined by the grade of your property. Yes, if your house is on a slope. However, for homes on level ground with basements at least 5′ or more below grade, it makes no sense because you couldn’t “walk out” anywhere – you’d have to walk out, then up the stairs to get to ground level.

Homes not on a sloped lot may be able to excavate to the point where a walk-out is possible. In most cases, this would necessitate a significant amount of earth removal and haul away, which would be prohibitively expensive. A walk-out basement is not possible in any case if there is no nearby slope. A slope of at least 7′ from one long end of the house to the other is ideal for drainage and eliminates the need for retaining walls with traditional 8′ foundation walls. The slope of 3′ to 6′ is also acceptable because the house can be raised on end with a higher grade.

Walk-out basements in northern climates with frost penetration many feet below ground level necessitate more excavation for deeper footings. As a result, walk-out basement homes in those areas will be more expensive because the walk-out portion of the basement will require deeper footings.

These kinds of basements are completely safe and are widely used by home builders. While a walk-out basement wall is not made of concrete, it is built to withstand loads from one or more floors above. A building engineer will not approve plans for a walk-out basement renovation unless the walls are properly designed. In terms of your property, adding a one adds another entry and exit point. This could pose a security risk for your family, as it is another door to remember to lock or keep an eye on if you have small children.

Does it count towards square footage?

No, a walk-out basement does not count toward your home’s official square footage. Square footage only applies to liveable areas of your home, not to the basement. Realtors may include a walk-out basement space in a real estate ad, but this is not accurate according to any municipality. Due to the wide range of variations in residential basements, your local building department will tell you that square footage never includes any type of basement. Only including all above-grade floors provides a consistent yardstick for determining property value.

How much value does it add to your house?

The square footage of a walk-out basement is worth 50-70% of the square footage of the main level. The exact percentage, as well as the amount of the basement that is finished, will be determined by your real estate market. If you renovate your home to include one, the cost of the renovation will be added to your current tax rate to determine your new tax rate. This will give you an idea of the value of your home after the renovation. This new valuation will appear on your annual property tax assessment.

Assume the average cost per square foot in your area is $150. If you have a 1000-square-foot home, it is worth $150,000. There is also a walk-out basement with 500 square feet of living space in this home. If the walk-out space is worth 50% of the upstairs square footage, the price per square foot is $75. $75 multiplied by 500 square feet equals $37,500. This is a significant price increase over the same home without a walk-out basement.

How much does it cost?

A walk-out basement would be marginally more expensive than a traditional basement in new construction, especially if the home is already built on a slope. Additional charges would apply if doors or windows were added to the foundation walls, as well as if a retaining wall was required. A walk-out basement would cost more than a new build in northern climates because the foundation beneath the walk-out portion would need to be deep enough to account for the frost line in that specific area. If you live in Northern Michigan, for example, you may need to excavate 6′ or more below it, which will significantly increase the price of the home.

It is costly to add a walk-out basement to your home. You could probably do one for around $15,000 if you already have a nearly exposed basement wall and little excavation required. However, that would be the bare minimum. For very large jobs, the price could potentially exceed six figures. If your house has a very low grade but a slope nearby, you could potentially excavate out from the basement wall to the slope. This would necessitate a large amount of earthmoving, which would be costly. Alternatively, if you wanted a walk-out on multiple walls, it would necessitate extensive excavation and removal of portions of the foundation wall to install doors and windows, as well as additional work if you chose to cover the foundation walls with masonry or siding. A renovation of this magnitude would typically cost at least $50,000, if not much more.

A walk-out basement is an excellent way to increase the amount of living space in your home. Existing homeowners, on the other hand, should be aware that incorporating a walk-out into a house is not possible in every case. If your house is already on a slope, consider adding a one. If a it is not possible, consider adding more windows. If your basement is significantly below grade, windows can still be added if window wells are added on the outside.

There is always a way to make your basement more liveable, no matter where you live. If you decide to add a walk-out basement, call Valor Home Services, because this is a job that will change the entire character of your home – for the better!