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  1. #1
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    Default Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    Most homes I see have latching doors leading to the basement, but I also see quite a few where the basement door has been removed. I see the stairwell as a potential fire passage from the basement to the upper levels. Should I be writing up the staircases where the doors have been removed? What about enclosed stairwells going from the first floor to the second floor? That's also a potential fire passage, but I rarely see doors there.

    I'm working on a report where the door in the stairwell leading from the kitchen to the basement opens up over the stairs, an obvious safety hazard. My first inclination is to recommend that the door be converted to open up in the kitchen to eliminate the fall hazard, but a kitchen counter would block the door from opening fully. The only option left would then be to just remove the door, but would this just be eliminating one hazard by introducing another? I'm not sure what to recommend on this one. Thanks in advance for your help with this.

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    Last edited by Michael Chambers; 07-25-2009 at 03:28 PM. Reason: To add additional information.
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  2. #2
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    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    With basements, unless the exterior walls of the basement are insulated to the required minimum wall insulation R-value, the floor should be insulated to make the thermal envelope of the house from the first floor level up.

    The walls surrounding the basement stairs and the ceiling over the basement stairs would also need to be insulated to that same floor R-value.

    That means the door needs to be the same as an exterior door to the outside, to unconditioned space, weather striped, threshold, etc.

    With no door that means the unconditioned basement (presuming it is not conditioned - you did not specify) is now open to the conditioned thermal envelope of the house. That makes for one very large hole in the thermal envelope of the house.

    Seems a bit weird to not have a basement door. I grew up in a house with a basement and there was a basement door to the unconditioned basement, which was also unfinished, had the coal fired furnace, root cellar, etc., down in there, along with the laundry (with wringer washer) and a workshop.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
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    Feb 2009
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    Sorry, I should have included the fact that this was indeed a finished basement. Actually, in our area (where a very high percentage of the houses do have basements), almost none of the floors are insulated where basements are present, even if the basement is not finished. About the most that happens when a basement is finished in this area is that the foundation walls might get some insulation (but not in this particular case). With our humidity, even if a basement is not finished, it's often useful to condition the basement air during A/C season to avoid condensation from the ductwork that is usually run underneath the main floor.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    If the basement is finished off as the rest of the house is and is conditioned, then the basement stairs is no different than the other stairs and nothing is needed.

    Yes, fire can go up the stairs, but fire can also go up a two story height ceiling.

    The difference between that and the space between the studs is that is visible and the space between the studs is concealed - thus the space between the studs needs to be fireblocked at each floor and ceiling level.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    Thanks for the help!


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    If a pocket door can be fitted in there, you could suggest that.
    Another way is to put the door at the bottom of the stairs.
    Most suggestions are ignored anyway, but you've pointed out the hazard, that's the good part.


  7. #7
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    Feb 2009
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    A pocket door is a great idea John. Thanks! I'll certainly pass it along. I'm attaching a photo that shows the rest of the problems with this staircase. There's a landing for the back door just a few steps down from the kitchen door, and there's no room for a handrail with all of these doors in the way. Imagine trying to negotiate this mess with an armload of groceries. Thanks for your input!

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  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Chambers View Post
    I'm attaching a photo that shows the rest of the problems with this staircase. There's a landing for the back door just a few steps down from the kitchen door, and there's no room for a handrail with all of these doors in the way. Imagine trying to negotiate this mess with an armload of groceries. Thanks for your input!
    You've also got a door which swings over the stair, which is not allowed.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Is a Basement Door Recommended?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    You've also got a door which swings over the stair, which is not allowed.

    Correctamundo! Please refer to the second paragraph in my original post starting this thread.


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