What Are The Pros and Cons Of A Walkout Basement? (Find Out Now!)

Walkout Basement Pros and Cons

In the never-ending quest for more living space, a walkout basement might be your solution. It can either be built as part of new construction or as an addition to an established home. Bear in mind the latter will be quite costly.

Walkout basements have one wall that is completely above grade, allowing you to walk out at ground level. They offer more natural light than the average basement and create additional living space with easy outside access.

However, a walkout doesn’t actually add square footage to your home. If not properly graded, they are prone to leaking.

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What is a Walkout Basement?

To be considered a walkout basement, at least one wall should be entirely above grade. You should literally be able to walk out of the basement to ground level. It has a door and possibly windows in the foundation wall, allowing access to the outside.

Walkouts are found most commonly on lots with sloped yards. It’s more natural for builders to create a walkout basement when the yard already has a large grade.

It’s possible to add a walkout basement after a house has already been built. However, this is a large and costly undertaking that can only be done on a sloped yard. To create a walkout from a home with a basement completely below grade would mean digging out a stairwell.

Walkout Basement Pros

The pros of a walkout basement include increased natural light and living space. It makes an ideal in-law suite or apartment because of its separate entrance to the house. Walkouts also add value to your home.

More Natural Light

Basements often carry the stigma of being a dark and removed part of the house. But a walkout basement allows for a door and windows, which in turn, let in more light. It can feel more like part of the rest of the house.

If more than one wall is above grade, there’s availability for even more windows. There must be a door to be considered a walkout basement. Many homeowners choose to install sliding glass doors because they provide the most light.

Additional Living Space

Many people choose to renovate their basements in order to have more living space: a playroom, an office, or an additional bedroom. The nice thing about a walkout basement is that it has a completely separate entrance to the house.

It makes a great place to house your elderly parents. Or if you add a kitchen and bathroom, it can become a totally separate apartment. The separate entrance gives the tenant a sense of privacy. And because of the desirability of walkouts, you can charge more for rent. Extra income? Yes, please!

Increase Value of Home

Speaking of desirability, a walkout basement adds resale value to your home. While they don’t technically add square footage, your realtor can make it known that there’s extra square footage of livable basement space. That’s always a high selling point.

There’s more flexibility with a walkout basement simply because it “feels” more livable. The natural light makes people want to spend time there.

On average, your house will increase in value by 70% of the total renovation cost if you add a walkout basement. So, if you spent $10,000 to add a walkout, your house will increase in value by $7,000.

Extra Exit

A walkout basement means an additional exit which is a positive for a few reasons.

As well as being a separate entrance for tenants, it also allows for easy access to the basement. This is helpful when moving large items in or out of the house. Additionally, having ground-level access promotes a good flow for entertaining. Guests can move seamlessly from outdoors to indoors.

The extra egress is a bonus as an emergency exit. Not only does it allow the residents an extra way out, but it gives emergency personnel easy entry. This is especially important if the walkout basement is being used as a bedroom or living space.

Walkout Basement Cons

Walkout basements are subject to some disadvantages such as leaking or flooding. They also come with a price tag, especially if they’re added as an addition.

Leaks and Floods

Leaking and flooding is a common issue with walkout basements. If the ground is not graded far enough away from the door, water may pool at the foot of the walkout and seep inside. This problem is most common in walkouts without significant sloping.

Even with retaining walls, water tends to pool at the walkout wall. This is because the slope is too steep which causes the water to run to the lowest level—the foot of the walkout.

The solution is either to re-grade the property or add an exterior drain to catch the water before it reaches the walkout.

Expensive Renovation

As mentioned above, adding a walkout basement to an already established house is an expensive afterthought.

Significant excavation is required. Part of the foundation wall needs to be removed to install doors and windows. Not to mention earth grading (hopefully enough to prevent leaks) and the addition of retaining walls and draining system just in case.

The cost to add a walkout basement can range anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000.

When building a walkout as part of new construction, the price is comparable to building a below-grade basement. The only addition is the cost of the door and windows.

Increased Property Tax

Not only do you have to shell out a ton of money for the renovation, but adding a walkout basement also adds to your property tax. The downside to the increased value of your home comes at a price.

Before the renovation, you need to apply for a permit from your municipality. Typically, asking for a permit automatically starts the re-evaluation process for your home. To determine your new tax rate, they will combine your existing rate with the estimated value of the renovation.

Walkout Basement vs. Regular Basement

Where a regular basement has all of its walls below grade, a walkout has at least one wall above grade. This wall is usually framed instead of built from cinderblock or poured concrete. This makes it easier to install a door.

A regular basement can have windows and even a door. But because all the walls are below grade, the entrance would be via stairs that lead to the ground level. This is often referred to as a walkup basement.

But even with a door, it’s not a walkout basement unless you’re walking directly out onto the ground level without stairs.

Walkout Basement vs. Daylight Basement

A daylight or lookout basement has large windows but no door. They allow more light in which differs from a regular basement which may have one small egress window or none at all.

Daylight basements can be 4 feet below grade as opposed to the 5-foot average of a regular basement. This allows for larger windows.

The most substantial difference between a walkout and a daylight basement is the door. You can’t walk out of a daylight basement.

Related Questions

Check out these additional questions people asked about the pros and cons of walkout basements.

How much slope is needed for a walkout basement?

The biggest hurdle to jump with walkout basements is the drainage. You want to make sure the ground is properly graded in order to keep water from reaching the foot of the walkout. For a walkout basement, you need between a 7 and 8-foot elevation drop in 35-65 feet. This is the average depth and width that takes water away from a foundation.

Can any house have a walkout basement?

Unfortunately, not every house has the means to create a walkout basement. If your house is on a slope, then it’s good news for you! But if you’re on flat land with a basement 5 or more feet below grade, then you’re out of luck. There would be nowhere for you to walk out. You could, with much excavation, create a walkup basement.

Are walkout basements safe?

In terms of their structure, walkout basements are framed to withstand the weight of the floors above. Any builder worth his salt knows the proper way to achieve this safely. An engineer won’t sign off until the structure has been thoroughly checked and deemed safe.

Because there is an extra entry to the house, it’s another door you have to remember to lock. But as long as you do, a walkout basement is a perfectly safe addition to your home.

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Summing It Up

Although they can be costly if added after the fact, walkout basements offer a lot of benefits. They provide more natural light in a space that’s usually uninviting. An ideal apartment or in-law suite, a walkout gives you extra living space with an extra entrance that’s separate from the rest of the house.

However, walkout basements are prone to flooding and leaking. This is especially true for houses whose slope is more significant. Even though a walkout adds resale value, it also increases your property tax in addition to being a very expensive project.

Brigid Levi

Brigid Levi is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who enjoys a good DIY project and creating beautiful spaces within her home. From cleaning and organization hacks to home decor ideas, she loves helping people in their quest to turn a house into a home. Her hobbies include pretending to be Joanna Gaines while updating her home with her husband and performing in local theater productions.

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