1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Want to install a Bilco Door buuuut...

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,393
    I want to utilize an existing basement window opening to install a Bilco Door in order to gain outside access to my basement. The window opening is 36" wide with adequate support above it, so I would only need to cut the wall (old cinderblock-cuts easily) down to the floor after excavating outside and having a foundation built for the door-which presents one small problem. I think my sewer line might go right past where I want to put the foundation. I made this quick diagram in Sketchup to better explain:

    [​IMG]

    Here you can see the window opening in relation to where the waste stack exits the basement-straight out through the back wall. From there, the only clue as to where it goes is a PVC cleanout that sticks out of the ground on the side of the house, shown on the right side of the diagram. My FIL, a contractor, said that the cleanout is a dead giveaway, but that it's strange since that means my sewer line would have to make two 90 degree turns after exiting the house, which is usually not done if it can be helped since crap doesn't like having to turn a corner :p Anyway, I don't see any other logical route unless it went straight out the back, but that makes no sense for two reasons-first because then what is the cleanout for, and two, that would mean my sewer line would cross my neighbor's property to get to the street behind us.

    In any event, it looks like it probably runs directly through where I want to put my door. I don't think rerouting is an option, nor is it something I'd even want to think about. Obviously I can dig down and find where it is, but then what? I don't think building a shallow well for the door on top of the dirt covered pipe would be wise-the weight of the foundation might crack it? Could I build the walls of the foundation around it and then cover the pipe with something to protect it? Either way I'm going to lose headroom, but as long as I can move wood in and out I'll be happy.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    934
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    Are you sure you have a city sewer connection and not a tank and leach field? The clean out could be for a grey water drain to a dry well; check your basement plumbing. Look for areas where the snow melts quicker to show where things are. Also open the PVC clean out and snake it to see where it's going. Same for the basement sewer line. It should have it's own clean out. Plan B, just use the window as a port hole for passing wood in or out.

    Ehouse
  3. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,393
    Well THAT would be interesting considering I've been paying a sewer bill to the town for the past five years. Stranger things have happened, but I really don't think that's it. None of my neighbors have a septic and these are tract houses that were all built at the same time in the late 1960s. I am going to open the cleanout and see what I can figure from there. As for using the window as a port hole that's what I do now, but it's a real PITA. I think in the spring I might do some exploratory digging to see if the pipe is really down there or not.
  4. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    934
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    I put a Bilco in last year over an existing set of steps that only had some dry laid stonework on the sides. I just poured a 6"x12" (with rebar) collar on gravel to support the bulkhead. Point being, you may be able to avoid the pipe by not dropping the stem wall to the full depth all the way to the back of the stairs. Just build your stairs with treated stringers resting on treated 2"x10" on the slope.
  5. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    Messages:
    3,467
    Loc:
    SE Mass
    Sewer pipe looks far enough away if that drawing is to scale.
    Don't hit it while digging and back fill very carefully around it should it get exposed.



    Most old houses that had bee hive or hand dug cesspools in the backyard never filled them in nor removed the old pipes, the plumbing inside rerouted to the front of the house when town or city sewer became available.
    If that pipe is the sewer then all the backyards are likely sharing a main through back yards which certainly isn't done around here but not all housing developements are created equal.

    Digsafe might help.



    Finding the main sewer covers shouldn't be too hard.


    Agree mystery pvc cleanout is gutter dry well. Some even have an overflo pop-up.
  6. Butcher

    Butcher Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2011
    Messages:
    493
    Loc:
    N. central Ia.
    Got an electrician buddy? Get a metal sewer tape and run it into your pvc thru the cleanout in the basement. The electrician should be able to hook up a locater to the tape and tell ya where the line is.
  7. heat seeker

    heat seeker Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,928
    Loc:
    Northern CT
    Builder may have used stock plans for the house that was set up for a septic tank out back, and just piped out the back and around the house.

    Stranger things have happened; my friend's foundation was poured backwards (back of the house to the street) so the builder just built it that way, and called the back door the front door. He put a bow window out to the street to give it some credibility. The garage was out the back of the house, but it was a corner lot, so the driveway went out the side to that street. The house never did look quite right to the eye...

    I had a place like that, but it did originally have a tank out back. The pipe was so near the surface on the side of the house you could easily hear the plumbing snake going through.
  8. ironpony

    ironpony Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,777
    Loc:
    mid-ohio
    how deep is the line where it exits the house??? this is how I would approach it.
    1) pick out desired bilco door but do not buy it yet
    2) start excavating to the plan for the desred step layout, calculating rise and run or for a standard bilco step set.
    3) see if you find the pipe, if you do not continue as planned, buy bilco and install
    4) if you hit said pipe, depending on depth and distance from wall calculate what rise run steps might work
    5) if no steps will work see if an egress window well will fit
    6) if an egress window well fits, finish excavating and set window well in place and backfill as required
    7) cut in egress opening for egress window, however I would adjust this size to fit a 36" wide steel prehung door.
    8) go to box store and buy a steel 36" prehung flush door
    9) cut door height down to fit into rough opening, this is actually very easy to do
    10 ) install door into opening, opening in so you have more clearance
    there should be plenty of room in the egress well and most have a built in ladder
    the door will give you a clear opening into the basement and using an exterior door you will be weathertite
    drop slits into well go downstairs a , open door unload wood
    and you will have a legal emergency entrance / exit from the basement

    if nothimg will fit backfill and pick another location or forget about it only loss is alittle digging
  9. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    934
    Loc:
    Upstate NY
    If the pipe in question is 18" up from the basement floor,and it goes straight out for 3' or so it will be under your stairs, no problemo. Stick a stick in the (sewer line) clean out and see how far it is to an obstruction (bend). If you feel you need to support the bulkhead to below frost all the way round, drop a couple of small sonotubes at the out corners and make your slab a grade beam.
  10. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,393
    Well I decided to do just that (hope you had your dinner already :eek:)-I had a length of 1" pine 8' long that I had ripped so it was thin enough to fit inside the pipe. To my surprise nearly all 8' feet went in no problem. The only thing I had longer was my poor chimney brush rods ;lol I ended up getting about 2 and a half inside before I hit the bend. After measuring I determined that the bend should be 88" from the outside of the foundation wall-more than enough room to put in a full depth areaway for a Bilco-Woo Hoo! I withdrew the rods by pulling them through a fistful of paper towels soaked in bleach. The smell wasn't as bad as I thought it would be either... Anyway, I'm happy that I'll be able to put the door in. That areaway will hold a lot of firewood!
  11. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2008
    Messages:
    1,561
    Loc:
    Northern NH
    An FYI on Bilco's they are better than nothing, but a framed "doghouse" built over the concrete opening is the way to go. I don't care how you try to insulate a bilco, its going to radiate heat to the outdoors rapidly and the amount of air infiltration is high as there isnt any weather stripping. Some folks insulate the interior door but that can set you up where the interior of the concrete bump out is below freezing which can be a real problem depending on drainage. They also can and do leak and mice seem to be able to make it in through them. I had a Bilco for a couple of years and yanked it and built a doghouse. I also found that heat leaking from the house would partially melt the snow turning it into ice, so when I did want to use the Bilco in winter, it on occasion would need chipping.

    The other nice thing with a doghouse is that you can install some beefed up ceiling joists and install a couple of rigging hooks to rig in heavy stuff. I rigged in a 1000 pound boiler into my basement with this set up. Some day I will rig up a temporary horizontal rail to hang from the wall and the door frame so that I can rig the heavy stuff up chainfall hung from a beam trolley and then roll the load out the door.
    Dune likes this.
  12. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Messages:
    1,393
    That does sound like the way to go. What I need to do is take a look at how much one would cost over the other. The foundation would be exactly the same, so I guess it would be a matter of how much the framing, insulation, sheathing, exterior cladding, and roofing would cost vs. a Bilco. I actually have a nice 36" exterior fanlight door that my FIL picked out of a dumpster at a job for me and I'm sure I have some other materials laying around. I think a Bilco unit runs about $550 in the size I need.

Share This Page