Options for Replacing Bulkhead Doors

Dennis Hartman

Bulkhead doors are sloped basement doors that are used outside many homes. They conceal basement stairways that go from ground level to the base of the foundation.

Bulkhead doors provide basement access while concealing the stairs.

As bulkhead doors age from exposure to weather elements, they usually need repair or replacement with new bulkhead doors or an entirely different access system.

New Bulkhead Doors

The most straightforward way to replace aging bulkhead doors is with similar bulkhead doors that take advantage of modern construction techniques. Metal doors with layers of weather-resistant sealant are made in a wide range of colors and last for many years. An alternative is to salvage old exterior wood or metal doors and convert them into bulkhead doors, adding new metal hinges.

Open Stairs and Ladder

Some basements are accessible via open stairways that have doors only at the bottom, in the basement wall. Those doors provide only one layer of insulation for the basement, but they eliminate the need for bulkhead doors. If bulkhead doors are present only to satisfy building code egress requirements, then a narrow stairwell with an escape ladder may satisfy the code while consuming less of the yard than angled bulkhead doors that extend several feet from the home's foundation.

Egress Windows

Another way to replace bulkhead doors while still satisfying basement egress requirements is with an egress window. Egress windows are large enough to escape through and can use window wells that are smaller than the large stairwells for bulkhead door access. Egress windows have the added benefit of allowing some daylight into the basement.

Removal and Filled Stairway

If the basement was renovated and new rooms with egress windows were added since the bulkhead doors were installed, then an option is to eliminate the bulkhead doors altogether. That project begins with sealing the basement wall, which usually is done with concrete blocks. Removing the bulkhead doors and any portion of the stairway that rises above the level of the ground around the home are the next tasks. Once the stairway is filled with soil and new grass or other plants are added, evidence of the old bulkhead doors will be invisible from outside.