Basement Walkouts

During an inspection of a home with a basement walkout, I noticed the exterior floor drain was covered with ice and there was not an additional drain on the interior side of the door. There are two schools of thought and depending on which suburb you are located in, this is what is required:

  • Option 1:(this is what the case it in this photo) The floor drain at the bottom of the stairs would travel to a sump pump.
    • Pro-1 Exterior rain water should not travel into the sewerage lines.  If too many people do this, then it would overwhelm the sewerage treatment plants.
    • Pro-2 Snow and ice will will not drain until temperatures rise enough to melt the snow.
    • Con-1 If this drain gets clogged, the water has no place to go except to the interior of the home.
    • Con-2 If the power fails, and there is no battery backup, water will enter the basement. (That would happen anyways if the drain was there or not).

Additional photos were taken of the bottom left and right of the door that showed minor damage to the door frame from water entering the basement. This has happened and I advised my clients that this drain must be kept clear at all times.

  • Option 2, The drain from the stairwell travels to another drain just inside the door. The drain inside the door is trapped and the intake from the exterior drain is not trapped (common in Chicago and the collar communities).
    • Pro-1, These setups send water from the stairwell to the sewer lines. As long as these waste systems are not overhead sewers, gravity will always allow water to fall and leave the building without any chance of back up.
    • Con-1, Rain water will enter the sewer lines and many communities want this disconnected so their systems do not get overwhelmed.
    • Con-2, If the sewer line clogs during a rainfall, then the water will keep coming.

I must admit that I do not know every code in the City of Chicago, nor do I know every code in every suburb. No home inspectors does. I assume that whichever method was installed, was installed to the local authority’s code. My job is to see if it is working properly and to warn my clients of possible issues.

The most important item with any exterior drain is to keep it clean. This includes window wells, bottoms of driveways, patios, and also the walkout basement stairs which we are talking about here.