A Summer Family Retreat

« Back to Home

Excavating And Construction Considerations For A Walkout Basement

Posted on

You're a do-it-yourself type who's always looked forward to homesteading -- and now you're ready to start building your new house. You've bought hillside property so you can have a walkout basement for extra living space. You may be trying to decide whether to do the basement excavation and construction yourself or to hire a professional. It's smart to think about hiring an excavating contractor, since walkout basements have particular issues that can lead to wall failure if not constructed properly.

Excavating Services You May Want

An excavation company typically does much more than dig holes for construction projects. The contractor you hire likely can do the concrete work for your basement in addition to digging out the space and backfilling the exterior of the basement. The basement construction will include insulation and waterproofing. 

If you own unimproved rural property, you may want the excavation contractor to install your septic system.

Combining all this work with one company can lead to substantial price discounts, as well as allowing you the time to work on other projects as you get ready to build your house.

Potential Structure Problems

A standard basement is located almost entirely underground with all four sides having relatively equal amounts of pressure on the exterior. With a walkout basement, the back corners intrinsically have substantially more pressure than the front corners. That can lead to cracks and even to complete wall failure if the backfilling is not accomplished with certain strategies. 

An effective technique is to use a certain amount of crushed rock as fill. The excavating contractor creates a structural area that relieves horizontal pressure from the surrounding soil. Crushed rock also is important in keeping water away from walkout basement walls. 


Since your property is located on a hill, your basement is automatically susceptible to problems with rainwater running down the hill and seeking places to drain. If you're building on land that is a bit swampy, you've got added problems. 

Your excavating contractor can build a suitable drainage system that includes drain tile to direct water away from the building and down a slope. If this is not practical, the tile can direct water to a sump pump system.

A sump pump typically runs after heavy rain and as snow melts. The crushed rock fill allows water to swiftly flow downward to the drain tile and into the sump pit. Without this type of system, soil holding water puts too much pressure on the walls on one side of the building. That can cause cracks and bowing. 

Cracks also can occur when temperatures plummet and water freezes against the basement walls. 

In addition, the contractor will grade the land around the house so rainwater moves away from it. Building a retaining wall uphill from the house may be advisable. A drainage trench is another option. Otherwise, you're essentially forcing your uphill basement wall to function as a retaining wall. 

Basement Insulation

There's also the matter of insulation to consider. Since you'll be using the walkout basement for living space, you need to heat it. Concrete is not a good material for holding in heat, which is why insulation is important. Your excavating contractor can insulate the walls so you don't lose excessive amounts of warmth to the outside. 

A standard basement has ceiling insulation to keep the upstairs floors warmer. In a walkout basement, the ceiling does not need insulation because heat naturally rises and keeps the house floors warmer during cold temperatures. 

Concluding Thoughts

Contact some excavating companies in your area and learn about the services they offer. Have them come to your property to work up an estimate on fees for all the work you want done. By relying on a skilled and experienced professional, you'll have peace of mind knowing the job will be done right.