What are the different underground access options?

The walkout basements have doors that open directly to the backyard.

While homes previously featured limited access to basement spaces, modern construction offers a variety of basement access options. Internal hatch and ladder systems can be added to older homes to improve access and gain usable space. Exit windows and exterior stairs can also provide entrances and exits and are especially useful when adding living space to the basement of an existing structure. Walk-out basements provide easy access to outdoor spaces and sunlight.

Adding an internal staircase can increase access to the basement.

Many older homes had access to the basement only through external cellar doors or sometimes through hatches located inside the house. Internal stairs can easily be added to older homes, allowing for more convenient access to these underground spaces. Even if these older basements are left unfinished, this allows for easy access to utility panels and systems, which can be a very desirable feature, especially for homes located in cooler climates.

Exit windows are not primarily intended for basement access, but can be used when needed.

Exit windows provide secondary access to modern basements. These windows are large enough to serve as a door and are mounted below level, inside an oversized window shaft containing an escape ladder. While not intended to be main basement access points, exit windows allow basements to be used as living and sleeping areas, providing an additional exit point in the event of a fire.

New or existing basements can make use of external stairs.

External basement stairs can be added to new or existing basements. They consist of a staircase, sometimes made of poured concrete and sometimes made of wood or metal, located on the outside of a house and descending to the level of a door located at ground level in the basement. This is a general-purpose access type and can be particularly useful when a basement serves as a workshop or mud room.

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Basements can be used as a mud room.

Walk-out basements, sometimes referred to as daylight basements, offer the most direct access to a basement space and are often finished and used as a general living space. A house with a basement in daylight is built on sloping ground so that only one side of the foundation is completely below ground level. The level on the opposite side is set at ground level for the basement. The daylight side of the basement is usually constructed as a framed wall rather than a hollow foundation. Common courtyard or entrance doors are then installed to provide access.

In some cases, a house may be built with a partially exposed basement. This allows basement spaces to have large windows, making them suitable for the living area. This type of basement provides emergency access through windows, but generally relies on lowered outside stairs for direct access.

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