Install a Basement BulkHead Door
How to Install a Basement Bulkhead Door System
By Rob Robillard
I recently installed a new powder-coated Bilco basement door. I first saw this new door finish at a builder’s trade show in Orlando and then started seeing them pop up all over. When I had the opportunity to install one on my workshop entrance this past spring, I jumped on it.
What’s the hype with this new Bilco door?
Bilco is a well-known brand in the building trades. The company has been making bulkhead doors, precast stairs and window wells that meet egress codes for years. The Bilco basement door system satisfies IRC 2012 Building code requirements for emergency egress in finished basement areas.
Egress is required in building codes and ensures that homes have plenty of exits, so that in the event of an emergency, people can get out quickly and easily. Building inspectors are very particular about ensuring that homes meet the egress standard, since failure to follow the egress code can be fatal in the case of a fire.
NOTE: As a general rule, every bedroom must have an outlet to the outside, which can be a window or door, through which someone can easily fit. When remodeling basements or adding bedrooms, contractors will often cut an exit in a foundation wall and use a bulkhead as the external security/weather door, and then install an internal weather-stripped door to keep the heat in.
The new Bilco door is similar to the classic standard steel doors that Bilco has been making for years with one major difference: It has a factory applied powder-coat finish. Bilco offers four colors in this finish; white, sandstone, light gray and brick.
Why a powder-coat finish?
Powder coating is mainly done to metal and is a type of coating that is applied as a free-flowing, dry powder. This coating is typically applied electrostatically and is then cured under heat to allow it to flow and form a “skin” over the metal. The result is a superior finish that is more durable and tougher than conventional paint. Powder-coated finishes typically are more resistant to chipping, scratching and fading—all things that can happen to painted steel basement doors.
By powder coating the doors Bilco is able to offer a better quality, environmentally safer product. Powder coating produces a thicker, more uniform and better-looking coating than conventional liquid paints. Powder coatings emit zero or near zero volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), and the overspray can be recycled to achieve nearly 100 percent use of the coating.
Installing the Bulkhead
For my installation, I ordered the extension panel for the system to achieve the proper headroom when exiting the basement. The new unit was replacing a 25-year-old unit. The pre-formed concrete stair foundation was in great shape, so all I needed to do was replace the cap.
TIP: If your situation requires concrete repair, then check out Bilco’s website for help and advice. The company offers ideas on how to make the repairs needed, plus they sell “foundation plates” to help smooth and level the surface area for a better installation. It’s the easiest and fastest way to improve the foundation surface area.
Prior to ordering I had to carefully measure my existing condition to see if the measurements fell within the parameters of the new powder-coated Bilco basement door unit. There is some leeway with the measurements, and the concrete pre-formed stair still fit the unit.