Is A Walkout Basement Considered Low-Grade?

If you have a walkout basement, the ground level is vital when you prepare for property appraisals and further improvements. If you're not sure how it is classified, you're on the right page. Find out from what we have researched if a walkout basement is on a low-grade level.

By definition, a walkout basement qualifies as below-grade because most of its sides are partially or fully below ground level. Even so, you will notice that at least one side of the basement is above-grade leading to a patio. The classification is essential in calculating the total square footage of the house.

Determining the grade will help you know what functional features you need for a walkout basement. Also, it is vital to plan and prepare for flooding in the basement. Read further to learn more about walkout basements.

unfinished basement waiting for some finishing. Is A Walkout Basement Considered Low-Grade

Will The Grade Of A Walkout Basement Matter?

Like ordinary basements, walkout basements are also on the below-grade level. A below-grade basement has one or more sides that are partially below the ground. Whether a multiple-story or split-level house, a walkout basement is always below-grade.

When calculating the square footage, the finished below-grade square footage includes walkout basements. Hence, the area will not count to the house's total square footage. It won't matter if you have a finished or unfinished basement.

If there is a foundation on the above-grade level of the basement, this will be part of the square footage. The classification is useful if you plan to sell your property in the future. Some property appraisers include the walkout basement because it is a value-adding amenity for a house.

Also, it is important to know the level of walkout basements so that the tax assessed for the property is justifiable. To avoid paying for charges and penalties, you need to comply with property tax laws in your respective states.

You can read more from this post: Does A Walkout Basement Count As Square Footage?

Are Walkout Basements A Good Idea?

If you're constructing a new home or renovating one, you might want to add a walkout basement. But before adding one, you might as well first evaluate the following benefits and drawbacks of having walkout basements:


  • Allows natural light inside the basement
  • Increased livable space and home value
  • Serves as an egress in cases of emergency or rescue
  • Use as a separate entrance to your home
  • Customizable access for your needs


  • Expensive construction costs
  • Extensive processes involved (e.g., earth excavating and grading, adding drainage)
  • Increased property tax assessment
  • Susceptible for leaks and water intrusion
  • Design challenges (includes proper footing and slope angle)

After considering the points above, it is all up to you to build the basement. It will help to align your family's needs if you want to have this kind of basement. It will help to weigh the costs and benefits so that you can get the best value from a walkout basement.

An unfinished basement in someone's home being built

Can You Add A Walkout To An Existing Basement?

Yes, you can add a walkout basement to an existing one. You will need at least one side of your basement exposed above grade. It will also be easy to excavate for the walkout if your house is on a hillside. The exception is for a property with a fully submerged basement.

If you have an existing basement, you will have to dig down to add a stairway going to the basement. Then, you will need to create a walkout area like a patio.

Before adding the walkout, you need to consult a contractor. It is crucial to make each step correct as possible because you will have to spend big on the construction.

For more insight, read through a related article: Can You Build A Daylight/Walkout Basement On Flat Land?

The exterior walls have been constructed on a new home. The interior walls have been drawn on the cement floor of the currently open-space.

How Much Does It Cost To Add A Walkout Basement?

Adding a walkout basement is costly. You will likely spend around $40,000 to $100,000 for the complete installation and finishing of the basement. Setting up the walkout is not an easy project. Especially if your house is not naturally on a slope, you will spend and exert more effort.

The processes and cost estimates involved in creating the basement include:

  • Necessary permits - $1,000-$1,200
  • Preparation of the slab foundation - $5,000-$21,000
  • Waterproofing - $4,500
  • Sump pump installation - $500-$600
  • Framing (includes the header) - $350-$800
  • Patio installation - $1,750-$4,750

Finishing the basement will likely increase your expenses. You also need to budget the costs for the installation of electrical systems, lighting, flooring, and insulation. You might spend about 50-200% more of the costs for finishing a regular basement.

It is best to ask the services of professionals for this type of project to avoid wasting money.

New residential construction home framing electrician power supply with basement view

Can A Walkout Basement Flood?

Yes, a walkout basement is susceptible to flooding.

It might be a problem if your residence is in a high-risk flood zone. Even if you get more value from the walkout basement, it poses a big problem if you do not prepare for the worst to come. With the fact that one portion of the walkout is above-grade, water can flow easily to the basement.

For more information, check out this post: Can You Have A Basement In A Flood Zone?

You will need to add proper drainage and other waterproofing measures for the basement. Keep reading if to learn how you can prevent the damages of flooding to the basement.

How To Prevent Flooding In A Walkout Basement

Here are the directions to follow so that you can avoid water inside the basement:

  1. Assess the condition of the basement door. There may be problems with how the door closes, hung, framed, or weatherproofed. The door may lack the proper sealing, or its condition may be worst due to wear and tear.
  2. Check if the gutters or the roofing above the door have clogged water pathways.
  3. Examine if there are low and flat spots on the ground surrounding the walkout basement entry. A low spot can collect water if the ground is toward the door stoop.
  4. If that is the case, install a drainage system to redirect the water flow. Look for the nearest access to the house drainage system. You might need to regrade the ground to direct the water into the drain.

One permanent option is to install the drain and related plumbing connections below the grade and entryway of the basement door. Remove the door stoop, and install a sump pump to push the water above grade. Reinstall the stoop afterward.

You can also do a natural way of preventing floods. Apply landscaping techniques by pruning overgrown shrubs or trees around the walkout basement. It will be best to keep the plants 4 feet away from the house.

under construction basement. The windows are already installed while the unfinished walls are covered with plastic sheets. Is A Walkout Basement Considered Low-Grade

In Closing

Walkout basements are considered below-grade structures. Even if one side is above grade, most of its sides are partially below the ground. If you know the basement grade level, it can be a basis for calculating the total square footage.

You can convert an existing basement with a walkout if your house is on a slope. If not, you will need to add stairs. With the processes you need to undergo, installing a walkout basement is expensive. Besides the usual features, you will need to add preventive measures against flooding.

After all, a walkout basement is a good addition to your home.

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