How Do I Dig Down to Add Steps & an Entrance to the Basement?

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Building an exterior entrance to a basement can help to expand your home's functionality. Outside entrances allow basements to become apartments, workshops or alternate entrances. You can also partition off the basement to create root cellars, storage or utility rooms. To create outside entrances, you'll often need to excavate in order to expose the basement wall.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Stakes
  • Black spray paint
  • Shovel
  • Back hoe

Examine the foundation. Look for cracks in the mortar or blocks around the location where the entrance will be. These must be repaired and allowed to set before any excavation is started. Cracks in the wall mean there is uneven pressure against one side of the wall. The foundation must be repaired to avoid further damage. Have a professional contractor examine any cracks you find in order to determine the best course of action.

Mark the location for the entrance. Find the left side of where the entrance will be. Measure and mark 5 feet across the foundation. Use the black paint to make a clear mark on each side. Measure and mark 5 feet out from the foundation from either side. Set a stake at this point. Repeat the process to mark the opposite side.

Begin excavation. Start at the base of the foundation where it meets the ground at either mark. Use a shovel to dig out the width of the hole between markings. Dig a line between the foundation and one of the stakes. Repeat the process along the other side to the opposite stake. Make the lines wide enough to be accessed by the backhoe.

Make the pit. Use the backhoe to excavate the entire area inside the lines. Start the excavation along the foundation of the house by setting the blade of the bucket next to the foundation, drawing dirt away from the foundation. Start at one corner where the foundation meets the previously excavated line. Dig down to a depth of 5 feet to create a 5-foot-square hole. Create a 45-degree slope along the exterior sides to prevent the walls from collapsing. Set the dirt aside to use as backfill later.

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