Excessive moisture is never a good sign for homes with basements, and it can also impact basement doors. Fortunately, the remedy for basement doors is simple, and merely requires frequent opening to help curb the harmful effects of moisture.
“Opening up the doors and allowing the accumulating moisture in the stairwell to evaporate is critical for the durability and longevity of any bulkhead entry system,’’ said T. Wolf, who owns and operates T. Wolf Home Improvements in Hazlet, N.J. He has installed basement doors for nearly three decades and encourages homeowners to open basement doors as frequently as possible.
Wolf installs basement doors manufactured by The BILCO Company of Connecticut. BILCO has been manufacturing specialty access products since 1926, and is the recognized leader in the industry.
BILCO’s line of basement doors includes its Classic Series with a primer finish; Classic Series with a powder coat finish; Ultra Series, which is a polyethylene construction; and the Classic Series SLW, a steel door with primer finish. BILCO also manufactures precast basement entrances, which can be delivered and installed in just a few hours.
Wolf says failure to allow for moisture evaporation and infrequent opening of doors causes premature paint and metal decay. Opening basement doors also reduces the likelihood that bugs and insects will thrive in the stairwell. “Bugs, spiders or other crawling insects need to be cleaned out. If the door systems are regularly opened, the insects tend to not congregate in the well. Bugs like dark, stagnant and less traveled areas to create their homes,’’ he said.
Wolf advocates frequent opening basement doors, but it’s also critical to visually inspect areas to watch for water accumulation. Rain, water or debris bypassing and entering the bulkhead is a signa door might need to be replaced or restoration work around the area may be required. It’s also critical to examine the rain gutter, or channel, at the crosshead of the BILCO housing.
“The rain channel can become filled, or clogged with yard debris, such as buds, leaves, twigs or other landscape material blown in by the wind and rain,’’ Wolf said. “If people allow the buildup to occur in that gutter, when a severe rain storm occurs in the fall the water rides up over the debris and into the stairwell.”
Wolf related two opposite stories about basement door longevity. He replaced a door that had been installed in the late 1940s that held up for more than 50 years. The homeowner opened the door daily for most of the year. Another client, however, needed a replacement after just six years because the unit had been improperly installed. Moisture buildup rotted out the door housing, and the door was hardly opened.
“The system, being installed improperly, was never allowed to ‘dry out’, and since it was never being used, it caused the housing to rot out decades before it was designed to,’’ said Wolf, who has installed nearly 500 BILCO doors. “How long a door last usually depends on how well the door is installed and how often you open them up.”