Submitted by: Robert Short
Installing a pre-cast concrete stairway to your homes basement is actually quite an easy project for the advanced do-it-yourselfer or anyone that can coordinate a couple of sub contractors. Doing so will add a water tight weather proof egress to your basement that, in many cases, is necessary to comply with local building codes during a remodel. Either way, this newly added entrance will add much more function to your home and your basement.
First of all it is probably a good idea to explain what pre-cast concrete is. Pre-cast concrete is simply concrete that has been mixed, formed and vibrated in a very controlled plant type environment and then delivered or trucked to its final destination and installed. Despite the fact that some pre-cast concrete products are much thinner than conventional poured in place applications does not mean that the pre-cast products are any less quality and to the contrary they are usually much more durable.
In order to orchestrate this project you are going to need a hole dug, a doorway opening cut into your foundation and the actual pre-cast concrete bulkhead delivered and installed. Your first step is to locate a pre-cast concrete product dealer. A pre-cast concrete dealer can be located in your local phonebook, or better yet, your online yellow pages. Once you have located a reputable dealer you need to visit the pre-cast manufacturers showroom, which usually consists of a giant field full of stairs, bulkheads and culverts. You need to choose the size and style that is right for your project. A standard pre-cast bulkhead will generally cost less than $1000 and this includes the steel bulkhead cover and installation.
Once you have chosen the right product be sure to ask for a worksheet or specification sheet that comes with your particular product. This spec sheet will tell you how much digging needs to be done and what size doorway your concrete cutter needs to cut in the foundation. The digging can be done using several methods. You can dig it by hand with a pick and shovel (not recommended), you can rent a small excavator (cost about $300) from a tool rental outfit and use the machine to dig it out or you can call a professional excavation contractor and have them dig it out for you (cost between $300 and $500). I highly recommend hiring a professional excavator for this part of the project. This process will take a professional less than a few hours and you can shop around for the best price. Please Note: Be sure to notify your areas DIG SAFE program and have them come out and locate any hidden underground utilities before you start your excavation. Also, keep in mind that your excavator will have to remove and dispose of about 50% of the dirt that he/she removes from the hole because the bulkhead to be installed will take up about that much volume of space. If this is not feasible, you may be able to use this dirt somewhere else on your property or you may be able to give it to one of your neighbors. Either way, fill dirt is a very needed and sought after commodity. Hence the old saying: Phil Dirtthe most wanted man in America.
Once the hole for your bulkhead has been successfully dug out and the portion of the foundation that needs to be cut is exposed you need to clearly layout your cut lines with a measuring tape, a bright yellow lumber crayon and a 4 level as instructed on the spec sheet. Now it is time to call a professional concrete cutter and find out what their pricing and availability is (cost is usually $425+/- to cut and drop the piece). They will charge you approximately an additional $100 to jack hammer the piece into manageable pieces and up to $500 to remove the piece from site. In order to avoid the break up an disposal charges, simply have your excavation contractor dig a grave for the concrete at the bottom of your excavation. This way you can just bury it and save yourself some time, money and hassles. Explain to the concrete cutter that you need a standard doorway for a bulkhead. Ask them how much they charge and when they can schedule your job. Ask them for a morning appointment. You are going to have to coordinate the concrete cutting and the bulkhead installation so that as soon as the concrete cutter is done the bulkhead is immediately installed. So you can now schedule your bulkhead delivery and installation for about 12 noon. Most pre-cast concrete product manufacturers will do the installation for you at no additional cost or it is included in the price.
I recommend calling each of your sub-contractors a day prior to their arrival just to verify that there are no scheduling conflicts. This will minimize the amount of problems that will occur and give you plenty of time to reschedule each subcontractor if one of them runs into a problem.
As soon as your bulkhead and metal bulkhead cover have been successfully installed you will need to back fill or replace the dirt that was removed from the hole. This can be done by hand with a shovel by an experienced do it yourselfer or you can make arrangements to have your excavation contractor return once the installation is complete and do the backfilling for you. It is always a good idea to allow this dirt to settle before adding your topsoil or planting any grass or flowers. The ground around the bulkhead should be settled pretty good after several heavy rain showers.
Well, good luck and if you choose to tackle this project congratulations. For more information on this subject just do a search for pre-cast, concrete cutting or bulkhead.
About the Author: To learn more about converting your basement into an apartment, remodeling your basement or just installing a precast concrete stairway and a bulkhead please visit Affordable Concrete Cutting Boston’s website at