The doghouse, in real estate lingo, is part of the house that people use, not dogs. Doghouses have advantages for people who use their basement as a workshop and for people who live in areas where there are heavy rains or snows.
Do you know what it is? Here’s what it isn’t.
It is not a bulkhead. A bulkhead is a door leading out from your basement that opens upward from the top of the exit stairway. These doors are usually metal, although some are made of plastics or other synthetic materials. Bulkheads are a way to create a reliable fire escape from the basement.
- The doors can be heavy and awkward to open. This makes it harder to open them. People who often load things into and out of their basement prefer doghouses.
- Some bulkheads do not provide any ventilation. This creates humidity on the stairs when dampness cannot evaporate out.
- Some bulkheads have ventilation. If the ventilation is near the ground, it can allow rain or melting snow to seep or run onto the basement stairs.
- Metal bulkheads need to be maintained against rusting. Some have long-lasting coating, but others need to be repainted.
Home inspectors often note damp conditions in the bulkhead area of the basement. Sometimes water leaks into the basement from there. Sometimes dampness is trapped in the stairwell between the bulkhead exterior door and a door between the basement and the bulkhead stairs.
Homeowners can keep their bulkhead doors in good condition, without much time or effort.
- Check on them, annually, for chipping paint or coating. Keeping them painted will prevent rust.
- Check your ventilation. Note where the ventilation is by standing inside when there is bright sun on that side of the house. Do you see sunlight? That’s your ventilation. If there is none. Then your job is to air out the bulkhead twice a year, on some bright dry days. If there is ventilation, can it allow rain or snow melt into the house? The doors will keep the wet out for normal rains and snows, even if it is fairly low to the ground. If you live someplace where there are heavy rains (several inches in a day) or heavy snow (more than a foot at a time), cover it during your heaviest snow, snow melt, and rain. Cover it before the heavy winter snows and uncover it after the spring heavy rains and snow melt season. Don’t keep it covered in plastic all year; that traps dampness and can rust out or your doors.
- If the bulkhead stair area gets wet or mildewed, ventilate and clean it.
Do you know what a doghouse is, yet?
It’s like a bulkhead door, only better. It is the small doghouse-shaped cover built at the top of the basement exit stairway. It creates a little foyer for a regular, vertical door. This makes getting things in and out much easier. It allows for ventilation in places that won’t invite rain or snow in.
- They cost more to build.
- There may not be enough room on that side of the house.
- The higher structure may block a window on the first floor.
- They have roof and shingle components that have to be maintained. This costs the homeowner more in time and money.