Replacing a Bulkhead Door, Images 1-9

Existing Conditions: I occasionally get asked to replace basement access doors. Usually the doors are in pretty bad shape, and more often than not, the bulkhead itself is in need of repair. On the job shown here, for example, the concrete and stone base was beginning to crumble, and the top surface was cracked and uneven (B). When I first looked at the job, the gutter downspout terminated between the house and the bulkhead, to the left of the doors; it had been dumping water in the corner for years, saturating the masonry. By the time I returned to start work, the homeowner had taken care of this, directing the downspout to the right of the bulkhead and away from the house.

With conditions like these, I can't just pull off the old doors and install new ones. I want a flat, watertight surface to work from, so I make a base from pressure-treated lumber and trim it with cellular PVC. This gives me a secure attachment point and raises the unit a few inches off the concrete, which helps prevent rust and gives better protection against water intrusion.

Layout: I typically install Gordon Cellar Doors ( The first thing I do is spread out the parts in a well-lit area to make sure every piece is accounted for. (If anything's missing, I don't start the job until I have it.) Then I preassemble the steel base so that I have the exact measurements I need for my pressure-treated frame.

Sides: To avoid having to remove more than one course of the house's vinyl siding, I kept the wood base as low as possible at the top, marking the height on a treated 2x6.

Sides: I cut the tapered side pieces using a plywood rip guide.

Sides: After checking the fit on the bulkhead, I glued together two of these tapered pieces to make each 3-inch-wide side piece.

Sides: Gluing together side piece.

Sides: For exterior woodwork, I use a DAP exterior adhesive and coated deck screws, which have more holding power than nails and don't split the wood when installed.

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