A Concrete Solution for a Dark Basement Apartment

December 28, 2015
Read time: 2 mins

 A failing foundation wall creates an opportunity for an apartment entry stairway with egress windows and a cascading green space


"Concrete demands that you invest yourself fully—you accept the risk and accept the pain, it's just part of the job."

—Lowell Cary, Cary Contracting Inc


This is a house from the 1920s or 30s. The basement has no steel in the concrete walls. One wall was imploding from pressure on the outside, likely hydrostatic pressure over time. The quickest and easiest solution seemed to be to replace it with a wall of windows. 


The upgraded solution was to add a door, stairwell, and some retaining walls which allowed some landscaping outside the wall of windows.


But first, the structure needed to be made, well—structural

There were no footings under the wall and it was poured with pretty large aggregate. There were cold joints from multiple pours. The wall came out so easily after kicking the bottom with a couple of prybars, it spooked the concrete contractors.

"It's a good thing that we're replacing that wall with something that's a heck of a lot more stable."


They transferred the load with a steel I-beam recessed into the floor framing. A new footing was also poured for the new wall, which included holes for egress windows and an entry door, accessed by a stairwell.

For such a small footprint, it was a fairly complicated pour:

  • One-sided pour against the porch foundation wall
  • A small wall for windows, and a doorway
  • A landing for the doorway, which they wanted to get below the frost line, so it ended up being about a nine-foot wall.
  • Wraparound stairway
  • Series of retaining walls to make landscape space outside the windows

 The end result is a light-filled basement apartment that fit the owner's needs and budget.


Peter Q. Brown is a builder/remodeler in Bozeman, MT. His YouTube channel has design/build videos, rodeo advice, and basketball games.