Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rebuilding an old Bilco basement bulkhead door

After 20 years the bulkhead door at Balsam Lane was getting a bit long in the tooth. A less than ideal installation, in addition to a roof valley pouring gobs of rainwater on it had rusted the flanges out and it was leaking profusely almost since it was first installed.
Flanges were longer holding back the rain
So we looked about for a new Bilco and other options but found nothing really reasonably priced. A new Bilco including the 18 inch tunnel extension was near a grand plus the governor fee. Other options were well over double that. After some thinking I figured it could be mended for a reasonable price. So I removed it and tarped over the well for a few days.
I took the parts home and went at it with the grinder.
and the sawsall
Cut the lower flanges off
Cleaned up the rust
Applied some paint stripper followed by phosphoric acid to neutralize the remaining rust
and welded new rails in
Tunnel side walls also got the same treatment
I used my cheap Chinese stick welder to spot weld both inside and out
All three rebuilt parts with the new rails
Then applied liberal layers of 3M automotive undercoating to keep the metal dry and hopefully prevent further rust.
I coated all edges and seams where there are but joints and water tends to collect.
Then three coats of Forest green oil based enamel, custom tinted as Rustoleum now no longer makes forest green.
I installed new 2x10 pressure treated sills bedded in PL polyurethane caulking so they would span the entire width of the foundation and not leave another joint for water to collect. This entailed the time consuming and tedious process of drilling the concrete and installing new bolts bedded in epoxy to hold down the sills. Previously the sills were only held down by 2 ramset nails
I flashed with 12 inch lead so that the skirt would be well bellow the foundation and sill joint. The lead was extremely pricy, but indispensable in this installation.
and installed the refurbished door bedded in copious amounts of polyurethane caulk all held down with epoxy coated screws.
now that is what I call a properly installed basement bulkhead.


  1. Good work, you have a lot of talent ,I hope you are fully booked up for work, Michael :)

    1. Ha, would that it were!!! Fall tends to be busy as folks suddenly remember all the things they want done before the snow flies. Wintertime nobody wants you in the house. Sometimes its a hurry-up and wait thing. Got a couple more projects lined up I hope to get done before the weather goes pearshaped.

  2. Interesting job. What was the final cost, labour included?

    1. It took me 12 hours of labor to rebuild the bulkhead parts. That included removal, stripping the paint, grinding rust and welding. An other 20hrs to sand paint and instal, which I'd have had to do with a new one anyhow. Materials cost was about 400 U$, 200 of which was for the lead alone.

  3. That looks like a proper job! Thats the trouble when I look to buy things, I always end up thinking that I could do it better - If only I had more time! Looks like you've done it right and it should see a good few years before it needs any maintenance. Also if it's always been leaking then its one of those jobs you keep putting off so it's one less hanging over the carpenters head (I know that feeling!)