I have a door leading from my basement, (finished, livable, but still rough compared to the rest of the house) to the drive-under garage. This door isn't to code in the slightest: it's an interior door rather than a 20-minute fire door as is required for garage-entry; it's a hollow core door with the top cut off and open; and it has lots of space to gap and draft. As such I want to replace it with something more appropriate and code-compliant.

However, some problems arise when trying to do so, namely that the door is 78" tall rather than the standard 80". It's also elevated on a row of bricks, which serves as a tripping hazard. I would like to remove those bricks to fit a standard, code-compliant door. What purpose do those bricks serve, and what risk might I introduce by removing them? Can I remove them? Should I?

I haven't found anything related to any code-compliance with regards to an elevated door. The only purpose I can think that the bricks might serve is flood-prevention.

Door in Question

  • I have the same thing and I wondered also why it is until it rained really bad one day and all the neighbors got water in their basements and I didn’t. In any case, I wouldn’t remove it just yet, it looks like a perfect illustration of “Chesterton’s fence”
    – kioleanu
    Oct 19 at 7:31
  • 1
    I agree, it's probably there for flood control. Also be careful when trying to make basements habitable rooms, you need to meet egress requirements. Oct 19 at 7:37
  • instead of removing the bricks you can make a platform to reduce the tripping hazard Oct 19 at 8:34
  • @kioleanu of course not yet, which is why I'm asking what I might be missing. We've had some heavy rains and I've not even seen water in the garage yet, let alone the basement.
    – THiebert
    Oct 19 at 9:15
  • @Harper-ReinstateMonica Not using any part of the basement as a bedroom, so the egresses I have currently are sufficient.
    – THiebert
    Oct 19 at 9:17

As noted in many comments and other answers, those blocks (cinder blocks, or CMUs - cement masonry units) are, at a minimum, providing flood protection for your basement. It may not be perfect protection, but would certainly reduce the rate at which water will enter your basement.

Since they're serving a purpose and removing them would, generally, be not the best idea, here are a couple of possibilities:

  1. Order a custom sized fire-rated door that will fit your 78" opening. This is likely going to be fairly expensive, but will get you what you want.

  2. After removing the existing door & frame, carefully mark the CMUs about 2-1/2" down from their top surface and cut them down. This will give you the height to install a standard 80" door (including a little bit of wiggle room with that extra 1/2" to ensure the door is level & square so it swings/closes correctly). It will also retain the majority of the flood protection that those blocks are providing and reduce the trip hazard of the threshold, thus giving you the best of all three worlds.

  • Would second keeping the blocks. We had a house and for over ten years the basement stayed dry. We finish the basement and a couple years after the drain backup during heavy rain. Not nice. You said no water after recent rains yet, main word is yet.
    – crip659
    Oct 19 at 13:04

Many houses are designed with the garage / basement floor lower than the house floor. This means you get a step down.

However, it seems yours is just designed as a flood barrier. If you remove it then you take the risk of a future flood - perhaps from a leaking washing machine etc

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