I just purchased a house this weekend, and moved in yesterday. I live in MD (USA), and there just happened to be a torrential downpour yesterday after we moved in. I went downstairs to check my sump pumps, and then checked the door leading to by basement as I was instructed to. My sumps were fine, but the water level at the back door had climbed to just below the bottom of the door! Five more minutes, and I would have had water issues the first day in the house!

Just to give you an example of what I am talking about, the steps to the basement look like this. This isn't my basement, but it's pretty identical.

enter image description here

The drain at the bottom had been clogged, and I had to go outside to unclog the drain. Luckily, the water drained almost instantly, and the crisis was averted. Still, it made me extremely nervous and I want to do all I can to prevent this in the future.

So, what can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Obviously, maintenance will help, but making sure it is clean every time it rains requires that I be home. Trimming the foliage around the steps will also help, but I'm looking for a more permanent, less maintenance solution.

I thought of a few options that might work..

  1. Putting a metal grating at the bottom of the steps covered in screen material to increase the surface area of the drain and make it virtually impossible that the entire thing gets clogged.
  2. Put an awning over the steps / extending the roof to prevent water from falling directly into the stairway.
  3. Raising the door / higher step going into the basement (worst of the bunch, in my opinion)
  4. Putting a dome over the drain that is specially made for this. Much like option 1, it increases the surface area of the filter/drain. Though this creates a tripping hazard, which isn't that big of a deal considering we plan on never using those stairs anyway.
  5. Sealing off that damn door since we will never be using it, and getting rid of the stairs. I'd prefer not to do this, but if the door wasn't there in the first place, I never would have complained.



  • 5 would be regrettable when you find yourself in the basement with a fire between you and the interior exit...
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 22:30
  • There are other windows in the basement as required by law to be fire exits, but I hear you. Also, I think you should have said IF, not WHEN ;P
    – dberm22
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:05
  • 2
    Check the grading up above the stairwell to see if water run towards your steps. If it does, then that should be addressed as well. Commented Aug 11, 2015 at 17:41

6 Answers 6


The grating seems like the best solution. Not only will it increase the surface area of the drain, but also aids in cleaning the steps/landing because it can be picked up in one piece, taken to the top of the steps, and shaken off.

However metal grating can be expensive, hard to work with, find in the correct size/hole size, and most importantly, will rust - thus needing to be replaced, and staining the concrete in the process. PVC drainage tile such as this is the way to go. They last forever, can be cut easily with a hacksaw (or even better, a band saw), and much, much cheaper. They are specifically made for this purpose.

PVC Drainage Tile


We had a similar issue: a walkout basement with one small drain that got covered with leaves and other plant debris when it rained hard. I searched quite a bit for a solution, but ended up coming up with a new idea that worked great.

My solution was to purchase a large, mosquito net and cover the stairs and floor of the walkout area. We placed small heavy tiles on the side of each step and near the edges of the net to make sure no debris got under the net. We also placed an upside down plastic plant container near the drain to raise the height of the net to further increase the surface area. The net works like a dream and is so fine it captures all kinds of debris well before the drain area. I used to have to check the steps during every storm (we just refinished our basement) but last week I was gone on vacation and we had several thunderstorms with heavy downpours. The net worked and best of all I don't have to fiddle with it.

Here's the net I got from Amazon.

Mosquito Bug Insect Bird Net Barrier Hunting Blind Garden Netting For Protect Your Plant Fruits Flower (8Ft x 20Ft)


Same sort of basement entry here in Seattle. Intermittent flooding and the hassle of sweeping wet leaves out of the stairwell for too many years. I love my current solution.
A friend drilled support-heavy screws into the concrete foundation. We cut 3 pieces of heavy duty plywood to cover the space and fit around the bases of the railing at the top. One end of the wood rests on the screw-supports. The other end rests on the concrete on the other side of the stairwell. (3 pieces because they are heavy - so the dog would not crash through if he walked on them.) Rain rotted my first try, so I bought sheets of that rippled Fiberglas roofing type material and cut them to size.
If you get the picture, you’ll be able to figure out how to keep water from getting into the wood through the seams in the Fiberglas. The stairwell stays dry all winter. I can store lawn chairs and such down there. The cat can go there and sleep. I can still access the stairwell if I need to get out fast by crawling out or lifting the plywood from below. If you don’t have animals, you might be able to use just the Fiberglas sheets. PS make sure this cover slants so the rain runs off. My screw supports are just a little under the siding.

  • 1
    can the person from Seattle share pic?
    – user89220
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 3:20

1, 2, 4 or the variant of 4 that is a raised perforated pipe; or the variant of 1 & 4 that is cutting a hole for a large filter-basket below the current floor level - but you probably don't need to "clean it every time it rains" - in all liklihood, checking it once a week or so and cleaning it as needed will suffice, with a possible need to check more in fall when the leaves come off trees.


I have the same problem. Egress steps with small drain at the bottom. My problem is not the rain/water, but the leaves from trees that seem to blow under the deck and right into that area. I bought the house 11 years ago and it got under the door the first week (the previous owners did not tell me about the problem). I bought a piece to set in the drain hole (atrium). Couple bucks at hardware store. My son fashioned out of screen wire covered in plastic (small holes) a little top hat which works well for the water but still had problems with the leaves. He then made a frame to cover the top of the steps and covered the frame in screen wire. Problem solved ... EXCEPT I can't use the door at all (bummer). My next step is to extend my deck over the steps and cover it. Will have to stoop down to get out, but better than not being able to use it at all. Whoever thought Egress steps were a wonderful idea ... never had to contend with the aggravation of this issue!


I have the same issue at my home , I am going to put in a new patio which leads to the stairwell . The patio will be pitched more so water is diverted away from the stairwell . In addition I am going to increase the depth of the base of the stairwell and install a trench drain ( more surface area to allow for more drainage , less likely to clog ) . I am also considering installing an overflow drain within the riser which makes up the door threshold base , much like an overflow drain on a bathtub .

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