How to Fix a Leaking Cellar Bulkhead

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Cellar bulkheads can be prone to leaks because they are horizontal, rather than vertical.
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Bulkheads are heavy metal doors that open into a basement or cellar. These doors are generally mounted at horizontal angles into the ground, and open onto concrete steps that lead into the cellar. When these doors fail to function properly, they can cause many problems in your home. For example, they can allow water to leak into your basement, which causes mold and mildew to grow and your basement to flood. Proper maintenance and repair of your bulkhead door can keep your basement dry and mildew-free, protecting your belongings and the integrity of your home.


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Step 1

Pinpoint the source of the leak. Bulkhead leaks can come from rusted doors, improperly sealed joints and cracks in the concrete foundation surrounding the bulkhead. To properly treat the problem, you must first determine from where the leak is coming. Look for holes in the doors, cracks in the surrounding foundation or leaks in the joints where the bulkhead meets the concrete foundation.


Step 2

Seal cracks in the concrete stairs and frame where the bulkhead doors are mounted using a concrete sealant. Dry the area first using high-power fans and then apply the sealant to the cracks. It is best to do this on a dry day with no rain in the forecast so the sealant can dry properly before being tested against outside water.


Step 3

Apply waterproof sealant that will bond with both concrete and metal around the edges of the bulkhead door, both inside and outside. Again, wait for a day when it has been dry for several days and no rain is in the forecast.

Step 4

Replace the bulkhead doors if they are rusted or rotting. This is a heavy-duty job, due to the size and weight of bulkhead doors, especially metal one; you may want to call a professional to handle it. To install them yourself, you will need to place a rubber seal between the concrete and the bulkhead door and use a sealant to bond the two together. Bolt the bulkhead door in place.


Problems such as an uneven yard surrounding the bulkhead can lead to additional problems, such as pooling around the bulkhead, which can cause rusting and actually make a functioning bulkhead spring a leak. If you notice puddles of water around your bulkhead, you may need to build up the ground around it or pave the area. Improper draining from the roof of your house can also exacerbate the problem; ensure that drains point away from the bulkhead area.

If you are unable to determine the source of the leak, you may have tiny, imperceptible cracks in your foundation. A professional repairman will be able to pinpoint the leaks and apply a sealant to fix the problem.