Concrete half wall in the basement by the door: can we tear it out?

As seen in this photo, there is a 4ish foot tall concrete wall in our basement next to the exterior door. (Please excuse the absolute disaster that our basement currently is; we’re doing some renovations and this is a “before” pic.) I am not from an area with basements; my husband is and thinks he’s seen this “feature” before. We’d like to remove that wall. Is that going to be OK? Is there some reason it’s there?

It’s not structural, but it may be necessary due to local fire codes and the pellet stove or whatever it is you have just to the left of that wall.

It’s a wood burning stove. It’s definitely not structural, and it was poured separately from the rest of the basement.

I’d be concerned that it’s helping support the concrete wall it abuts, since the doorway weakens it. That would depend on how much soil is on the other side, causing pressure on the outside of the wall. Although you’ve got a door there, and the stove exits through the wall, so there can’t be soil behind the full height of the outside wall.

The top of the exterior door is about 2’ above grade (there are a few stairs going up out of it), the basement isn’t built into a hill or anything, so I don’t think that’s it.

I’m encouraged that no one is saying, “oh, all basements have that half wall thing. Do not disturb it!” Excellent. :slight_smile:

Looking at the photo, that’s the basement of a late 1700’s or early 1800’s New England house. Am I correct? I know exactly what those like because I had one and have seen many of them. I can’t tell exactly why was ever put there. Walls like that aren’t a standard feature in those houses. If you can’t tell what it was put there for either, you can probably take it down without a problem. That basement has seen many modifications and improvements in its day. The basement shouldn’t have structural problems because it was originally dug into rocky ground and the concrete wasn’t added until much later.

Actually, it was built in 2009. :slight_smile: But New England is right; we’re in Southern Maine.

Oh, I guess some things change slowly then but that is typical of Maine. That’s an impressive pile of stuff a two year old basement though. My compliments. The idea is the same the same however. The wall was probably put up as some type of heat barrier but it doesn’t look all that important. Standard Disclaimer: If the whole house falls down when you take it out, that is probably just the straw broke the camel’s back and not the root cause.

The original house on this lot was built in the early 1900s, but it burned down. They built a new basement when they re-built, and overall the house is very nicely constructed. The guy who built this house was in the concrete business; since half walls don’t seem to be mandatory, my current theory is that he had some leftover concrete he needed to put somewhere, so he built a wall. Wouldn’t be the strangest decision made in the construction of this house (I’ll refrain here from ranting about installing a 100 amp electrical service in a house built in 2009.)

edit: My friend,** Surly Chick**, has a 1700s house a few miles from here. Her basement has little streams running through the dirt floors when it rains, stone walls, and is only about 5’ tall. Her house is awesome, but I do prefer the modern basement.

i would think it is a buttress. there is dirt on the other side of the wall at a height just a bit lower than the top of it. the door frame is the end of the wall in the sense of holding back the dirt pressure and water pressure (after rains or snow melt).

a pad extending a stairway is a much easier way to use up excess concrete.

There is the same amount of dirt on all sides of the house, though. And the wall was clearly installed after the rest of the concrete for the basement was poured. Do you think it might be necessary because of the door weakening that wall?

This half wall also has little sticks of metal sticking out of it at regular intervals. It’s not re-bar, I’ve never seen anything like it. Maybe this is a clue?

What?! Look at those clean machine-planed dimensional pine floor joists! The laminated beam under them! The regular vertical seams in the poured concrete! Even ignoring the mechanical work, which is practically sparkling with newness, there’s nothing there that looks like even early-20th-century construction.

Those are just leftover from the crafting process. Thoy were to hold the forms in place. By code they should have been knocked of. If you look closely around your whole basement you’ll find evidence of similar ones.

Your basement wall should be plenty strong enough to hold itself in place without any sort of reenforcing half wall thingy. That walls there because they wanted it for some reason. It isn’t important structurally.

I will say removing it isn’t likely to be a clean simply process. You can go after it with a electric hammer or whatnot but you’re not going to end up leaving a smooth floor or wall behind. I’d expect they anchored the half wall into the basement wall and floor with re-bar.

Personally I’d save myself the effort and leave it be. What is going to be gained by removing it?

the doorway is the end of the wall for the purpose of holding back the dirt.

a buttress can be added after the wall if needed, it can be added after the wall by design, sort of a bookend that doesn’t need to be attached to the wall just press hard against it, it does have to be attached to the floor.

the metal sticking out are concrete form ties, it holds the rigid sides of the concrete mold together while you put concrete in it.

My guess is it has something to do with the fire code and the door, like you can’t have a wood-burning stove that close to an outside door without a barrier or something like that.

Those “little sticks of metal” are crimp ties from the forming system. They prevent the forms from bulging as the concrete is poured.

Walkout basements are very common and do not usually require buttresses. The floor joists are largely what buttresses the wall anyway. Unlikely it was constructed to deal with excess cement, that is usually poured out on site and broken up later if necessary - there is rarely any time to form something to place it.

Can you get a hold of blueprints? It seems like a very odd feature to me, and I would want to know what the crazy idea was behind it. Can’t tell from a photo on the internet what its structural significance is.

some kind of fire code issue is also a possibility, though that could be made with cheaper and lighter concrete blocks. though if the builder did concrete that much material would be cheaper than dirt.

I think it is only there because of the stove. It is definitely not structural in any way (no soil behind the door, the highest soil force would be somewhere midway down that wall).

If it were fire code related, I assume a wood wall with gyp board would suffice, but being a concrete guy it was easier to just throw up formwork and pore the wall.

Do you think it’s there to keep the breeze from the door from blowing out the pilot light(s) on the water tank and/or furnace?