Add Height to Your Basement: Underpinning vs. Benching

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A basement renovation is a great way to increase your living space. Sure, there are other ways to add space to your home, but the basement is the first place to look. And frankly, it’s the easiest to renovate. The thing about renovating a basement is that you are building within an existing structure, so you don’t have to worry about zoning bylaws and building permits.

When you renovate a basement, you’re not building anything from scratch. And unlike a home addition, your basement already has finished walls, ceilings, and flooring. This makes a basement renovation project a much cheaper endeavour to increase the space in your house.

However, many basements in older homes were not built to be livable; rather, they were built mainly for storage, laundry, and utilities. Therefore, these basements often have very low ceilings and little headroom. This is where basement lowering comes in, and nowadays, you can choose whether you want to do basement underpinning or benching basement. Either way, Reno Duck is willing to take care of your basement.

So, how can you add height to your basement So, how can you add height to your basement?

Well, to add height to your basement, you can either go with structural changes to the foundation of the basement, or you can implement interior design elements that give the illusion of a higher basement ceiling.

In this article, we’re digging into the ways to add height to your basement by altering your property’s foundation.

Lowering the Basement Foundation Lowering the Basement Foundation

We recommend changes to the basement’s foundation when less demanding alternatives aren’t possible. This is simply because altering the foundation of your property is costly and time-consuming.

The golden rule of the day: a foundational renovation should be your last resort.

However, if lowering your basement foundation is the only option, we suggest either one or a combination of the following techniques:

  • Basement underpinning
  • Basement benching

We’re discussing both basement lowering techniques in detail so you can learn about them and ultimately make an informed decision regarding your basement project.

What is basement underpinning?

Basement underpinning project
Basement underpinning project/ via Pinterest

Underpinning a basement involves digging around the perimeter of the basement walls. What we do in underpinning is remove the existing basement footings, excavate to a lower depth, and pour new footings at that new depth. We then rebuild the basement walls in sections and install new floors.

It’s certainly a tough job that should be done by a foundation contractor. Hiring a skilled foundation expert to underpin your basement is the best way to guarantee your house’s foundation isn’t compromised. Also, since basement underpinning requires a lot of excavation, it can be quite costly.

What about basement benching?

Basement benching (aka bench-footing) is another way to add height to your basement. Instead of excavating under the existing basement foundation, a bench or ledge is built around the inside perimeter of the existing walls. Then, we lower the basement foundation within the benched space. This method allows us to pour a new concrete slab at a lower depth without modifying the foundation walls.

Basement benching requires much less digging than underpinning, making it a lot cheaper and faster to complete. However, the most outstanding drawback to bench-footing is that it takes away from the square footage of the basement because of the fact that you have this new bench around the inside perimeter of your basement.

You can obviously take advantage of this bench and not let it become wasted space. Find a way to incorporate it into your basement decor. You can add cushions on the ledge to create some seating. You can also ask your contractor to turn it into a built-in storage space. Or better yet, you can even place your entertainment unit on it.

How to Choose Between Basement Underpinning and Bench Footing Basement_2 How to Choose Between Basement Underpinning and Bench Footing Basement?

img-1Are you torn between basement underpinning and bench footing? If yes, you are not the only one. Both options offer a fair share of pros and cons. Where one option lacks, the other excels. It goes without saying that one is better. Let’s take a look at both.

Basement Lowering Technique That Do Not Decrease a Space Basement Lowering Technique That Do Not Decrease a Space

Do you need a solution that will increase the height of your basement without decreasing the square footage area? If so, underpinning is what you need. It involves excavating sections of earth under the footing of the house. Bench footing only excavates around the foundation and not under it. Consequently, the square footage area of the basement is reduced.

Bench Footing Won’t Damage The Foundation of Your House Bench Footing Won’t Damage The Foundation of Your House

How is the soil around your house? If the soil is not stable, you should do everything possible to avoid disturbing it. This is because excavating under the footing will compromise the foundation or even ruin the house. If this situation applies to you, the best technique when lowering your basement will be bench footing.

Your Neighbor’s Permission Can Affect Your Choice For Basement Lowering Your Neighbor’s Permission Can Affect Your Choice For Basement Lowering

When sharing a common wall with your neighbour, you will require their permission before lowering your basement using the underpinning technique. This is because when excavating, the soil under the foundation of your neighbour will also be affected. If your neighbour does not permit you to lower your basement using underpinning, the only option you are left with is bench footing.

If Your Foundation Is Not Strong Enough Choose Bench Footing If Your Foundation Is Not Strong Enough Choose Bench Footing

When your house has a weak foundation, you don’t want to tamper with the foundation in any way. You should avoid excavating under the footing because excavating under a weak foundation increases the risk of collapse. If this is the case, bench footing will be perfect. The technique involves excavating around the foundation and not under it.

Make Sure Your Expectations Match The Reality Make Sure Your Expectations Match The Reality

When what you need is a strong basement lowering technique that strengthens the foundation of your structure, what you need is the underpinning technique. On the other hand, if the foundation of your house is strong and does not require additional support, the bench-footing approach will be great.

Bench Footing is More Affordable Bench Footing is More Affordable

Last but not least, if you are working with a tight budget, bench footing might just be the option you need. Bench footing involves less work, less time, costs less and has a lower risk. Underpinning is more expensive, resource-intensive and involves a significant amount of risk. Precision will be required when working under the foundation.

The right contractor to add height to your basement

Basement Underpinning _ Basement Benching_1 The right contractor to add height to your basement

There’s no doubt that lowering your basement is a demanding job. Changing the foundation of your home is not a simple task, which is why we encourage homeowners to do thorough research. And although finding the right basement contractor to do the job can be challenging, we advise you to check references and online reviews. It’s also best to go with a contractor who’s worked on this type of project before. With basement lowering, experience goes a long way. Your house’s foundation is no joke, so take your time and plan smartly.