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With the cost of housing increasing each year, buyers are always looking for the most value for their money. Smart homeowners recognize that they can add house value through bathroom and kitchen remodeling, basement waterproofing or increasing square footage with basement underpinning.
Utilitarian basements are no longer sufficient for today's family needs, and older floor plans are typically considered old fashioned and impractical unless improvements have been made. Even with basement remodel costs added in, you'll get top dollar and a great return on investment when selling your home if it includes a trendy entertainment room, office space or kitchenette. Let's explore how basement underpinning can help.
What is Basement Underpinning?
Underpinning refers to the process of reinforcing an existing, unstable foundation or lowering the basement floor to increase the overall ceiling height. In both cases, the basement floor and soil underneath is excavated out and replaced at a lower level.
Today's underpinning methods have remained very similar to those done a hundred years ago. The uses and benefits, however, are very different.
What is Required?
The main purpose for basement underpinning is either to strengthen the existing foundation or to vertically extend it. Either way, you'll need to determine the reason for the work. In both cases, you'll increase your property's value. A crumbling or unstable foundation will need to be repaired before selling the home; and by adding more usable living space in the basement, potential buyers are more likely to pay a higher price.
Depending on the purpose of the project, one of three methods can be used:
- Traditional mass for shallow underpinning' as well as beam and base that incorporates concrete beams for more support.
- Mini-piled with steel support beams that rest on more stable ground.
- Sectional excavation where grout is used to fill the area between the old and new concrete.
What are the Benefits?
If you're trying to decide which remodeling project will provide the best return on your investment at resale, basement underpinning wins hands down. Here's why:
- More Value: When you open up your basement for more practical uses such as a game room, home office, media center or in-law apartment, you widen the appeal to a greater number of potential buyers. This will sell your home more quickly and at a higher price than other homes in your area.
- Improved Structural Integrity: No matter the reason for underpinning your basement - creating more head room or accommodating an upper level expansion - the process will strengthen your home's structure and extend its lifespan. Foundation damage can be caused from aging, soil type, extreme weather and poor workmanship. The new foundation will strengthen your entire home and reduce the risk a major structural problems.
- Uncover Hidden Problems: The process of lowering the basement floor requires removal of a portion of the foundation and exposure of hidden mechanicals like plumbing, electrical, insulation and HVAC. This will allow for easy inspection and repair damages quickly.
- A Healthier & Drier Home: Older basements can develop cracks and leaks over time, allowing water seepage, mold growth and musty odors. Many types of mold have been proven to cause serious health risks and the underpinning process can rectify any problem areas. You’ll improve air quality and have an opportunity to install significant waterproofing components. Incorporating a sump pump and battery backup in the newly added room will keep the area dry and free from damaging mold and mildew.
- Added Square Footage: So often, homeowners searching for extra space opt for building above-ground additions instead of using the area right below their feet. A two-story home with a low-ceiling basement could potentially gain up to 50% more usable area by underpinning instead of building out. In addition, basement lowering can be a cost-effective and time-saving alternative to constructing another room.
- Rental Income: It may be possible to incorporate a new or expanded entrance to your basement during the underpinning process. Doing so would allow you to turn your new space into a complete apartment. Not only would the extra income provide value to your home, but it would also help you recover the cost of the renovation work.
- Energy Savings: While a good percentage of energy is used for heating and cooling your home, an unfinished basement and insufficient insulation can cause inefficient energy usage throughout the year. Lowering your basement can provide an opportunity to incorporate more effective insulation methods that can help reduce heating and cooling bills and add even more value to your home.
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If your home is like many older homes and you’d like to finish your basement to fit your modern lifestyle, a low ceiling height would likely cause some major remodeling headaches. Underpinning may be the perfect solution for turning an unusable area into a brand new playroom for the kids, man cave or even a private apartment for your adult children who have moved back home.
As with any renovation work, it's wise to consult with a professional before starting your project. You'll want to find someone with experience in underpinning to guide you through the process. It may take a little time and money to transform your dark, dingy basement into a place that everyone will want to use, but the transformation will be spectacular and so will the added value to your home.