Skyrocketing home prices in Toronto over the last few years have made it very difficult for many homeowners in search of additional space to afford a larger home. Growing families and those looking to up size have been forced to look to the suburbs for more square footage. The reality is that many Torontonians love their current neighborhood so much that moving to the burbs is not an option. When faced with this dilemma many homeowners have pursued additions to gain footage, but in many cases additions like moving can be extremely costly, (disruptive) invasive, and in some cases not feasible.  The solution that many homeowners have turned to is right under their nose more accurately under their main floor.  The basement. Many basements in Toronto homes still remain unfinished, dark, crawl space type storage dungeons that kids are afraid to enter.  In the old days most basements were not intended to be livable spaces and thus never had the proper height to accommodate modern life. Today these “Storage Dungeons” offer a homeowner a more cost effective way of adding additional livable space in the form of Basement lowering also referred to as basement underpinning when compared to moving or building a new home addition.

What exactly is basement lowering/basement unpinning? Plain and simple it means digging down and excavating the dirt below your existing basement floor and supporting the foundation wall to the new depth thus increasing the height of your basement. With this a homeowner can then add bedrooms, bathrooms, rec. rooms, a finished laundry room, organized storage spaces, and an enclosed utility space depending on the length and width of your basement.

Basement lowering is a process that should always involve obtaining the correct permits as well as structural engineer involvement.  Lowering a basement involves alterations to a homes foundation and must be carefully completed by professionals who utilize the sectional sequence method. In plain English the foundation is divided into sections say 1,2,3, 1,2 3, etc. All section ones are then excavated, steel rebar is then installed, the wall section is formed, and then filled with concrete. This process continues with all section 2’s, and then section 3’s, etc. Once the underpinning process is complete the middle of the basement is dug down allowing the new concrete floor to be poured and thus achieving the new desirable basement height (typically around 8’ finished floor to ceiling height).

Basement lowering can come with some additional costs in the form of modifying structural supports, installing new basement plumbing, installing a (ask steve he mentioned some possible code item), installing a sewage ejector if the homes main drain is above the new finished basement height, mechanical alterations, and adding to or installing new stairs from the main floor to the basement. The main by-product benefits of basement lowering are that it is mandatory that the basement be waterproofed from the inside and insulated. Interior weeping tiles, a high density polyethylene membrane applied to exterior walls, and a sump pump is required which will keep your new space dry for the years come. All exterior walls are required to be insulated to a minimum of R-22, which will vastly improve climate control and the homes energy efficiency.

It is important to keep in mind that depending on the home, scope of the project, and time of the year basement lowering can be a disruptive process that may require a home owner to temporarily move out until all mechanical systems have been restored. Some homeowners do not have the ability to move out during the basement lowering process and are comfortable with portable fans in the warmer months and electrical space in the colder months. Like any renovation there are inconveniences that are expected. A good contractor will up front about the process, set reasonable timelines, and accomplish the project in a timely manner.

If you have any questions regarding basement lowering please feel free to contact us at Grand Building.

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