What considerations come into play to decide that your home’s foundation can benefit from the construction process of underpinning? The response is twofold. It is either necessary to stabilize structural problems that have developed or it is desirable to meet a whole wish list of living space and economic requirements. Let’s consider these situations individually.
Foundation wall underpinning becomes a necessity when the existing foundation is shifting so dramatically and substantially that it is unable to safely support the house above it. In some cases, the original supporting construction was inadequate for the area climate, soil conditions or types. All or part of the original foundation rested on marginal land with a bearing capacity insufficient to hold up the building. In other cases, interference with the structural integrity of the foundation by unknowledgeable tradesmen, amateurs or do-it-yourselfers created the damage. Early warning signs include changes in the shape of walls, sinking, bulging or sagging, structural cracks, and discrepancies in the alignment of windows and doors. In all instances of underpinning necessity, professional assessment and design are required and the work must be done promptly before further damage or loss of investment can occur. Underpinning the foundation walls in all these cases stabilizes the home and gives increased strength to the building. Your home equity is thereby increased.
Now let’s turn to the desirable reasons to underpin your foundation. First, the process of underpinning the foundation opens up the hidden mechanics of the home and makes them accessible for inspection, correction and improvement. As underpinning is usually undertaken in older homes, older household plumbing, electrical and insulation systems can be replaced or upgraded with modern technologies. All these can be brought up to Building Code and the most desirable contemporary standards. Changes will have to be made to the waterproofing systems along with the underpinning so the life of the useable, dry space will be enhanced. Also, you will have a pristine new concrete floor. Overall, you will see long term savings in energy, safety and comfort of the entire house. You also gain the benefits accruing to the necessity underpinning, namely, stabilization, improved strength and increased value.
Second, foundation underpinning dramatically alters the usability of the below ground space, up to fifty percent of the available room in your home! The vast majority of basements were originally conceived as a location for household mechanics, including coal storage, oil tanks, and even as produce cold cellars. Later, dingy laundries and false-wood panelled kids’ play or recreation rooms joined the functions as the basement began to be thought of as potential living space. But those spaces were a far cry from the desirable living space demanded by twenty-first century homeowners.
Ceiling height and light arose as concerns. These obstacles are removed by the engineered solution of underpinning. Greater headroom makes the space attractive to be in for more hours as you don’t get that suffocating, cramped sensation that older spaces can inspire. Modern recessed lighting can be introduced to enhance attractiveness. In the process of opening up the basement for underpinning, unnecessary walls may be eliminated and bearing walls supported in different ways so that the basement is no longer a warren of small dark rooms but can be reborn to more open space for any function on the family wish list. Endless possibilities include office space, an extra bedroom, entertainment or home theatre areas, spa, a nanny or in-law suite, rental unit, and modern functional and organized storage space.
Third, you gain the new space for you growing family’s heart desires in the least expensive and least disruptive manner. As the basement already exists, the expense of constructing a new addition does not exist. The construction process is confined to the basement rather than taking place all around you. If it is only a crawl space to be improved, you add floor space and eliminate moisture problems at the same time. This is also the time to incorporate a new exterior entrance/walkout into you underpinning plans. Whether for fire safety, light or convenience, separate access to the basement is a valuable alteration.
All in all, it is clear that whether your plans arise from necessity or wishful thinking, underpinning the foundation walls of your basement enhances the value of your home for the present use of your own family and for future purchasers.