Basement Underpinning: Addressing Common Misconceptions and Myths

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April 26, 2023

Basement underpinning strengthens a property’s foundation, lowers the basement floor, and increases the ceiling height. Many homeowners that invest in underpinning achieve fantastic results that stand the test of time.

But, as with so much else, there are misconceptions and myths about basement underpinning. These can dissuade homeowners from trying underpinning and cause them to miss out on the long-term benefits. That’s why it’s vital that homeowners understand what basement underpinning really involves, what it offers, and why it’s worth investing in.

In this post, we’ll address six common basement underpinning misconceptions and myths to set your mind at ease.

Misconception 1: Basement Underpinning is Only for Older Homes

Many older homes will benefit from basement underpinning, particularly if they show signs of structural damage or if the owner wants to create a larger space.

But it’s not just older homes that need underpinning. If you have a new home or plan to buy one, underpinning can help prevent potential future damage. Your property will be reinforced against extreme weather, structural issues, and other possible risks.

Some of the most common factors causing foundation issues in newer homes include:

  • Poor soils unable to support the property
  • Ineffective water drainage
  • Natural sinkholes
  • Soil erosion

That’s why you should inspect any property thoroughly before you buy it and book regular foundation inspections to identify potential problems.

Misconception 2: Underpinning is a DIY Project

Basement underpinning is a complex process, whichever method is used. But you may still consider tackling it yourself as a DIY project, especially if you have done other work around your home. It should be cheaper and easier, right?

Not necessarily. You could ultimately spend much more than if you bring in a specialist team instead.

Why? Because any mistakes you make will need to be fixed. And there’s lots that could go wrong with DIY basement underpinning, including:

  • Damage to your home’s foundation
  • Using the wrong soil type
  • Setting up ineffective drainage systems
  • Damage to walls

These are just a few of the worst risks of DIY underpinning. But you won’t need to worry about any of these issues if you hire a skilled team. They’ll have the training, hands-on experience, and equipment to get it right. And that’ll save you money in the long run.

Misconception 3: Underpinning Will Ruin the Aesthetics of Your Home

Naturally, homeowners worry that basement underpinning will ruin their property’s carefully cultivated aesthetic. But that’s not the case with the latest methods.

Traditional underpinning techniques, such as mass concrete underpinning, cause more disruption to a property’s appearance than modern approaches. Mini-piling is one of the most popular choices today: steel shafts are driven into the ground and concrete or grout is added for the pile, with the soil supported by the shaft. As there’s no need for excavation, mini-piling causes far less disruption than traditional methods.

And expert underpinning can even improve a basement’s appearance by making it bigger. Lowering the floor increases the ceiling height and makes it look more spacious while creating a more comfortable, practical environment.

You can speak to your basement underpinning team about what you hope to achieve with the process, and they will do their best to tailor their work to your goals. If you want them to use a specific technique, they may be willing to do so. You can also discuss flooring and certain fixtures or features that need to be installed.

Misconception 4: Underpinning is Excessively Expensive

Basement underpinning can be expensive in some cases, primarily on large projects. But it’s often more cost-effective than homeowners expect.

Several factors determine the price of an underpinning project, including:

  • The method used
  • Property location and environment (e.g. ground beneath the foundation)
  • Soil type
  • The quantity and type of materials required
  • Property accessibility (more effort equals higher costs)

Investing in quality underpinning can add value to your home by expanding the size of your basement, and help you save on further work by reinforcing your property against future problems.

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t just opt for the cheapest method if you’re told that it’s not the best for your home. A trusted expert will offer transparent advice on how best to support your home and expand your basement.

Check online reviews and social media to find a basement underpinning contractor with a solid reputation. Reviewers tend to mention how affordable their services were, and your chosen company will be happy to discuss pricing with you.

Misconception 5: All Underpinning Methods are the Same

Not all underpinning methods are the same — there are several to choose from. These include:

  • Mass concrete underpinning
  • Mini-piling underpinning
  • Piled raft underpinning
  • Beam and base underpinning
  • Cantilever needle beam underpinning

Some of these methods will be better for your property than others, depending on your home’s location, its structural condition, and your budget. Speak to an underpinning specialist about your options, and they will be able to offer invaluable advice after a thorough inspection.

Consulting with a specialist is crucial to ensure you make the right choice for your home instead of picking an option based on guesswork.

Misconception 6: Underpinning is Only Necessary for Structural Issues

While underpinning can help solve structural issues, such as subsidence, it’s useful for numerous other reasons. Additional benefits include:

  • Increased living space
  • Improved energy efficiency
  • Enhanced property value

You should consider basement underpinning if you want to:

  • Sell your home at the best possible price
  • Make more use of your basement (e.g., turning it into a games room)
  • Cut energy costs (underpinning improves insulation)

Underpinning also gives you an opportunity to upgrade your basement with a new look, fixtures, and energy-efficient windows.

Why should you consult a basement underpinning professional?

Basement underpinning offers a number of benefits, including increased space, defence against structural issues, and improved energy efficiency.

Aluneed Ltd. is a trusted local basement underpinning company serving the Toronto area. We’ll perform a comprehensive inspection of your home to determine the best approach, use the latest equipment to maximize efficiency, and leave your basement in better condition than ever.

Call Aluneed for a FREE quote or to schedule a consultation with one of our basement underpinning experts!

Bonus: Your Basement Underpinning Checklist

1. Assess Your Needs and Goals

  • Determine the purpose of underpinning
  • Evaluate the current state of your basement

2. Research Local Building Codes and Permits

  • Familiarize yourself with local regulations
  • Apply for necessary permits

3. Hire a Professional Contractor

  • Look for experienced contractors
  • Check credentials and references
  • Obtain and compare quotes

4. Obtain a Structural Engineer’s Report

  • Consult a structural engineer for assessment
  • Ensure compliance with local regulations

5. Develop a Detailed Project Plan

  • Create a project timeline
  • Outline the scope of work
  • Include necessary inspections and certifications

6. Prepare the Basement

  • Clear the area of belongings
  • Address existing damage or issues

7. Carry Out the Underpinning Process

  • Excavate the basement floor
  • Install underpinning support elements
  • Monitor and adjust as needed

8. Inspect and Verify the Work

  • Have a qualified inspector assess the work
  • Obtain required certifications or approvals

9. Waterproof the Basement

  • Install a waterproofing membrane or system
  • Ensure proper drainage is in place

10. Finish the Basement

  • Complete necessary repairs – Install flooring, walls, and other features

11. Maintain and Inspect Regularly

  • Schedule routine inspections – Address concerns or issues promptly
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