Turning a crawl space into a basement: The right way

Turning a crawl space into a basement is a big undertaking that cannot be done alone. You will need the help of a contractor, but you can know what the order of steps are to install a basement.

You will need the help of a contractor, but there are certain aspects of the process that you can do by yourself.

1. Obtain A Building Permit

Before you begin demolishing anything, it is important to obtain a building permit. This will help you not run into problems with the city or your homeowner’s association later.

Obtaining the building permit is a process in and of itself. To obtain a permit, you will need to fill out the application first. Just because you complete this application does not mean you will be allowed to build as you desire.

After finishing the application, you will need to prepare the site plan. Hefty jobs will require you to call an architect or other professionals so you can draw out the project with proper building codes in mind. With the changing of the structure underneath your house, professionals will need to be involved. With the site plan and application completed, you can schedule an appointment to meet with the city to review and receive approval for the project.

You will need to receive the permit before you can begin building, so waiting for the permit is essential. An inspector will need to come and check the project regularly, after you receive the permit, to ensure you are following the site plan you and the contractor laid out.

After you finish the project as anticipated, the city will need to send someone to come for a final review.

2. Bolster The Foundation Piers

After you have received your building permit, you and the contractor will be working closely to follow the plans you have set in place. Aside from removing anything that may already be in the crawlspace, the second major undertaking involved bolstering the foundation piers.

This will maintain the integrity of the foundation. Since you will be working around the foundation and do not want your house to come crumbling down, this step is crucial. Without reinforcing the foundation piers, you can destroy not only the foundation of your house but also your house itself.

Reinforcing the foundation piers is when a trained professional will come in handy. A professional engineer will need to ensure the foundation is kept safe and will continue to support the house as needed.

3. Dig Out Dirt To The Desired Depth

Digging out the dirt to the desired depth will be quite an ordeal. Usually, this has to be done by hand, so finishing the project will require many man-hours. You can hire a team to do all of the work for you, or you can save money by digging out the dirt yourself alongside the professionals you enlisted. The professionals might have a team, but you can always ask.

In total, you can be shoveling out hundreds of thousands of pounds of dirt, so this task is no easy feat. It is good to get all the help you can to help the process go along as fast as possible.

4. Add In A “Bench Footing”

After all of the dirt is removed from the crawl space, you will need to create a structure around the walls by pouring cement. This will still involve the assistance of the professionals you have hired, and you will be quite grateful for them in the end.

You will also need to include a “bench footing”. This will reinforce the structure around the walls and support the overall foundation. The contractor will dig a perimeter around the desired basement area. They then will dig how deep you want the new basement to go. The bench footings now come into play.

The contractor will create new footings that will extend deeper than the new floor’s depth. The contractor will cover the walls and the new footings with cement, creating a bench effect.

5. Install The Drainage System

Once the foundation is secure for the new basement, the next step will involve installing a drainage system. This is essential to the new basement because otherwise, the basement can flood very badly. While flooding still does happen, it can be lessened in the amount of water that is taken into your new basement.

A proper draining system will not always completely prevent the basement from obtaining any water, but it will severely lessen the horrible impact flooding will have on the basement. A drainage system will fail eventually, though, so this is something to know before installing a new basement.

Various drainage systems can be installed in your basement, some of which are: sump pumps, floor drains, interior french drains, and an exterior drain tile.

Sump pumps are vital in removing water from underneath a house. There are two kinds of sump pumps: submersible and pedestal. Submersible sump pumps are just that. They are under the ground and retain water in a pit about 2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep. Smaller pits will fill up quickly and have to work extra hard, but large pits are harder to clean, so a smaller pit may be the better option.

Pedestal sump pumps are less costly than submersible sump pumps. Pedestal sump pumps sit about 4 inches above the pit and push the water out as it reaches a certain level. While this is the cheaper option, you may need to replace the pedestal pump with a sump pump, later on, to ensure your basement is kept free of flooding as much as possible.

Floor drains are another type of drainage system you can use. The concrete floor and drain will tilt to encourage water to drain there, opposed to somewhere else. These are not commonly installed anymore because the main sewer system can back up and cause quite a few problems, one large one being the amount the basement could flood with sewer water.

French interior drains are another drainage option. These drains are usually installed when preexisting basements have a draining problem, but they can also be installed in places that receive a lot of water as a preventative tactic.

A french drain pipe has a perforated pipe that carries water to a collection pit and pumps the collected water to the surface. Installing a french drain pipe later after construction has been finished will result in a big loss of money, so if you want to install a french drain pipe, do so during construction.

Exterior drain tiles are the last drainage option we will discuss. Exterior drain tiles are installed around the outside of your home and work to drain the water before it can come it contact with your basement. Many communities require exterior drain tiles because they work as a prevention rather than fixing the aftermath.

It is best to see what the requirements are for your area and proceed from there.

6. Put In A Concrete Floor

After installing some type of draining system, it is time to put in the concrete floor. This will need to be done again with the help of a trained professional.

You will be pouring concrete over the soil base of your new basement. This will take some time because the cement will need to be flat to avoid uneven ground for your basement. Uneven ground can cause flooding to occur in odd places, so it is very important to get the floor as level as possible.

The cement will need time to dry, so being down there until the floor is completely dry is not a good idea. If you have ever seen cement where it has handprints together or initials, you might think it is cute, but it will not be too cute if you have a set of footprints that you now have to cover with cement. You can leave a purposeful print in the cement, but you definitely will not want an accidental one that seems unfixable.

7. Add Stairs To The Basement

After the floor is done, you can add a set of stairs to reach the basement since it is underground. This is not a step you want to miss out on because you will not be able to get into the basement if you forget the stairs. You can add any type of stairs that fit your style. All that matters is that you can get from the first floor to the basement without breaking a body part.

8. Add Lighting To The Basement

Adding light to the basement is also necessary or else you will be unable to see down there. Lighting in any room is essential to create a good atmosphere, but especially in the basement since it is underground. It is good to look at all the available options to see what can add the most light to your space.

9. Create A Liveable Space (Optional)

This last step is not necessary in all cases. If you would like, however, it is to make the space liveable. You can do this by making sure there is some way for the area to have heating and cooling available. 

The basement can be used as anything you would like, and the possibilities are endless. Just decide what the available space is for and go forward and decorate.

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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