Your home is most likely the biggest single investment you’ll make in your lifetime.  Your home is your sanctuary, the place where you relax on the weekend and where the kids can always call home.

Investing money to renovate your home is a great way to further invest in your biggest asset  Not only does it allow you to improve and customize your home the way you want, it also increases the value of this asset when the time comes to sell one day.

Since we’re basement contractors, of course we believe that renovating your basement is a great investment for a number of reasons.  First, it can create additional living space in your home without the need to add an extension and go through red tape permit hell.  Second, it gives you a number of options like creating a rental space or an in-law suite for aging parents.  You can also make it the perfect family room, complete with fireplace, large screen tv and sectional sofa for the perfect movie night.

There are hundreds of different types of renovations in and around the home, the graphic below has a good list of the different types of renovations you can consider.

Increased value of renovations in the home

As you can see, there are lots of different renovations you can do in your home.  Some improve the livability of the home, others are structural repairs and others are more cosmetic in nature.  Some improvements, like a new bathroom, kitchen or basement, tend to recoup most of the investment when it comes time to sell.  Even something simple like spending a few hundred on landscaping improvements can add thousands to the value of your home.  Getting a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC) to pay for these renovations can be a great way to fund these renovations.

While can’t answer questions about every type of renovation, if you live in Toronto or the GTA and have a basement renovation questions, you can contact us here.  Thanks!

How Much Does Basement Lowering Cost in Toronto?

Considering a basement lowering project for your home?  Lowering your basement is not your everyday home improvement project, though with the real estate prices in Toronto and the scarcity of land, it is a great option for expanding your living space without losing precious yard space.  If you want to find out more about basement lowering, read on.

Homeowners here in Toronto often ask about lowering their basement.  It’s easy to see why many select this option for their home.  In a process sometimes called underpinning, the basement floor is actually dug out a couple feet down.  This makes the basement more accessible and usable and can add to the value of a home.  Not only does it change a basement into better-added space, it also adds structural integrity to the home.

Underpinning job in Toronto home

Preparing for the Quote

As with any home improvement type project, there a few things that every homeowner should know and understand before they begin the process.  When it comes to your basement, of course, you are looking for a foundation or underpinning contractor who is a professional and experienced with the type of work you desire.  You’ll want to find a company that has been in business for awhile, is specifically insured for this type of underpinning work and one that can provide you with plenty of references since this type of project can be disastrous if done wrong.  When it comes to the structural integrity of your home, it’s always worth checking out a underpinning contractor thoroughly before hiring.

You may find companies who are willing to bid your job on the spot without drawings, without further knowledge or testing.  That ballpark bid could end up increasing drastically after you hire as there are many variable to consider and it means they have not gone through the process properly in order to give an accurate quote.  A reputable underpinning company will need to see exactly what you expect them to do.  Part of the process could include demolition and drilling test holes before beginning.  Often, when this part of the process is not done, the homeowner’s preference change and the company ends up with discrepancies in their work order that need to be resolved.

Hiring an Architect or Engineer

Part of the process for lowering your basement should include getting quotes from at least two professionals for drawings and determining which architect or engineer you plan to use before you even have a contractor come out.  Doing this part of the process ahead of time shows the contractor that you are serious about the process and will educate you on how the entire process works.  When a contractor knows you really do plan to have the work done, they don’t mind the 3 to 5 hours that are involved in coming up with a pricing estimate.  If you skip this step and ask a contractor for a bid on a basement lowering project without doing your due diligence you may end up with a range of pricing that is arbitrary and on down the road it may have no connection with the work performed.

An experienced underpinning contractor will only work with reputable architects and engineers with experience in basement lowering and can recommend one if needed.

Drawing/Plan Approval

The drawings you received from your architect or engineer typically need to be certified and then sent for approval for a building permit.  The inspector may recommend changes that will need to be marked on your approved drawings.  This is not an easy task so you want to make sure you have an experienced craftsman leading this project.

Understanding the Quote

To understand your underpinning contractor and his pricing and process, it’s important to note that basement lowering is a very time-consuming, labor-intensive process. And a challenging project from an engineering standpoint.  Your contractor will need to follow those drawings accurately and that takes skill and experience.  Compare quotes between a couple different contractors and check to make sure the scope of work is the same on both of them.

Scheduling the Work

When you decide upon a plan and agree on a price with your contractor, the work can be scheduled.  A contractor may be able to schedule quickly and be out in a few days or in may take weeks.  As always when dealing with a contractor, being busy is a good thing.  You don’t want to hire a contractor who isn’t busy.  It’s a bit like going to a restaurant where no one else eats and expecting a wonderful meal.

The Work Process

The unerpinning contractor will begin by measuring and marking everything out prior to beginning.  They dig out the basement slab and typically lower the floor 1-3 feet.  They will also shore up the underpinning or sidewall area to ensure structural stability.  We then carry out our lowering process, either bench footing (creating a bench to support the dirt underneath the foundation wall) or we underpin (directly removing the soil underneath the foundation wall and replacing it with concrete).

Once that is accomplished they typically waterproof the interior of the home, put down gravel then pour a new floor.  They also place a waterproofing membrane connected to a sump pump on the interior to help keep your basement dry.  The amount of time it takes and the cost of the project can very base on the size of your basement.  Some projects take a few days (mostly repairs) and some can extend into many weeks (average full job is 3-6 weeks).  While it is difficult to provide a price without drawings and discussions with the homeowner, you can expect this type of specialty work to run between $20,000-$50,000.

Project Completion

When the project is completed, you should walk the job with the foreman or project manager.  You’ll want to check for anything that seems unfinished or anything that doesn’t look right. You want to check that the city and the engineer passed all inspections throughout the project.  Also check to make sure that your contractor and his crew cleaned up after they finished.  You shouldn’t see debris left behind unless your contractor has let you know ahead of time that you are responsible for cleaning it up.  In most cases, the contractor does the clean up and removal unless otherwise agreed upon.

Do I Really Want to Do This?

Basement underpinning is by no means, a small undertaking as you probably understand by now.  There is research, time and money involved and may seem a little complex.  Yes, it takes preparation, thoroughness and quite a bit of your hard earned money.  If you find the right contractor, your project will go much smoother.  They are the expert, let them do their job.  Having underpinning done will also gives you more usable space that you can enjoy for years to come and adds value to your home.  In today’s real estate marketing, adding that value (which does not increase your property tax) can go a long way to helping the home sell.  Making the right decisions and following the process it takes to do the job correctly will be beneficial in the long run.

Nusite has successfully completed hundreds of underpinning projects in the GTA and can provide references upon request.  If you live in the Greater Toronto Area and have questions about lowering your basement, feel free to contact us here, we’re happy to answer any questions and explain how the whole basement lowering project works.  We can also recommend experienced architects and engineers if you are interested in getting started.

There are many benefits to having a finished basement, but it can often be one of the most forgotten rooms in the house. If you are thinking about finishing your basement, consider that a finished basement can add value to your house, increase your usable space, and be a fun and flexible room for family gathering, crafting, or even just better organized storage.

In a city like Toronto, real estate is a premium, so adding living space on your existing land is more economical and saves you from expanding into your already small backyard. Look at your basement and think of all the possibilities that it holds –a finished basement give you many benefits as a homeowner, from increased sales value to a higher quality of life at home.  And if you don’t have a full height basement, you can consider a basement lowering project to turn your unfinished basement into a wonderful living space.

Basement Lowering Toronto Finished Basement

Increase the Value of Your Home

Your basement may be a low priority on your list for home renovations and updating. It can be hard to imagine spending a significant amount of money renovating your basement, but consider that a finished basement can add to the dollar value of your house. A finished basement can often be included in the official square footage measurements of your home. Even if it isn’t considered in the square footage, potential buyers will see the finished basement as additional living space. Renovations and additions in the basement such as kitchenettes or spare bedrooms will further increase the value of your home.

 

Create More Space

A basement will add a great amount of functionality to your home. A finished, usable basement is often a large, open space that can be used as extra living space, such as a playroom or a family room. If you choose to partition your basement into rooms you will find that you can have extra bedrooms, a home office, workout room, or even storage, without cutting into the square footage of the upper floors.

 

Add Convenience

A functional and finished basement can be a surprisingly valuable addition to your everyday life. You are ultimately adding another floor to your house, and creating unexpected space that can be creatively used. Having the ability to host guests, create extra storage space, and even add another bathroom can greatly increase the ease and convenience of your daily life. A finished basement can easily double as a “guest suite” or place for extended visits from family and friends.

 

Flexible Design & Decorating

A basement design can be quite flexible. Large, open spaces can be used for entertainment, guests, storage, or even a gym. You may find that a finished basement gives you a creative place to decorate, and that you can easily create a cozy and comfortable addition to your house without the constraints of your already designed upstairs floors. Consider adding game rooms, extra bathrooms, and exciting home decor ideas to your finished basement. The design and use of a finished basement can easily change and adapt with your needs, making it a great use of space.

 

Economical and Comfortable

A finished basement is nearly always a great place to spend time, no matter how you use it. It will always be colder in the summer, and warmer in the winter. Consider having a family room in the basement for cozy nights by the fire, or a bedroom that stays cool all summer long so you don’t have to crank the air conditioner all night!  The basement can be an incredibly comfortable –and economical- space to spend time.

Increased Storage and Organization

Most people have storage in their basements and garages, and these areas can easily grow cluttered and hard to use. A finished basement can still provide storage, but instead of mildewed boxes, you can install attractive and functional shelving. Imagine a laundry room you love, and a workshop you can really use, instead of piles of boxes and corners filled with cobwebs. A finished basement can provide additional storage, shelving, and increase general organization.

 

Health and Safety

A finished basement easily eliminates damp and moldy basement areas. Most basements can succumb to water problems, toxic mold, and can be hard to inhabit. Finishing your basement can help eliminate water problems, mold, and moisture problems. This can have long term positive implications on your family’s health, as well as the overall condition of your house.

Cost & Efficiency

Adding another level or room to your house can be expensive. Rather than add on to your house, renovating your basement can create a usable room without the additional cost of a full addition. It can greatly increase your home value without sinking a lot of money into adding on a room or floor.

 

Not only are finished basements comfortable, they are economical. If you are considering upgrading or renovating your house, think about the lifestyle and investment opportunities that a finished basement can provide. From an additional room for entertainment, to a long-term investment in the overall value and condition of your home, a basement addition can have a long-lasting impact on your lifestyle and the value of your home.

Foundation underpinning provides a way to strengthen, repair and sometimes increase the depth of your foundation. Foundations often deteriorate over time because they have been exposed to excess moisture and other environmental forces.  Here in Toronto, with so many older homes, non-livable basements and crumbling foundations are common.

Underpinning can be done in many ways and in order to make the right choice, it is necessary to understand the structure of the foundation, the supports which are used, and the factors that caused the foundation to weaken in the first place. Underpinning works with load-bearing walls so professional help is highly recommended as this is definitely not a DIY project.

Toronto home underpinning

Underpinning is often needed if your home has substantial cracks, heaving or buckled walls. Unstable soil is also a reason to underpin a home. Unpinning ensures the foundation is restored so it is strong enough to support the structure above. There are many methods of underpinning.

Concrete Underpinning

Concrete underpinning is one of the most common methods where mass is added to improve strength.

Beam and Base

Another method involves a beam and base.In this system, piles are installed on either side of the affected wall. The type of pile used is determined by the strata below. A reinforced concrete beam is installed between the beams to support the wall and the existing material between the piles is removed. The construction of the beams depends on the architecture of the structure built on the foundation. The beam and base technique is often chosen as it is quick and less disruptive than concrete underpinning. It is also capable of bearing a very high load and can be used in very tight spaces.

Screw Piles and Brackets

This method is used when traditional underpinning is not possible. Installation does not require a large crew or a lot of equipment.

Screw piles are installed in the foundation and are designed to withstand many stresses. They are ideal when used with underpinning support brackets as the structure can then be returned to a level position. The weight of the foundation is then distributed to the bracket system. They are relatively quick to install and cause little damage to the surrounding area.

Piled Raft

This method is used when the whole foundation needs lateral and traverse reinforcement. It is often when there is a deep foundation or if there is very hard soil. Piles are placed based on the load with reinforced beams beneath them. Finally, a ring beam links all of the reinforced beams together and concrete is poured.

Wall Anchors

Wall anchors can be installed in areas with limited access and without the use of heavy machinery. The anchors are designed to provide lateral stability to existing foundation walls.

Mudjacking

This method may be chosen if a structure is settling, but it is not a good solution. Holes are drilled, either into the slab or under the foundation, and then concrete is pumped into the holes. The extra concrete spreads and is supposed to eliminate settling, however it does nothing for the bedrock below. Mudjacking is effective when used properly with piers.

Clearly, underpinning a home properly requires building knowledge and an understanding of loads and stresses. Underpinning a foundation should not be attempted unless you have are a structural engineer or you have proven industry experience.

Nusite Group has the experience you need should the foundation of your home require underpinning. Want to learn more about creating a full-height basement in your home and what options are best for you?  Don’t leave a job like this to amateurs. Contact Nusite here for your inspection and estimate today.

Turning your unused basement into a livable space is a popular way to improve the value of your home. It lets you create more living space without expanding and can even be a good way to generate a passive income if it is professionally done.

If you do not want to leave your home, you can’t expand out or you face other building or zoning restrictions, a basement development is a good option.

toronto-basement-lowering-project

Multiple Uses

A basement renovation can include an in-law suite for an aging family member or a completely separate apartment that you can rent out for extra revenue. Fixing up that musty basement may seem like a no brainer it is important that it is done correctly. The lower level of your home is one that is the most susceptible to moisture so water and moisture management are vital when you are planning your basement finish. Professionals estimate basement renovations will fetch no less than 70% and as much as 120% on your money. A proper refit includes a mold-free, fire rated and waterproof basement system.

Starting Basement Renovations

Renovating your basement makes a lot of sense. Insulating with a high R-value material makes your home more energy efficient. All of the water piping, heating ducts and electrical conduit already exists. Plus, you don’t have to evacuate your home because of dust and construction as it is all on the lower level.

Major Basement Renovations May Require Professional Help

An experienced contractor in the industry decides whether the foundation needs reinforcement and how much time is realistic for the project if you decide to lower your basement. Do-it-yourself planners often underestimate how much time a lower level renovation will take or the extent of the work. Renovations that require excavation and an underpinning of the foundation require engineering plans. Clearly, mussing with the structure that supports your home is not a good idea unless you want to see cracks in plaster and door frames out of alignment. Read the fine print in your contract and be certain that you know what your homeowner’s insurance covers if there are problems.

Despite the inconvenience of any renovation, many homeowners find it is worth it. Once completed, you have a fresh, clean, bright usable space and a property worth more than when you began. If you are in a situation where every square inch counts, basement development is a good investment. You can use it for yourself and then use it for resale. That area with raw concrete floors and poor lighting that you never used is transformed into a nice space that is used a lot.

You should make a list of your “must-haves” and talk out your ideas before you ask for quotes. Be sure you use certified professional basement contractors with a long track record in the industry. Get multiple quotes, but don’t always look at the ones with the lowest price tag, especially if you will be making structural changes.

When it comes to renovations, paying a little more often means you are getting quality work. Ask for references and talk to others who have used the contractor’s services, check with the Better Business Bureau and search the internet for reviews. Home renovations can be stressful at the best of times. Reduce the chance of problems by using a professional who can get the job done quickly and correctly.

Have a question about renovating your basement in Toronto or the surrounding GTA?  If you are looking for help with a basement lowering project (Underpinning) or fixing a damp or leaking basement, contact us here for a free in-home inspection and estimate.