Dig Basement Deeper or Raise House??


Old 03-03-03, 09:39 AM
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Dig Basement Deeper or Raise House??


We're thinking of finishing our basement to create a bedroom, office and (eventually) a bathroom.

The basement is already almost half out of the ground, so it could finish up fairly well, with good windows and light. Plus it has proven to be very dry.

Our one concern with finishing it: the existing ceiling height is only 7'1" (from the poured cement floor to the rafters; it's lower than that where the heating ducts are).

How difficult or expensive is it to dig the basement deeper, by say a foot or two, thus raising the ceiling?

Or would it be better to raise the house? How difficult and costly is that?

The footprint of the house is 25' x 40', or 1000 sq ft. We'd probably want to finish half of it.

Thanks, in advance, for any guidance or insights you want to share!

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Old 03-03-03, 09:57 AM
Doug Aleshire's Avatar
Join Date: Feb 2002
Location: United States
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Let's start with this...have you contacted the city as to what is allowable within your area? If only split levels are permissable, going down is not an option. This may be because of soil conditions or high water table. Second, is raising the home, does the city have restrictions on total overall height (grade to peak)? You should call them first, it's free and avoids all the speculation of the what if's.

Once you get a green light as to what is and isn't allowed, you should call some general contractors for a idea on cost. You need to figure out your budget and then of course, need drawings done and this can be arranged by the general or yourself. Not knowing where you live, the prices can be variable. You really need some pricing within your own local area.

Finishing your basement wouldn't be bad but ceiling height is an issue but dueable.

Hope this helps!
Old 03-04-03, 07:01 AM
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Hi Tom,

Unless you are real tall (are you?), don't be put off by your basement ceiling height. I'm finishing the basement in my 24 x40 ranch, and the distance from concrete slab to joists varies from 6 feet 10 inches to 7 feet. At the center carring beam, the distance is 6 feet 5 inches.

Two good ways of minimizing the vertical challenge include painting the floor and attaching sheetrock directly to joists.

The big issue you prolly have is the duct work.

But then again, if you are 6 feet 6 inches tall, none of this will work very well for you.

Good luck.
Old 03-04-03, 05:17 PM
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: South Dakota
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You got good answers and input, but your question was not answered. If the city has no objection to digging down, that will be your least expensive choice. Kind of dirty and messy, but the best was to go. Good Luck PS If you raise your house, you also have to raise all your utilities. These alone are not cheap.
Old 03-06-03, 09:20 AM
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I may be missing something here but I can't believe you would consider digging your basement deeper or raising your house in order to finish 1/2 of the basement to get 500 extra sq. ft. It seems the cost of both alternatives would be prohibitive. In my opinion your choices should be: 1) do as 'brewbeer' suggest and use drywall directly to ceiling joist and live with the lower ceiling or 2) move into another house that has deeper basement or more square footage or 3) do nothing. My experience with home resale values is you wouldn't recoup much of the costs associated with digging deeper or raising the house.
Old 03-07-03, 05:53 AM
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I agree with Daniel, either of the two options would not be cost effective for the amount of addition head room, and you would not be adding any additional usuable floor space, so other than the home having a finished basement, there's going to be no increase in the home's value.

I've finished several basements with ceilings lower than 8', as long as there is plenty of light from windows or lighting, they come out good when finished.

Definitely check local code prior to making any decision, however in my area anyway, if you own & live in the home and are doing the work yourself, such projects don't require you to pull permits.

Best of luck.
Old 03-11-03, 02:59 PM
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I am nearly finished with my basement dig. I have dug down 2 feet to add the verticle height and level the floor. It has taken me some time to clear 600 sq ft, with 5 gallon buckets, but it was cheap and rewarding. There were a couple of obstacles to overcome 1) the lateral sewer line had to be moved, 2) I had to reenforce the perimeter footings with a new slab of concrete (underpinning?) and most troubling 3) my wife has not been very supportive. Like most of my projects, she doesn't have the vision! to see my new pool table, bar, bathroom, laundry room improvement.
Old 03-14-03, 11:12 AM
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How did you get the existing concrete out of the basement? Jackhammer? Did you have a place to bring it?

What did you do with all that dirt, 40 cubic yards by my calculation? That's 3 dump trucks full of dirt !!!

I know why your wife has not been supportive. She knows that now you and your friends will be hanging out at your (her) house watching football, drinking beer and playing pool while she is doing laundry !!! ;-)
Old 03-14-03, 11:25 AM
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Yes, your calculation is about right. I broke the surface if the concrete with a concrete saw. Then, I dug the dirt under the concrete, breaking away the concrete as I progressed. Initially I hauled the dirt/concrete in 5 gallon buckets to communal trash dumpsters in our neighborhood. I finally realized that people would actually come to my house and haul away good clean fill, so I put an add inthe paper and have never had to haul a load off my property again. In fact, I filled a 5 ton trailer last night and the guy has eagerly emptied and returned to my house today (for my last load)! It has been no easy task, but not impossible. If I would have thought of the newspaper add earlier, I estimate that it would have taken me about 2 months to complete. I have worked slowly, because I had to replace all the support beans with new footing and longer spports. I also had to reinforce the foundation footings as I went, and never left more than 8 feet of exposed footing. See photo.

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