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Take on the Construction Season with Basement Underpinning & Bench Footing

Bench Footing

While summer is the time of the year when most of the construction happens. This is true for many outdoor projects, while some of the indoor projects may be done in autumn and winter just as well as the summer. 

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That’s exactly the case for basement underpinning & bench footing projects. As we are approaching the middle of the summer it is time to plan for what comes next and may be just the perfect time to book your contractors to take care of basement underpinning or bench footing for your property.

Both – bench footing and underpinning allow property owners to lower basement floors. However, the two approaches are quiet different. Underpinning requires digging under the existing foundation, while bench footing will help lower the basement floor without modification to the foundation.

Lets dive into comparing the basement underpinning & bench footing.

Basement Underpinning

Basement underpinning involves strengthening and extending the existing foundation of a building to and lowering basement floor at the same time. The result – stronger foundation &  a deeper and more spacious basement.

This method is typically employed when homeowners desire more headroom or when the existing foundation requires reinforcement. This method is generally more expensive compared to benching, but comes with a number of benefits. Here is a couple of examples:

  • Foundation Reinforcement – underpinning strengthens the foundation by excavating small sections beneath existing footings and replacing them with deeper and more robust footings. This process increases the load-bearing capacity of the foundation, enhancing overall structural stability.
  • Increased Ceiling Height – tne of the primary advantages of underpinning is the ability to raise the ceiling height in the basement. This allows for better utilization of the space, making it more comfortable and suitable for various purposes, such as additional living areas or recreational spaces.
  • Enhanced Property Value – by expanding the usable space in the basement, underpinning increases the value of the property. The added living space can be appealing to potential buyers and provide a competitive advantage in the real estate market.

In some cases, adding a separate exit to the basement may be another idea to take. This way, your basement will become a more standalone space 

Challenges & Considerations – basement underpinning is a complex and labor-intensive process. It requires careful planning, engineering expertise, and proper permits. The construction process may also disrupt daily activities, as it involves excavations and structural modifications. Additionally, for properties that have a shared foundation, often time approval is needed from the nighbours which may create additional work to obtain. 

Bench Footing

Bench Footing

Bench footing, also known as benching or terracing, involves creating stepped or terraced footings along the foundation walls to increase the basement’s usable space. It is commonly used when the basement requires additional depth without significant foundation modifications.

There are more bench footing benefits, here is a quick look.

  • Space Optimization – bench footing maximizes the usable area within the existing basement by creating horizontal steps or terraces along the walls. This method allows for the installation of retaining walls that increase the effective depth of the basement, making it more functional for various purposes.
  • Cost-Effectiveness – one of the first things that come to mind. Bench footing is often considered a more cost-effective alternative to basement underpinning. It avoids extensive foundation work and excavation, reducing both labor and material costs. This makes bench footing a viable option for homeowners seeking to optimize their basement space within a limited budget or to save while still achieving the needed outcome – lower basement floors.
  • Versatility – bench footing can be tailored to suit specific needs and basement layouts. The stepped configuration can accommodate different elevations and provide flexibility in design and space utilization. It can allows for the creation of multi-level basements or the division of the area into separate rooms.

While bench footing is a less invasive method compared to underpinning, it still requires careful planning and engineering expertise. Proper consideration must be given to the load-bearing capacity of the footings, ensuring structural integrity and stability.

In addition, bench footing will create a “bench” that will reduce the amount of space that you have in your basement.

When considering basement construction or renovation, both basement underpinning and bench footing have advantages. Basement underpinning provides the opportunity to significantly increase the basement height and overall living space, strengthen the foundation, albeit with more extensive construction and potential disruptions.

On the other hand, bench footing offers a cost-effective solution to optimize existing basement space by creating stepped footings, providing versatility in design and functionality.

Ultimately, the choice between basement underpinning and bench footing depends on the specifics of your property – budget, desiredspace requirements, structural integrity and other aspects.

Whether you choose bench footing or basement underpinning,you need to consult with experienced professionals, such as engineers and contractors, who can assess your specific needs and guide you towards the most suitable option for your basement project.


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