Say you’re looking to add living space to your home. Where would you expand it? Turn an attic into a study? Knock down a wall and expand the kitchen out to where your back porch is now? Most home expansion projects involve very expensive and time-consuming modifications to a home, and for all that work don’t usually add that much living space. How about converting your crawlspace?
Converting a Crawlspace into a Basement
A crawlspace might already seem like a short basement. They’re typically a foot to four feet deep. Structurally, crawlspaces are very similar to a basement as well. Concrete footings extend into the earth beneath a crawlspace like a full basement, and short foundation walls likely ring the crawlspace. Besides the height, these areas usually lack insulation, electrical outlets, HVAC vents, or a floor. So what can contractors do to convert this area into a livable space?
Digging out a Crawlspace
The first step is actually digging the space out. This might sound simple, but it’s quite a technically challenging job. Thousands of cubic feet of soil weighing many tons must be moved, often by hand, out
from under your home. While this is happening, the foundation of the home must be carefully extended deeper and deeper. Working in small sections at a time so your home doesn’t collapse, the footings around your home must be excavated deeper and more concrete laid down.
As the footings are being extended, new foundation walls must be poured as well. Eventually, the whole area will be walled and a floor can be poured too. After all this, drainage must be installed as well. An interior French drain is a popular option to make sure this new basement stays dry. Once all the excavation and concrete work is done, the crawlspace will be halfway to a basement.
Finishing a Basement
The second part of making a crawlspace into a useable living space is the carpentry and finishing work. Here you have a lot of options, depending on your intentions for the basement. If you just want a bare, unfinished space for storage, the contractor will still need to add steps and lighting to the basement. Most people will at least want an entrance that leads into the home, but outside access is an option as well. An electrician can add basic lighting and outlets to the space as well.
At this point, you have an unfinished basement with steps and lighting. Your home has much more usable space than it did before, but it’s bare and utilitarian. If you intend to use this space for more than a workshop or storage, the next step is having the basement fully finished. The area will be framed and drywall hung. Registers and air returns will need to be added to your home’s heating and cooling system. Your choice of flooring can be laid down over the concrete floor. Interior walls can be added and the space divided into rooms. By the time this is all done, the basement will act just like an additional floor to your home.
This is not a DIY project.
A lot of homeowners like taking on DIY projects. Almost anyone can do some basic painting or add decorative trim, and with a little bit of experience, a small deck or a sheetrock project is probably do-able
Converting a crawlspace into a basement? Definitely not one of those projects.
It’s a massive undertaking that requires a skilled team who knows everything from load-bearing concrete work to electrical and HVAC installation. Not only is it a technically challenging project, it’s also outright dangerous. Any mistakes could cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home.
Ok, so maybe you’re best friends with Hercules or all your buddies agreed to help you move several tons of dirt, by hand, out of your basement. And you got your hands on all the tools needed for the cement work. And you arranged all the legal permits needed by your municipality.
What do you know about pouring foundations?
This isn’t like dropping in fence posts or mailboxes into a hole filled with Quikrete. A crawlspace conversion requires a structurally sound expansion of your home’s foundation nearly ten feet deep. The walls must be poured straight and true, the floor must be level, and it all must be done in a way that the whole thing doesn’t collapse under its own weight. The smallest construction error when doing this project could cause your house to sag and cost you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs. Unless you already build homes professionally, you don’t have the skills to safely do this project.
Contact an experienced contractor to discuss your conversion plans, and leave this job to the professionals. A licensed and bonded contractor can do your conversion quicker, and with higher quality results, than you could ever get out of a DIY project.
Advantages of a Finished Basement
If you’re considering an expansion to your home, there are a number of reasons to consider converting your crawlspace into a finished basement.
Add More Living Space
A basement added to a single story home can double your living space. Imagine how much it would cost to buy a new home twice as large as your current one or build an expansion that doubled your current floor space. Turning a crawlspace into a basement enlarges your home at a fraction of the price of a free-standing addition.
It’s easy to outgrow your home. An unexpected child or an aging parent can quickly push the limits of your living space. New hobbies or collections can quickly eat up space you never knew you’d need when you bought the home. Even if the new basement is unfinished storage space, reducing clutter in the rest of your home can free up valuable floor space.
Save On Taxes
Home additions carry a hidden cost that many people don’t consider until a tax assessor ruins their day. See, any major renovations are likely to raise your property’s value. If the expansion means adding hundreds of square feet to your home, this can add thousands of dollars in increased property taxes to the cost of the expansion.
By choosing to have a crawlspace conversion, you can get all the benefits of an above ground home expansion without the massive tax penalty. Your property taxes are still likely to increase as with any major home expansion, but a crawlspace conversion can add a whole new floor to your home at only a fraction of the cost of an above-ground expansion.