From the time when prehistoric man first started using stone tools in his daily life doing it yourself was a way of life. Over the centuries, as building techniques developed to become more complex and simple tools have evolved into sophisticated machines, the job of the amateur handyman has become quite difficult. Usually in an effort to cut costs on a home improvement project, the modern do-it-yourself-er has his/her hands full with building codes, user manuals, and building instructions. Having said that, most home improvement projects are not only doable, but can arguably be done better if you are diligent enough and prepared to work. Other projects, however, are much too complicated for the average construction enthusiast and should be left solely to the professionals. Basement underpinning is such a project.
What is it that sets basement underpinning apart from other home improvement projects you ask? To answer that question in a nutshell, pretty much everything. There is no single thing about lowering your basement that is overwhelming. Taken separately, all aspects of the job are manageable and can be handled. However, collectively the process of lowering a basement to get some extra head space can become quite a headache.
Before you can even get started with any manual labor you will need to get a building permit. The nature of the project is such that if done incorrectly you can end up losing your home altogether. This is because when a home is built it is engineered to withstand the forces of nature that act upon it. Beyond your basement walls is not just soil, its pressure. If you go into this project without knowing where to dig, how to dig and how much to dig, soon enough your foundation walls will slide out from beneath your main floor, and your kitchen will be in your basement. To make sure that your basement can even be lowered, you will need to hire an engineer. You can always shop around and find a good deal, or maybe you have a friend who can do the plans for you, however most often than not a basement underpinning contractor will be able to provide engineering services to you at a discounted price.
Once you have your building permit you can get started. Oh wait, you don’t have any of the necessary equipment. Consider this, to dismantle your current concrete floor you will need the following: a conveyor belt system, a waste bin or two or three, a power generator, and jack hammer to connect to it. Although not impossible to obtain, the rental rates for you will be far higher than for a contractor, and chances are the contractor you choose for basement underpinning will already have these tools in their inventory.
Getting the right tools, is very much an issue of patience and organization. Once you have them, however, everything becomes a lot more serious. The tools that you will be working with when lowering your basement are power tools – and yes, they are powerful. Your DIY basement underpinning project may fall apart for the very simple reason that you cannot handle the jack hammer. We’ll give you the benefit of the doubt however. After all, if you are even thinking of attempting such an ambitious project on your own means that you are an accomplished handyman with at least some construction know how.
Now that you have everything you need, and you know how to use all the tools take the process into consideration. This is your first time attempting such a project. Your knowledge is likely limited to books and what’s even more likely the internet. If you lowering your basement by following the steps in a “How to” guide book for basement underpinning you are probably better off than if you were following the advice of the internet. Beware of hinging the success of your project on the shaky words found on the internet; just like your foundation with an insufficient angle of repose, it may slide out from beneath you. Professionals who make a living doing basement underpinning know the ins and out of their trade, have come face to face with various difficulties, and have the know-how to get out of them.
Finally, if the above reasons don’t quell your thirst for extraordinary home improvement exploits think of time. Chances are that you work a full time job, and will be attempting to do this project in your spare time. This simple fact will turn a one week project into a one month odyssey filled with rental fees and unexpected hardships. There is nothing wrong with doing it yourself, but like everything in life, it should be approached with moderation.