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  1. #1
    radiocolin's Avatar
    radiocolin is offline Senior Member
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    Default digging basements

    The great house hunt continues... most places we've seen have basements that are just ever so slightly too short to be finished. And I want a finished basement.

    What's the cost of have a contractor dig your basement down a few inches (+ any associated foundation work).

    The most common number I've seen is 10k.

    What's the minimum height needed? 6 feet? 7 feet?
    Last edited by radiocolin; 02-07-2013 at 09:45 PM.

  2. #2
    HomeInspectorBC is offline Senior Member
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    I think 7 1/2 feet is the minimum allowance but 8 foot is really the preferred height.
    Brian Connelly
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  3. #3
    sharkey is offline Senior Member
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    I don't know what the code is, but 7' is fine for a finished basement.

  4. #4
    AsYouWere is offline Banned
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    7 feet is plenty for a basement and 10k sounds reasonable to me figuring it's small.

  5. #5
    NJbound is offline Guest
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    how large is it? $10k seems a bit low to me on a decent sized basement

  6. #6
    sharkey is offline Senior Member
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    What do you mean by digging it out? To do the job right (and safely) the foundation wall muust be buttresed a little at a time. If you just dig out the floor and earth the foundation wall can buckle off of its footing.

  7. #7
    tsarstruck is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharkey View Post
    What do you mean by digging it out? To do the job right (and safely) the foundation wall muust be buttresed a little at a time. If you just dig out the floor and earth the foundation wall can buckle off of its footing.
    What Sharkey said. And I'll add: don't. Find a different house.

  8. #8
    Eastcoast is offline Senior Member
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    Just be careful of the materials down there, some of the older rows have areas of stacked stone that I really don't think you could dig out without (if at all) a wicked costly rework of the foundation.

  9. #9
    NickFromGtown is offline Senior Member
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    If you're going to the trouble of digging it out, I don't know why you wouldn't go to at least 8 ft. Maybe it's because I'm taller, but yeah.

  10. #10
    AsYouWere is offline Banned
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    He'll need to probe an area to find out what the footer situation is and how deep it goes.

  11. #11
    radiocolin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sharkey View Post
    What do you mean by digging it out?
    I mean calling an engineer and contractor and saying "I need this basement a little deeper, what will it cost me to have you do that and not ruin my house?"

  12. #12
    radiocolin's Avatar
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    Now, followup question. Say I get a 6 foot basement, which most are. My fiancee and I are both under 6 feet so it's more than ample for us to use for an office area.

    If I just wanted to put some drywall between the joists (but leave them exposed) and put a floor down, is that something a contractor will do, even though the ceiling is too low for it to technically be a "room" in terms of assessment?

    How about if I wanted to put a half bath in the short, finished basement? Does that change things?

    I'm learning how all this stuff works with codes and contractors and what not and want to know what I can do before I start diving in. Because if I can just get some walls put up in a 6 foot basement no problem, that's fine too.

  13. #13
    enyo is offline Senior Member
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    I've seen this done with a bench foundation. You don't need to touch the existing foundation. You dig to the bottom of the continuous footing
    and then down at a 45 degree angle away from the wall to the desired depth where your slab will sit. I'll find a pic. You will have a ledge either way at the perimeter but underpinning will get you more square footage than a bench foundation. It's probably more expensive due to the labor of digging every other 2 ft out under the footer and then infilling that w/ conc. and then going back and digging out between the new footings.

    You should probably figure in at least a grand for structural engineer and the permit process as well.

    7 ft is the min. height for a habitable room in the 2009 bldg. code. I think some cities/ townships want egress from the basement so you might want
    to look into that more. A large window in the basement with a large window well looks pretty nice and could meet the egress requirement.

    "Believing is seeing" - paraphrased from PH

  14. #14
    lastmonthsrent is offline Senior Member
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    Jack Owens solid contractor. Row home basement pro. (215) 715-2484.

  15. #15
    Naveen is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomeInspectorBC View Post
    I think 7 1/2 feet is the minimum allowance but 8 foot is really the preferred height.
    I had someone come out and take a look at my basement for the same reason, and he said something like 7' 2" is the legal minimum. But he recommend going lower, since, as someone else pointed out, if you're already doing it be on the safe side.

  16. #16
    AsYouWere is offline Banned
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    Quote Originally Posted by Naveen View Post
    I had someone come out and take a look at my basement for the same reason, and he said something like 7' 2" is the legal minimum. But he recommend going lower, since, as someone else pointed out, if you're already doing it be on the safe side.
    There is no minimum basement ceiling height for starters, and existing houses before code are what's called 'grandfathered in'. In this case and all others a homes square footage is defined by 'finished and heated'.

    Enyo's above illustration depicts a "new concrete bench footing" that obviously isn't a footing and will do nothing to stop foundation shear. Digging out basement floors require a probe of the footer first and if it's not deeper than the proposed ceiling height then it's going to be very expensive. Best to leave sleeping dogs lie imo.
    Last edited by AsYouWere; 02-09-2013 at 06:40 PM.

  17. #17
    Naveen is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by AsYouWere View Post
    There is no minimum basement ceiling height for starters...
    For finished basements?

  18. #18
    radiocolin's Avatar
    radiocolin is offline Senior Member
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    Lots of people are espousing lots of opinions about what I shouldn't do (I don't plan to do anything myself for obvious reasons) and now arguing about unrelated things to my actual question, which no one has really answered.

    1. Can you finish a basement and have a low ceiling (low meaning 6 to 6.5 feet) without having to go without a permit or violate code? Can you do the same and add a half bath?

    2. If not, what is the cost for a qualified engineer/contractor to lower the basement so that the ceiling meets code. I don't want to or plan to do any such thing myself.

  19. #19
    sharkey is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by enyo View Post
    I've seen this done with a bench foundation. You don't need to touch the existing foundation. You dig to the bottom of the continuous footing
    and then down at a 45 degree angle away from the wall to the desired depth where your slab will sit. I'll find a pic. You will have a ledge either way at the perimeter but underpinning will get you more square footage than a bench foundation. It's probably more expensive due to the labor of digging every other 2 ft out under the footer and then infilling that w/ conc. and then going back and digging out between the new footings.

    You should probably figure in at least a grand for structural engineer and the permit process as well.

    7 ft is the min. height for a habitable room in the 2009 bldg. code. I think some cities/ townships want egress from the basement so you might want
    to look into that more. A large window in the basement with a large window well looks pretty nice and could meet the egress requirement.


    One of my houses was dug out (before I bought it) like this, but the bench footing is squared off (I think) rather than angled off like in the above diagram.

  20. #20
    RittenhouseGirl is offline Senior Member
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    Lightbulb

    Be careful about digging too deep. Remember what they found in Fairmount:

    Creepy Basement Find

    I never forgot about that and I never heard another update about it.

    When people say unfinished basement, do they mean all-dirt basement? Couldn't a homeowner dig it themselves in that case?

    If I am leaving the realm of reality with this post, just ignore it!

 

 

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