Can a Basement Floor Be Lowered?

When you’re looking for ways to create additional living space in your Toronto-area home you may want to consider the option of lowering the basement. This basically means lowering the floor to give you a larger area with more head room. This is an ideal option if your current basement is hard to fit into due to its low ceiling. And with limited space and the red tape involved in adding a second story to a home in Toronto, lowering your basement floor and turning it into livable space is a great option.  The key is finding the right home remodeling company that has experience with underpinning.

Basement Lowering (Underpinning) project in Toronto home

How Basement Lowering Works

Basement lowering (also called underpinning) can be achieved by breaking up the existing concrete floor and then removing it. Once the floor has been removed the soil can be excavated to a lower depth. When you’ve reached the exposed foundation footings, the soil can be dug out to the depth of the new floor and footings and foundation walls can then be poured below the footing.

Basement Lowering-Underpinning Project in Toronto

When the extended foundation walls are in place an additional wall can be poured inside foundation’s perimeter which will overlap the top of the footings. This creates something known as a bench ledge and along with the knee wall it strengthens the structure and acts as a retaining wall for the outside soil. Once the extended walls have been completed the basement should be properly waterproofed, usually with interior drain tile, to help keep moisture at bay.

Crushed stone is placed and leveled out and is covered with a reinforcing grid and vapour barrier before the new floor is poured. Lowering your basement floor is an excellent way to make the room livable but it’s not something you can tackle without the aid of a qualified contractor who deals in foundations. The task requires special tools, engineering and construction methods as well as plenty of experience and know-how.

When lowering a basement you may also want to redesign the new space and add drains, a walkout, insulation and stud wall partitions etc at the same time. A building permit is typically required along with drawings from a structural engineer. The two common methods of lowering a basement are benching and underpinning with benching usually being the least expensive of the two. The underpinning method is more common when the homeowner wants to lower the basement floor by about a foot or more.

In some instances when the foundation walls are underpinned the process may disturb the stable soil which supports a neighbour’s footings. If this is the case underpinning may not be the best choice or the neighbouring foundations should also be underpinned at the same time. It’s also a good idea to make sure the new basement floor isn’t under the water table or close to it. The new underpinned wall should be approximately two feet above the water table.

How Do I Prevent Mold in My Basement Cold Room?

Mold in basement cold storage room in Toronto homeDoes your home have a cold room?  If you’re like most homeowners in Toronto, you’re not using as cold storage, but rather to grow and collect mold.  A cold room may sound like a good idea in theory, but they can easily become a breeding ground for mold, which can extent to other areas of your basement and home if left untreated.

So what do you do?

This is not a simple one to crack because there’s no cheap and easy solution. Mold’s needs are simple: these are ambient moisture and an organic, cellulose-based host. Cold rooms are by nature moist. Cellulose is a structural component of all green plants and is most commonly present in wood pulp and cotton fibers. Count yourself fortunate if your cold room is mold free.

Solution 1 – Shut the Cold Room Down

Cold rooms made a lot of sense in Toronto and other cold weather regions before the arrival of modern refrigeration. Folks kept their meat fresh and their greens crisp for longer that way. In that sense keeping mold at bay was worth the trouble. Given the inconvenience of the alternatives outlined below and compared to the solution of another kitchen fridge, this may well be the sensible thing to do.

There could also be better things to do with basement space than wasting it on a cold room which is probably underutilized anyway.  You could turn it into a den or an extra bedroom and add real value to your property. If it’s a small cold room, you can create additional storage space, allowing you to do something great with the rest of your basement. A younger generation buyer could even be put off by something they only half-understand the purpose of. Perhaps it’s time to move with the times.

Solution 2 – Try to Win the Battle with Mold

Mold reproduces at an alarming rate because its seeds called spores are light enough to travel through the air. If you take a cavalier attitude by wiping it away, all you’re doing is spreading it around. Mold also likes to lurk in tight corners where the moisture’s always guaranteed. Breathing in spores can exacerbate bronchial conditions. In other words mold is a potential hazard you should try and get rid of.

Should you decide to go this route but have mild to heavy infestation you are well advised to call in mold professionals. We used a mold removal company in Toronto and they were able to restore the room to working condition. Make sure they barricade the cold room away from the house with polyethylene sheeting and work from outside. Failure to do so can create a real risk of mold migrating to the rest of your home.

Following that remove all mold hosts. Take everything out of the room that’s cellulose-based like wooden shelves and cardboard storage boxes. Paint all surfaces – especially wooden doors, window frames and paneling – with mold resistant paint to stop mold coming back.

Finally, cover the walls and ceiling with moisture-resistant extruded foam insulation to reduce the ambient moisture level as far as possible. This is the expensive part. If you don’t but the panels tightly and caulk the tiniest gap you may as well not attempt the job at all.

Specialist Advice

Given the scope of work involved and the need to get it right first time in view of cost, you may want to consider contracting a mold removal specialist. If you have any questions about your cold room, basement mold, or renovation ideas for that new room in your basement, you can contact us here.