Underpinning vs. Benching: What Is the Best Choice for Your Basement Lowering?

Apr 6, 2022 | Blog

Are you planning to maximize the living space in your home by utilizing the basement? If so, the first thing you’ll need to decide is whether it’s best to use underpinning or benching.

Often times, these two basement expansion techniques are used interchangeably but there is a world of difference between the two. For many homeowners, the first differentiating factor—and sometimes the most important one—is the obvious cost difference between underpinning vs. benching.

Before taking the first step in this massive house renovation, let’s learn the factors behind underpinning and benching and help you determine which method is best for your needs.

What Is Basement Lowering?

Basement lowering refers to physically lowering the floor of the home’s basement. Older homes were built with crawl spaces and basements to house the mechanical workings of the house such as water heaters, furnaces, pipes, and electrical boxes.

Other homes may have a basement constructed to form the foundation and structural shape of the house. Basement lowering allows the original structure to be expanded safely. In addition, this type of project can also be done to upgrade the electrical system, fix deteriorating foundations, or to address water and drainage issues.

There are two forms of basement lowering: underpinning and benching. The goal of both is to add space and strengthen the existing foundation. So, which one should you choose? That depends entirely on several factors, mainly the reason for the basement lowering and your budget.

What Is Underpinning?

Underpinning is commonly referred to as basement lowering, although it is one form of the method to lower the basement floor. This is done to deepen the height or to expand the basement vertically. It is the best option when you want to transform the basement into a functional unlimited living space.

The process of underpinning entails excavating the concrete basement floor in sections to stabilize the existing foundation walls during the project. Once these openings are filled, the rest of the basement flooring is removed to dig deeper into the ground to a preplanned depth.

Underpinning is a slow and tedious process that takes time and planning by a certified team to ensure the structural integrity of the foundation remains intact throughout the project.

What Is Benching/Bench Footing?

Benching your basement can also expand the underground space to an extent. Not to be confused with underpinning, benching or bench footing refers to adding ceiling height without excavating under the existing foundation.

This form of lowering the basement sees a concrete bench constructed around the inner border of the existing basement walls. This bench, or ledge, is built over an excavated slope for stability. By using this method, the foundation walls are not extended to a lower level.

With the stabilizing bench in place, the existing foundation within the perimeters of the bench is lowered.

Underpinning vs. Benching

To further compare underpinning vs. benching, we’ve put together this helpful chart.

PriceMore expensive optionLess expensive option
StrengthImproves structural strengthStructural strength untouched
Space UsageIncreases living spaceLess available floor space
Repairs AllowedMaximum opportunityLimited opportunity
Time NeededSeveral weeksSeveral days
Long-Term Aesthetic BenefitIncreases home valueIncreases home value
Level of Expertise RequiredLicensed structural engineerLicensed structural engineer

Why Choose Underpinning over Benching?

Gives You the Option to Do Repair Work

One of the major factors when comparing underpinning vs. benching is the opportunity to have repair or upgrades done to the mechanics and electrical systems in your home. During an underpinning project, the plumbing, electrical, and insulation of the home is exposed, allowing for easy access.

This is the time to make changes to the pathways of access, bring everything up to standard code, and to install any mechanisms to make the living space better.

Also Read: 6 Questions to Help You Decide Whether to Sell or Renovate Your House

Gives You a Stronger Foundation

The best way to improve the structural integrity of the home is to choose an excavation or underpinning method. Over time, a house’s foundation weakens, and elements of weather, repairs, and water damage can exacerbate the deterioration of the structural integrity.

Underpinning requires the foundation stability to be strengthened with each step of the process. Basements with damaged walls and floors are repaired at this time in addition to the fortification of the floor and walls.

Allows You to Use the Basement Floor Better

One major difference when comparing underpinning vs. benching is the capacity of the basement floor once the project is complete. Benching requires a fraction of the floor space to be used for the concrete foundation while underpinning provides use of the entire width of the basement floor.

This allows you to transform the basement into a family room, office, bedroom, or even a basement apartment. With a structurally sound foundation, the basement can now be used as one room or several with false walls installed.

Becomes a Living Space Addition

The underpinning process can take less time and cost less than other home additions. And with underpinning, there is no extra yard space required. By using the available space under the house, the possibilities of creating additional living space are endless. Underpinning allows for comfortable living without limited height space.

For example, if the underpinning is done to create a second living space, a washroom, laundry room, or kitchenette can be installed at this time. Windows and exterior doors can also be installed during the underpinning process.

Contact Elite Construction and Renovations for a Basement Underpinning Quote

Ready to build the ultimate living space with the unused area under your house? Talk to the underpinning experts at Elite Construction and Renovations! Our commitment to bringing our customers’ vision to life is part of our mission.

With our experience and knowledge, our certified team can provide underpinning services to improve your home’s structural stability, repair issues, and upgrade all mechanics to suit your needs. From vision conception to the finished result, our team is with you each and every step of the way! Contact us today and let’s start your journey basement lowering project!

Jay McDonald

Jay McDonald

Jay McDonald, general contractor and owner of Elite Construction & Renovations, has over 20 years of construction experience. He has completed various Ontario Building Code and Business Management courses from George Brown College and has managed over $50 million-dollars-worth of construction in his career.