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Can You Turn a Crawl Space Into a Basement? (The Steps and Cost)

Can You Turn a Crawl Space Into a Basement? (The Steps and Cost)

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We for sure don’t visit our crawl spaces a lot, but it’s a crucial part of our houses. One of the most important jobs of crawl spaces is to circulate air under our houses, preventing moisture accumulation.

However, a crawl space might not sound as exciting as a basement that you can use for storage or as an extra living area in your house. This might bring up the question: can you turn a crawl space into a basement?

In this article, you’ll find the detailed answer to your question. So, Let’s jump right into it!

Can I Turn My Crawl Space Into a Basement?

If you think about it, a crawl space is like a basement, but smaller. So, yes, it’s possible to turn your crawl space into a basement.

However, this is a complicated process that will require making major changes to your foundation. You’ll have to raise your house or lower the floor level to increase the height of your crawl space ceiling.

This means that you can’t do this job on your own. Instead, you’ll need the help of professionals.

So, if you want to convert your crawl space, you should first look for professionals that will do the job for you.

Why Should Anybody Convert Their Crawl Space Into a Basement?

Before you search for a contractor and a structural engineer, think first of the motives that drive you to convert your crawl space.

Here are some reasons people turn their crawl spaces into basements.

More Space

The number one reason people decide to turn their crawl space into a basement is to have more space. A basement can act as extra storage space, living area, entertainment room, you name it!

Converting your crawl space into a basement can help you achieve that. Some people can expand upward by building a new floor.

Others can expand their houses outward. However, not all people have those options.

Your house may not handle the load of a whole new level. As for expanding outward, a simple tree can be your obstacle.

In this case, your only option is to expand downward, which you can do by turning your crawl space into a basement.

Adding Value to Your Property

A new basement means a whole new extra floor on your property. With the additional space, you might be able to add an extra bathroom or bedroom.

The extra floor and the new additions all add value to your property, increasing the sale price.

No Massive Tax Penalty

Any above-ground home expansion comes with a massive tax penalty. However, this doesn’t happen with crawl space conversions.

This means that you get to build a whole new floor in your house while paying a fraction of the taxes you could’ve paid with a normal above-the-ground expansion.

Partial Basement Foundation

You might have a split foundation, which means that your house contains a partial basement and also a crawl space.

In this case, converting your crawl space into a basement sounds like a reasonable idea. With a partial basement, you already have an access door, which makes the whole process easier.

In addition, the costs will be much lower to convert your partial crawl space in this case.

More Insurance Benefits

Crawl spaces are often treated differently than basements by insurance companies. Some companies don’t cover common crawl space damages, such as water damage.

However, basements that are treated as living areas are usually covered for any damages.

Easier Access to Utilities

Just as the name suggests, a crawl space gives you just enough space to crawl under your house to check for utilities.

Converting it into a basement is for sure going to make it way easier on you to access things like the pipes and the furnace.

What Are the Steps of Turning a Crawl Space Into a Basement?

As you know by now, converting a crawl space is nowhere near a simple process. So, you have to make sure that you get yourself familiar with the steps of the entire job.

This won’t only help you get the best quote, but will also allow you to make up your mind about some specifics that are within the conversion process.

So, here are the steps of turning a crawl space into a basement that you should have an idea about:

  1. Consult with a contractor about your plans
  2. Look for a structural engineer that can draw your plans for the conversion process
  3. Get a building permit from your municipality
  4. Dig the soil out of the crawl space down to the footings
  5. Raise the house structure instead of digging
  6. Build a new foundation wall for the basement
  7. Install drainage system
  8. Pour in the concrete slab
  9. Waterproof the basement
  10. Finish up any interior work, such as painting and framing

Can a Crawl Space Be Dug Out?

To convert a crawl space into a basement basically means to increase its head height. One of the most common ways to do that is by digging it out.

This is actually what makes the conversion process more expensive and difficult. Digging out a crawl space requires heavy digging machinery and lots of labor hours.

The goal of digging out the crawl space is to expose the foundation of your house to the footings. Besides that, you might need to remove some sections of the crawl space to actually anchor the jacks that will lift up your house.

Disadvantages of Digging Out a Crawl Space

Digging out the crawl space might not work for everyone. Your local retailer or appraiser might not find it suitable for you or for the neighborhood to do heavy digging work.

The digging process in some cases might cause damage to a house, such as drywall cracks and issues with plumbing. In addition, digging can be risky for your house’s safety.

If you go with the digging option, you’re going to need to remove the foundation of your house. Yes, the construction team set up a temporary foundation to lift the house until they finish the new foundation.

It’s still risky because one mistake can cause the house to collapse. As you can imagine, you and your family will most probably have to empty the house sometime in the process.

Plus, landscaping can be something that you’ll need to consider in case of a dig-down. You might need to landscape the area around your house after you’re done.

Floor dig-down is also not recommended if your crawl space has concrete flooring. Concrete floors take much longer to dig up and it costs more.

However, it’s suitable for crawl spaces with dirt flooring and partial basements.

What Is the Alternative for a Dig-Down?

House lifts are the best alternatives for dig downs. This process requires lifting the house instead of lowering the floor level.

It’s not necessarily easier or less expensive than digging the crawl space. Still, it’s more suitable in specific cases.

When the crawl space has concrete flooring, it’s best to perform a house lift rather than a floor dig-down. Lifting the house is less hectic in this case.

A house lift is also recommended if there are already damages to the original foundation of the house. This way you can replace your compromised foundation, too.

Can a Crawl Space Be Filled in?

Filling in a crawl space means converting it into a slab-on-grade foundation. This is actually one of the steps of converting a crawl space into a basement.

The purpose of filling your crawl space is to solidify the base of the house.

In this step, the construction workers pour the new slab through an opening in the soon-to-be basement. This opening can be like a window, preferably in the foundation wall.

The new slab should be leveled with the footing or just above it. After the slab is completely dry, your house should rest on it.

Something you should know is that the drainage system has to be done before filling in your crawl space.

If the slab has a smooth surface after drying up, it means that the concrete finisher did his job right. Otherwise, you might need to have a word with the contractor.

Keep in mind that concrete slabs take several days to dry out completely. In this case, workers won’t be able to do any interior work.

Can You Have a Basement and a Crawl Space?

Yes, you can have both a basement and a crawl space in the same house, although it’s not common. Some people like to have both of them to take advantage of their different benefits.

The main benefit of having a crawl space is to keep the house off the ground. This helps control moisture levels with the help of non-mechanical methods, such as crawl space vents.

As for a basement, it can be used as a storage or living area. It also adds value to your house by increasing the square footage.

While you can have both a basement and a crawl space in your house, some cases might prevent you from achieving this goal.

The first is living in a wet climate. It can be difficult to keep a basement dry, especially if you live in an area susceptible to floods or heavy rain.

You should consult your local realtor as he can give you the best advice about whether or not your house can handle having both a basement and a crawl space.

How Much to Turn Crawl Space Into Basement?

To give you a heads-up, a crawl space conversion can cost you about six figures, and maybe even more. It costs an average of $50 per square foot.

This is just the average. It can cost less, like $30 or more, about $70 per square foot. This means that if you want to build a 1,500-square-foot basement, it’ll cost you anywhere between $45,000 and $112,500.

Looking at it this way, you might think that its cost isn’t reasonable. However, if we break the entire process down into several steps, you’ll understand why it’s expensive.

Pre-excavation Steps

The pre-excavation steps include planning for the idea and getting approvals plus permits. In those steps, you’ll need to pay for the services of consulting a realtor or a contractor as well as pay for the municipality permits.

If you live in a rural area, this process will cost way much less. $500 is an estimate of the cost.

However, if you live in a city, you can expect it to cost you around $3,000.

Digging-out Costs

The digging process is one of the most expensive processes in this project, and it makes so much sense. You’re literally digging lots of soil from beneath your house.

If your crawl space has a dirt foundation or unfinished floor, this makes it less expensive to dig out. In this case, the digging process can cost you anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000.

However, if your crawl space has concrete flooring, it’ll cost about $500 to $1,500 extra.

Raising the House Costs

If you’re raising your house instead of digging out the crawl space, the cost will vary greatly. Your contractor will have to hire a professional for this job.

Of course, the cost goes up if your house is larger. So, we’re looking at an average of $100 per square foot, but expect the possibility of it being more expensive.

This process is estimated to cost on average from $3,100 to $9,400.

Filling in Costs

The conversion process usually requires a lot of concrete for the poured wall and the slab. For the walls, you might be looking at about $1,000.

As for the concrete slab, it might cost an extra $2,000.

Waterproofing Costs

We bet you forgot about the waterproofing costs.

Waterproofing a basement usually costs about $40 per linear foot. Unfortunately, this is something you can’t skip in the conversion process.

Other Costs

Don’t forget that the project will probably need some additional costs to finish up the basement, such as:

  • Drainage system installation costs around $2,000 to $6,000
  • Plumbing costs about $1,000 to $3,000
  • Electrical wiring installation costs about $3,500 to $8,000
  • Drywall costs about $2 to $3 per square foot

Final Thoughts

Here you have it, our answer to your question: can you turn a crawl space into a basement?

By now, we hope that you know a bit more about the conversion process so that you can get the best quote from a contractor.

Converting a crawl space into a basement isn’t a new idea and you should easily find professionals to help you with the process. Good luck!


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