Picture this: you take a tiny, dank crawl space and turn it into a home gym or a mini movie theater room.
That sounds awesome, but now you’re probably wondering if that’s even possible.
That takes us to a question that we get a lot: can you turn a crawl space into a basement?
Yes, the conversion is doable, but it’s usually tedious, risky, and expensive. Most importantly, it’s not something you can tackle in a DIY project.
In this post, we’ll go over what the process is like and why you need professional help. We’ll also cover the estimated cost and check if the results are worth the risk.
Before you begin your conversion project, you’ll need to get in touch with a structural engineer and a contractor. They’ll judge if the process is even feasible with your current foundation, and if so, they’ll estimate how deep you’ll need to dig to provide enough clearance.
On average, you need 7–7.5 feet for a basement, but it’s still better to check your local building codes.
Then you’ll need to get your permits and start the project, which usually requires the following:
- Installing temporary supports.
- Providing enough clearance under the crawl space (more on the digging process in a minute).
- Pouring new foundations and walls around the perimeter of the house.
- Waterproofing the foundation.
- Tackling the finishing touches to the basement (HVAC, plumbing, electric, etc.).
Yes, you can dig out a crawl space to convert it into a basement. However, clearing out enough dirt to make the area suitable for living in compliance with the building codes, then hauling out all that dirt is both time-consuming and risky.
Of course, not all conversion projects have the same difficulty level. For instance, soft, sandy soils are generally harder to work with and cut through than clay-like stable soils.
That’s why some experts recommend shoring the area. After all, you don’t want to compromise your structures or endanger the workers digging under your house.
Plus, you’ll have to plan ahead for the draining. Some excavation projects require using water pumps.
Yes, you can have your crawl space filled up to the ground level with sand or crushed stone instead of converting it to a full basement. It’s also possible to turn it into a regular concrete slab foundation, but that’s often too expensive.
Even without the concrete, filling your crawl space with sand and gravel can help reduce the risks associated with flood damage. So, some people do it to reduce their insurance premiums.
If you decide to go this route, you’ll still need permits. However, once you get the paperwork in order, the process should be over in one or two weeks.
Yes, it’s possible to have a crawl space and a basement on the same property.
Some homes have a half-and-half situation with a partial basement. This type of split foundation is particularly common in houses built on a slope.
If you have one of those partial setups, you can still have the crawl space part converted and merged with the basement half. Generally speaking, this type of project would cost less than if you had a full crawl space from the get-go.
It’s hard to give an accurate estimate without first taking into consideration the size of the project and how you want to finish it up. However, you can expect to pay up anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 if you’re working on a 2,000-square-foot crawl space.
Keep in mind that finishing up the basement itself can add between $10,000 and $70,000 to the net cost, depending on the design that you have in mind.
Don’t forget to factor in whatever landscaping repairs you’ll need to do to get the shrubs and trees that were around the base to their original state. Yes, the contractor might have to clear those out of the way to get full access to the basement!
If the conversion process is so expensive, why do people even see it as a valid option?
Well, there are a few potential reasons why someone would choose to pay up to have their crawl space converted into a basement.
For one, the homeowner might be under the impression that the process can boost the property’s value on the market. That’s possible, but basements don’t always bring the best return on investment.
On the other hand, they might just need extra living space and can’t expand outward or upward.
Plus, some people don’t think the typical crawl space is “clean” enough to be a valid storage spot. So, they resort to basements instead.
Although the extra footage may sound tempting, the conversion isn’t without its flaws. There are some disadvantages (other than the hefty price tag) that you have to keep in mind:
- You might have to move out during the conversion, which could drag on for months.
- Your neighbors will likely hate you for all this disturbance, so try to be considerate and discuss the renovation and work hours with them.
- It would be a shame to ruin your landscaping during the conversion.
- Just because the conversion is over doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods; issues might pop up later as the house settles into the new foundation.
- Some engineers and contractors won’t even take on the project if they find it too risky or complicated.
While the answer to “Is it all worth it?” is subjective, it’s hard to ignore all these drawbacks. That’s why converting your crawl space to a basement is rarely the first choice that an expert would recommend.
Don’t fret if crawl space conversion seems out of reach; it’s not the only option.
In fact, there are a few alternative solutions that are often more practical and cost-effective, including:
- Consider going for above-ground add-ons. If more living space is what you need, go for an outward expansion by converting a patio or other outdoor structures into rooms.
- Fix your old attic. Renovating the attic can save you a lot of hassle and free up some storage space.
- Encapsulate your crawl space. Encapsulation or sealing can make your crawl space a better storage spot just by warding off dust and pests.
While turning a crawl space into a basement is doable, it’s more of a last resort for those who want more room and can’t go for a second-story addition or move out to a bigger house.
In some cases, the extra footage might not even be worth the money you’ll pour into the project.
If you’ve done the math and figured that the ROI is worth it, remember that a lot of things can go wrong during the process, compromising the structural stability and increasing the risk of water damage.
To avoid these issues, make sure you have an engineer and an experienced contractor by your side.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.