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Why Shouldn’t I Dig Out My Crawl Space?

For some homeowners, the concept of turning a crawl space into a basement is a very interesting one. This might occur because you have a crawl space right now that you don’t use very often, and you’re wondering whether you would use a basement more frequently. Many call the process of turning a crawl space into a basement “digging out” the crawl space, and you might wonder whether digging out your crawl space is a good idea. 

Unfortunately, if you talk to just about any foundation repair expert, you’re probably going to hear that this is a bad idea. Many homeowners don’t know why this could be a bad idea and want to understand why their crawl space is fine the way it is. Here’s a complete rundown of the process so you can understand why digging out your crawl space is a bad idea.


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The Process of Turning a Crawl Space into a Basement 

If you’re looking to dig out your crawl space and turn it into a basement, by nature you’re going to have to take multiple steps to get there. Here’s how you would turn a crawl space into a basement.  

  • Support the Home on Stilts 

The crawl space typically goes throughout the entire home and utilizes the home’s foundation. On the contrary, a basement typically has the home’s foundation underneath it. From there, you’re going to have to move your home’s current foundation to the new one, which means for some amount of time, the home will essentially have no foundation. 

To handle this problem, the construction crew will typically craft a stilt-like structure underneath the home. It will support the entirety of the home while the crew handles the rest of the steps to turn the crawl space into the basement. However, this does mean that you won’t be able to live in the home during this period. 

  • Dig Out the Current Crawl Space  

Next, you need to dig out your current crawl space. Whether you have an encapsulated or unencapsulated crawl space, this process is basically the same. Typically, the construction crew will bring in power tools that can help them move large amounts of dirt out of the hole. They’ll monitor the home stilts and move them to shift the home’s weight as they dig out the crawl space. 

Most basements have a height of around eight feet, like most homes, which means there’s going to be a lot of dirt the construction crew has to dig out. That means this is typically a very long and involved process. Plus, the construction crew has to make sure the basement has the right proportions and preparation to ensure maximum structural stability.  

  • Pour a New Concrete Foundation 

Next, the construction crew will pour a brand-new concrete foundation. This will form the floor of the new basement. When they pour this concrete, they need to make sure the concrete has enough strength to hold up the weight of the entire home and that the concrete won’t crack or start to slide out of place after a while. 

It’s also important to note that concrete requires a pretty significant amount of time to cure. Depending on the type of concrete the construction crew is using and the individual preferences of the construction crew themselves, they may need to wait for up to 28 days for complete curing to take place. During this time, construction can essentially stay stopped in place. 

  • Build Up the New Basement and Complete the Job  

Lastly, the construction crew will need to build up the basement. Basements have walls just like the rest of the home, which means the construction crew will need to put up those walls. Additionally, if you’re planning on finishing the basement, the construction crew may need to run electricity and plumbing into the basement, the same as they would if you were finishing an already-existing basement. 

Once all of this is done, the construction crew will finish the last pieces of the job, including removing any remaining pieces of the stilt-like structure that held the home up whole they were finishing the basement. Only after all of these pieces are in place can you typically move back into the home, now with your new basement.

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Why Is It a Bad Idea to Convert the Crawl Space into a Basement? 

As you have probably already seen, converting the crawl space into a basement can be a difficult process. If you’re not already convinced as to the worries associated with digging out a crawl space, here’s an outline of the biggest reasons to avoid digging out your basement.  

  • Very Expensive 

The first problem is that digging out a crawl space is immensely expensive. The process is very long and very difficult. Plus, it requires a lot of expertise. When digging out a crawl space, the building crew needs to know how to do every part perfectly. You’re not just paying for the work the crew is doing; you’re also paying for their knowledge and dedication surrounding the process of digging out the crawl space. 

This is exactly why the process is so expensive. It’s hard to estimate how expensive the process is because the price will vary from crew to crew and from home to home. However, it will certainly be extremely expensive — typically even more expensive than adding a room onto your home. If you enter into this process, you should expect that you’re going to have to pay a lot of money to accomplish your goal of eventually having a basement in your home.  

  • A Huge Intrusion into Your Life 

Digging out a crawl space is a huge intrusion into your life if you’re already living in a home. Although it may not be as much of an intrusion if you’re preparing a home that you haven’t moved into yet, it will still lengthen the amount of time you’re waiting to move in. Digging out the crawl space is a delicate and difficult procedure that requires plenty of man-hours. Plus, you almost certainly won’t be able to live in the home while the process is happening. 

What does this mean? Most often, you’ll have to move into a short-term rental unit or even a hotel while you wait for the process to finish. This is not only frustrating but also expensive, adding on even more cost to the process. Depending on your home and your construction crew, you may need to stay out of the home for a month or more, which is frustrating and difficult to do. 

  • Possibility of Finding Previously Unseen Problems  

When you first embark on the process of digging out your crawl space, you’ll have a foundation repair expert come in and inspect the foundation. They should be able to tell whether your foundation and the rest of your home’s structure have any problems. If that initial inspection comes back completely clear, you may be a “good candidate” for digging out your crawl space. However, the initial inspection doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. 

Unfortunately, there may be hidden problems that haven’t made themselves known yet. They certainly will make themselves known if you continue to go through the process of digging out the crawl space, however. When you run into those problems throughout the process, it will increase the risk, cost, and time associated with the project.  

  • Extremely Risky 

Lastly, digging out your crawl space is very risky. You’re basically leaving your home with an unstable foundation for some time while the construction crew works on the new foundation and tries to shift over your home’s current weight. If there are any problems or mistakes, your home could basically collapse. 

This process definitely isn’t one you should pursue in your home just because you’re looking for extra storage space. The risk associated with digging out your crawl space is immense, even if you don’t recognize it at first. You could essentially give your home foundation problems even if it doesn’t have those problems right now, and why would you want to disrupt a perfectly good foundation?

What Can I Do Instead? 

So, what’s the actual answer? If you’re thinking about digging out your crawl space, there are plenty of other options out there. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can consider some of these other options. 

  • If You Want More Living Space  

Plenty of people want more living space in their homes. You may be thinking that a basement could be the perfect place to add more living space. While this is a great added bonus of a basement, the difficulties of digging out a crawl space make it the wrong choice for anyone who’s looking for more square footage in their home. 

Instead, you may want to consider converting your patio or part of your backyard to a room in your home. Although converting a patio to a home room is an extended project and one that can be fairly difficult, it’s still much easier than trying to dig out your crawl space. This can be a great way to add to your home without having to dig underneath it. 

  • If You Hate Your Unhealthy Crawl Space  

Some people wonder whether a basement may be easier to take care of than a crawl space. After all, a basement allows for someone to go down into it, whereas crawl spaces often don’t have enough space for home residents to go into on a regular basis. Plus, if you have a dirt crawl space, you probably don’t want to go down there. Dirt crawl spaces can also have serious health concerns, including pests and moisture rising up from the ground. 

However, turning a crawl space into a basement isn’t the answer for people who have issues with health concerns in the crawl space. In fact, you may have even stronger issues with the health concerns if you turn the crawl space into a basement because of the issues with basement waterproofing. Instead, you may want to turn to crawl space encapsulation, which will make your crawl space healthier without having to turn your crawl space into a basement. 

  • If You’re Looking for More Storage Space  

Basements tend to be one of the best places for people to store things. If you have a home that already has a basement, it’s true that you can use this basement as a storage solution. However, this usefulness in storage may be something that you don’t have to wait for. Instead of turning your crawl space into a basement and taking on all the risks associated with that process, why not just encapsulate your crawl space? 

A properly encapsulated crawl space can be a great place for you to store things. In fact, when you encapsulate your crawl space, you can typically go in and out of the crawl space on your own, rather than only having an expert enter your crawl space for inspections. Encapsulating the crawl space is a great way to maximize your home’s storage space without having to dig into the basement.

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Instead of Digging Out Your Crawl Space, Encapsulate It for a Better Result 

As you can hopefully see, digging out your crawl space is much more trouble than it’s worth. It can take a long time, cause a lot of damage to your home, and even result in irreversible damage if the building crew does it improperly. Mistakes can even cause a lasting impact in a way they often don’t in other scenarios. 

Regardless of the reason you were considering digging out your crawl space, it’s often better to encapsulate the crawl space instead. An encapsulated crawl space can serve as a storage space that’s just as effective as a basement, especially when you have a thick vapor barrier to keep it safe. Groundworks can give you a free estimate for crawl space encapsulation in your own home today.