What is a Basement Excavation?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A basement excavation is a construction dig performed for the purpose of roughing out a basement. There are several settings in which basement excavation may be performed. This procedure is usually supervised by an experienced contractor or a basement excavation company, because it can be complicated in addition to labor intensive. While it is possible to excavate by hand, there are some serious risks which must be carefully evaluated before taking the plunge.

Construction machines like excavators are used to clear out ground space for a basement.
Construction machines like excavators are used to clear out ground space for a basement.

The best time to do a basement excavation is when a home site is being prepared. In this case, the site is already being excavated in preparation for laying the foundations. If people want a basement, the depth of the excavation can be deepened to rough out the basement so that the basement and foundations can be established at the same time. This can be a way to add room to a structure without adding height, and some people leave the basement unfinished to cut costs while ensuring that they will have that space available at a later time if they need it.

Batter boards are often used to mark the corners of a basement excavation, and may also indicate the desired level.
Batter boards are often used to mark the corners of a basement excavation, and may also indicate the desired level.

Once a home is already built, basement excavation can be done for a number of reasons. If a home needs foundation work, it may be necessary to excavate under the home or in the basement in order to get the work done. As long as excavation is being done, some people may opt to rough in a basement at the same time, or to make improvements to an existing basement. Another reason for a basement excavation is the desire to add a basement to an existing structure.

Excavating under a building can be tricky. The structure needs to be supported during the excavation to avoid compromise to the structural integrity which could make it unsafe. People also need to provide an area to store excavated materials, usually with the goal of eventually hauling them away. It is also possible to encounter unexpected hazards such as mold or mildew. In older homes, people sometimes find materials of historical interest during a basement excavation because it was not uncommon to build directly on top of debris.

Specialty companies focus entirely on doing basement excavation and they can be a good choice for this type of construction project. These companies have a great deal of experience in making excavations go smoothly and they can coordinate with other companies who may be involved to make the process as efficient as possible. People should be aware that permits are generally required for a basement excavation and that a building inspector will want to visit the site to confirm that safety procedures are being followed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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