3 Alternatives to Underpinning to get more Space from your Home

Updated: Jan 20

We all know that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities in Canada and let’s face it, finding a lot of space for a home in Vancouver without breaking the bank is a tall order. With our beautiful local mountains, ocean views, temperate climate, and the best sushi around, it’s easy to see why Vancouver is so expensive.


In 2020, the price of a typical Vancouver, Burnaby, or Richmond home, on average, costs between $800-900 per square foot and the price to build a custom home typically starts at $300. So, finding more livable space can put a dent in your wallet. For many, that budget isn’t reasonable and will turn to options such as basement lowering and laneway homes to increase livable space.


The process of underpinning your home is an extensive renovation. And, although the project timelines can be longer than the average basement renovation, it is usually necessary for structural and safety reasons.


If your home has structural issues like cracking foundation or you want more headroom, you’ve probably determined that underpinning is one of your options. Is there an alternative to underpinning? Yes, in fact there are a few. In case you aren’t quite ready to go that route, we’ve compiled three alternatives for you to get the space and safety that you require.


Alternative #1 House Lifting and Building a Higher Foundation.


House lifting is pretty self-explanatory. A home will be prepped and raised, while the foundation is built underneath to support it at the new height. This could be done either to add an additional story or rebuild a basement area.


This method of gaining more space is quite extensive and very disruptive. It requires several important items and trades, including:

  • Geotechnical engineer

  • Envelope engineer

  • Soil shoring

  • Multiple finishing trades


A typical house lift project is well over $100,000. Home lifting is better suited if the entire house from exterior to interior is being completely gutted and renovated.


Some of the negatives to home lifting:

  • Must replace basement stud walls, siding, and windows

  • Residents must move out during construction

  • Risk of damage other parts of the house or could cause structural issues that would be costly to rectify

  • May not be allowed due to property setbacks


Alternative #2 Building a Second Story or an Addition

A great solution to space – build up or out! Building a second story addition or bump-out addition can be more expensive than house lifting, but it’s a sure-fire way to get the space you want.


Like house lifting, you must move out during construction and a simple addition may cause you to renovate the entire house due to weather conditions or there is a potential for leaks and structural issues if it’s not done correctly.


In Vancouver, you may be limited by zoning and heritage house status, so it’s important to check with your local City Hall to make sure you can build on your property.


Building a new addition is a great way to add space but it’s important to consider what you will be losing. A bump-out will cause you to lose more backyard space or building up may impact how much sun your backyard will see. These are good things to review before you start putting plans in motion.


Alternative #3 Selling

While you may love your house and your neighbourhood, sometimes you just can’t wave a magic want to create more space. Buying a new home is the most reliable way to get more livable space, however, it’s probably not your most expensive option.


Typically selling your house and buying a bigger home is much more expensive than building the additional square footage. That’s why we recommend cost-effective options to make do with what you have. See a list of our tips for How to increase your home value without tearing down.

Reasons to avoid selling:

  • Legal fees

  • Realtor fees

  • Moving costs

  • Buying more square footage will be more expensive than building

Finding what’s right for you

After considering these options, the cost of basement lowering (such as underpinning) might be an easier pill to swallow. Starting at $90.00/sq ft for underpinning and starting at $125.00/sq ft for basement renovations, there are cheaper solutions to creating more livable space.

We know that when it comes to your home, making the best decision can be extremely difficult. Our experts at Wallace Underpinning are here to help you by providing you with information and options that will (hopefully) make your decision easier!


Let us help you get more livable space from your home. Call us at 778.952.8008

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