Underpinning 101: Considerations for Buying a Heritage Home in Vancouver

Updated: Jan 20

Homeowners love buying a house with character, and heritage homes come with plenty of that old-school charm. As pretty as they are to look at, heritage homes can come with some challenges that, if not properly dealt with, can lead to serious and expensive problems.


The North Shore Heritage Society lists some of the common issues faced by heritage homes in the Lower Mainland:

  • Poor insulation

  • Stone foundation

  • Perimeter drainage

  • Knob and tube wiring

Fortunately, there are many solutions to these problems that won’t break the bank or cause you to replace your character-filled home. Check out our blog Increasing your home’s value without tearing down to learn about your available options.


If you are considering renovating, we’ve compiled 5 of the most common services that are requested by heritage homeowners:

  1. Underpinning

  2. Basement Lowering

  3. Foundation Replacement

  4. Post & Beam Repair

  5. Slab Repair & Replacement

While some of these can sound fairly common, you might not be familiar with Underpinning. Below we have compiled everything you need to know about underpinning.


What is Underpinning?


According to HomeStars, underpinning is a process that helps to strengthen the foundation of a home. While this is a simple way to put it, underpinning can be a very complicated process and is best left to professionals.


Other basement lowering options include benching and slab lowering. The underpinning method is most common for raising the ceiling in an existing basement.


The main reasons to perform underpinning at your house is:

  • Strengthen a weak foundation

  • It is a cost-effective solution to create more space in your home

  • Allows more access to update or replace your infrastructures, such as plumbing or electrical

How is underpinning done?

Underpinning requires digging sections under the existing foundation in phases as to not undermine the structural integrity of your home. Each section is then reinforced with steel rebar and filled with high strength concrete. The process is repeated until the entire foundation has been lowered.


Your newly lowered basement must then have new perimeter drainage installed and foundation waterproofing applied. Once all engineering and municipal inspections have passed, the insulated concrete floor slab is poured, and your new lowered basement is ready to be renovated any way you see fit.


How much does it cost to underpin a house?

When comparing underpinning to the alternative (buying a new house), it is extremely cost-effective.


In Vancouver, underpinning starts at $90/sq ft and the renovation needed (once the underpinning is completed) will usually start at $125/sq ft. This puts your total for an underpinning project at around $215 sq ft.


When you compare to the typical costs associated with major home renovations, underpinning will usually come out on top! Below are the starting prices for typical construction that we see in Vancouver:

  • A Home addition: $275/sq ft

  • New custom home: $300/sq ft

  • Laneway house: $350/sq ft

Keeping your Home’s Character

Underpinning is one of the best solutions to keep the beloved look of your heritage home while ensuring it stays safe for your family. At Wallace Underpinning, our team of professionals has hundreds of underpinning and foundation repair projects under their belt. Contact our team for your free estimate.


Not ready to commit? Read about the alternatives to underpinning in our blog.

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