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Old 04-24-2010, 12:41 AM   #1
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DIY basement


This is redirected from a previous question to make it DIY question

Does anyone have any experience constructing a basement themselves? As in rented a backhoe, dug the hole, laid out the structure, made the forms, poured the concrete and finished the floor, etc?

How big? How long did it take? Were there parts of it that were given up on and contracted out? Any cautionary tales for a fool who would try it?

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Old 04-24-2010, 05:19 AM   #2
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I can tell you one thing from being a cert excavator operator, that if you are planning on excavating your average size basement floor, then a backhoe will not do. The first step in building a basement from nothing is didding your hole. It may sound simple but it's not. You have to plan on where all the excavated dirt will go. Will it go in a dump truck and go to a fill site ? or will it stay on site. When it's left on site beside the excavated hole, it must, by code be 1 metre or more away from the edge. This is the most inportant part. You must ,and I stress MUST NOT excavate any deeper than where the floor will lay. This is absolutely critical to the success of the project. It is so easy for someone who's not experienced in this, to screw up , and fast. It may look and sound easy, but It's not. I would recommend for that first ,and most important step that you hire it out to a professionals . You will save yourself alot of time and greef, not to mention money in the end. I hope this helps.
Good luck.

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Old 04-24-2010, 08:12 AM   #3
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From an extreme DIYers view anything is possible.

The best steps in taking on a mega project is to learn about every single thing. The function of the equipment available, where to get it from. How to dispose of fill dirt (as was already mentioned), how to ensure you don't overdig. How to check the ground and surrounding dig walls for water tamp . . . so on and so forth.
Posting questions is great - but also read books. Read articles written by people (or blogs) who have done what you have done and get a feel for what you're in for. Further - read articles and stories from people who have had to deal with bad basement jobs: flooding, structural failure, wall collapse - what happened and how they had to fix it. This will help you figure out what NOT to do.

Spend a lot of time learning about every aspect of the job you might be undertaking before you decide whether or not you will undertake it. (I spend at least 3 or 6 months crunching plans and numbers on a job as small as a bathroom - I'm ultra careful as I do NOT want to have to work with others and call in any assistance. I do everything on my own).

Learning everything means attending DIY shops at hardware stores if you can (what do you know how to do? What do you not?) - the ones that tell you how to tile/drywall/etc - would be stellar. Learn all the lingo and words used - as much as possible. Look into local building codes, cost of a permit, etc etc etc. Figure out your plan for your basement (you must draw up a comprehensive plan that touches on plumbing, electrical, wall structure and everything else to get a permit).

This learning process will help you determine what you can and cannot do by yourself. You can actually contract out just PART of the work. You can shop around for estimates - see if someone will let you work on the crew in the process. My Dad assisted the builders in the construction of the house we lived in when I was little. He helped excavate and all sorts of things. he, ultimately, cut and hung all the drywall in the basement and built in a bathroom and office after they let go of the company that he employed. They used the upstairs as a learning curve for him and taught him what he needed to know and he saved money by finishing a lot on his own.

I firmly believe that nothing can't be done by yourself - you're only limited by what you don't know and what you physically cannot do.
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Old 04-24-2010, 09:12 AM   #4
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It was ~$5k to have my garage area dug out, forms put up & concrete poured
$2k of that was the excavation, 24x36 w/24' of one side against existing house
Fairly straight forward...not 8' down in most areas
I have run some heavy equipment in the past
But its not something that I even considered to tackle myself
I did do some "prep" work 2 years earlier, I rented a terramite backhoe & dug out all the good topsoil & hauled that out back to level an area

You can't even rent the size machine (small actually) that he brought in to excavate
He also hit ledge in 2 places & they had to drill & pin the ledge
Dirt stayed on site to regrade the side yard
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Old 04-26-2010, 07:28 AM   #5
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Somehow I don't see Home Depot having a DIY workshop on building basements

I am most certainly in the learning stage in order to make the Build/Buy/Don't Bother decision and by that scoping the overall project. When the basement idea came to me it was followed by two word...Man Cave! So now I'm going to be sad if I don't get my basement.

The hole will be a challenge. The house is only 36 inches from the property line that has a chain link fence I don't want to disturb. That means that hole there has to be steep (case for using pro). While most of the ground I've dug in here is hard packed clay, the steep side should probably be shored. On the other side is a driveway (somewhat more expendable). I was considering stepping the foundation side walls in a foot (26' 4" wide first floor, 24' 4" wide foundation) to provide a little more clearance for the hole since I can cantilever the sides of the extension in about a foot basically for free.

I was also investigating insulated concrete forms. I have a very simple rectangular shape to build and only about 7 feet high.

The only way I could get rid of the 40 yards of dirt on site would be to spread it about 2" thick over the entire yard. I suspect that's easier said than done. I expect it would have to be hauled.
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Old 04-28-2010, 07:04 AM   #6
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Problem solved. No basement. The extension had gotten too big with too many technical problems. Extension will be half house width on crawl space. This leaves the back door and stairs alone. The Boss has OKed that.
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Old 04-28-2010, 07:58 AM   #7
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Most people I know who do a crawl space instead of a basement regret it
One house we looked at we wanted to buy
Buy they installed crawl space under the great room instead of a basement
So we passed on the house
We use our basement mainly for storage area, laundry
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Old 04-28-2010, 11:31 AM   #8
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yeah - I hate my crawlspace and wish it was a functional basement, absolutely!

However considering this houses poor construction I'm glad it is a crawlspace - ugh - I can't even imagine But that's beside the point.

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