4 Considerations Before Adding Subsurface Home Structures

Posted on: 2 January 2018

Are you planning to add a subsurface structure, such as a basement, to your home? Read on and discover some of the considerations that a structural engineer will have in mind when designing such a subsurface addition.

Structural Support

The structural engineer will assess whether sufficient structural support exists for the addition that you wish to construct. For example, will the basement extend beyond the confines of the foundation? Sections that are not supported by the foundation are likely to settle and can put the entire home at the risk of collapsing. The structural engineer will, therefore, design appropriate mechanisms to ensure that the addition has ample structural support.


Benching refers to the process of constructing concrete benches on the walls of excavations during the construction of subsurface home additions. Benching helps to stabilise the slope of the excavation so that the walls will not collapse as they are subjected to numerous forces, such as the pressure exerted by the surrounding soil when it absorbs moisture during the rainy season. The structural engineer will assess the site and determine whether it is suitable for benching and how this should be done.


The structural engineer will also consider whether underpinning is necessary and possible. For example, it may not be necessary to underpin your home in case the basement addition will not go below the foundation wall. However, it may be risky to excavate to underpin the structure in case the basement addition is going to be constructed next to an adjoining property. The structural engineer will, therefore, look for ways to underpin the home without putting the adjoining properties at risk. For instance, the engineer may opt to shore up the excavation site so that the soil underneath the adjoining property doesn't shift and cause structural damage to it.

Choice of Materials

Structural engineers also consider the ground conditions while selecting the materials that will be used during the construction of the subsurface addition to your home. For example, the engineer may recommend the use of concrete only instead of including wood in case the moisture content of the area is high.

As such, a lot of preparation is required when developing the structural design of any subsurface addition that you would like to construct on your residential property. Engage a structural engineer as early as possible during the planning phase of this project so that you can avoid any delays that may result when changes have to be made to your plans due to structural risks.


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