Basement: What Lies Beneath

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The owners of this home originally intended to do a relatively minor remodeling of the dated basement, a 1,600-square-foot space with poor lighting and low, beamed ceilings. But when Prestige Custom Builders began the remodel, the company discovered that the foundation was cracking, leaking and inadequate, says president Jeff Santerre.

December 01, 2004

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Best of the West 2004 Design Awards

The owners of this home originally intended to do a relatively minor remodeling of the dated basement, a 1,600-square-foot space with poor lighting and low, beamed ceilings. But when Prestige Custom Builders began the remodel, the company discovered that the foundation was cracking, leaking and inadequate, says president Jeff Santerre. The challenge was that the homeowner did not want to tear down the original house, a 1927 urban Tudor-style with some historic value.

"It would have been more efficient to tear it down, but the owners wanted the house," says Santerre. The minor job became a whole-house remodel.

Preserving the existing house created both challenges and new design opportunities. "The design changed periodically over nine months," says architect Jed Miller. "We literally rebuilt the house."

To demolish the existing crumbling foundation and pour a new one, the home had to be lifted. This required all exterior brick — which was pulling away — to be removed. That wasn't all. "Just a shell of the house was left," says Santerre. "Nothing inside or out, no roofing, no bricks, no plumbing." The house was lifted a few feet with house jacks, then placed on I-beams and several cribs constructed of 8×8-inch timbers and plywood. To protect the house from the possibility of high winds, workers used chains and come-alongs to anchor the home to concrete jersey barriers that had been dropped around the site.

Good thing, because within days after the foundation was hauled away, the Nisqually earthquake hit. While nearby houses suffered damage such as chimneys toppling, the house remained in place.

With the home raised, "the homeowner saw the potential and expanded the scope," says Miller. The new scope called for excavating and hauling away 4,000 cubic yards of dirt — 400 truck loads — to double the size of the original basement and provide 10-foot ceilings in the remodeled space.

At 3,300 square feet, the new basement is half the size of the house above ground. A 14-inch thick clear-span concrete lid covers the portion of the basement extending beyond the main home, The cap is disguised by plantings and a blue stone terrace accessible from the main living area.

The new basement includes a heated two-car garage, laundry, exercise room with three-quarter bath, home theater, family room, kitchenette, wine cellar, and office with a private bath. The whole house is heated hydronically. The 10-foot ceilings, two large window wells in the family room and office, as well as a computer-controlled lighting system make the basement feel as airy as any upstairs.

The home's many features required specialized designers including everyone from acoustic consultants to wine cellar creators. "We had no idea that we were going to end up with 12 to 14 design specialists," says Santerre. "The biggest challenge was more from having such a large design team than the earthquake itself."

Home systems: Lutron. HVAC: Lennox. Lighting: Juno, Lightolier. Locksets: Baldwin, Stone River. Radiant heating: Warmboard.

 

Best of the West 2004 Design Awards

Silver Award

Finished Basement

Remodeler: Prestige Custom Builders, Seattle

Architect: CASA Architecture, Shoreline, Wash.

Interior designer: Carl Williams Interiors, Seattle

Project location: Seattle

Age of home: 77 years

Scope of project: Raise home, demolish 1,600-square-foot basement, pour new foundation, finish 3,300-square-foot basement including home theater, wine cellar and garage

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