Strengthening Foundations: Methods and Benefits of Underpinning in Construction

What could you possibly do if your newly built home or business structure has a failure in footings or foundations? Or your hundred-year-old ancestral house is showing signs of moisture seepage, extensive cracking and other signs of deterioration? If you don’t have a solution in mind, check out the construction process called underpinning.

Underpinning is a process of strengthening the footings of an existing home and any other infrastructure. Besides that, it is also one of the most common methods used in basement lowering. This procedure includes installation of temporary or permanent reinforcement to an existing foundation to add more depth and bearing capacity.  

With that said, underpinning is necessary if the foundation of your home has become damaged or if you want to add more storeys to your business building. To take a more in-depth discussion about this construction process, let’s discover the different methods of underpinning and its benefits in the structural safety of houses and commercial buildings.

Underpinning Methods Used For Strengthening Foundation

Home and property owners have to keep an eye on the possible upgrades they can apply to their structures. With that said, underpinning is one of the techniques they can use not just to upgrade the aesthetics of their houses but also to enhance the structural safety of their buildings.

Now, let’s talk about the different methods of underpinning that you should consider.

Mass Concrete Underpinning

Mass concrete underpinning or also called pit method is the traditional technique of underpinning. This approach involves extending the existing foundation until it reaches a stable stratum. Then, when you reach the appropriate strata, filling the excavated area with the concrete is the next step and let it set for curing before doing another excavation. 

On top of this, the mass concrete method is economical and works well for a shallow foundation. But then, if you have more complicated structural issues, you should consider applying other methods to underpin your foundation.

Pier and Beam Underpinning

The implementation of the pier and beam underpinning method happened after the second world war. This technique became popular because the traditional way of underpinning couldn’t work correctly for a significant depth of foundation.

In this technique, strengthened concrete beams are set to move the load to mass concrete piers. The depth and size of the beams are according to the applied loads and ground conditions. Moreover, pier and beam underpinning are doable for most ground conditions, and it’s cost-effective for depth shallower than 6 meters. 

Underpinning by Cantilever Needle Beam

Cantilever needle beam method can be used for underpinning if the footings of an existing structure need to be extended only on one side and the building possesses a stronger interior column. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach.


  1. One side access only
  2. Faster than the traditional method
  3. High load-carrying capability


  1. Limitation of access restricts the application of needle beams
  2. When the existing footings are deep, digging becomes uneconomical

Piled Raft Method for Underpinning

Piled raft underpinning should be used when the existing foundations are too deep, or the soil is too hard that small equipment can’t be able to dig up to the required depth. This technique involves:

  • Placing of piles at planned locations by loading conditions
  • Adding reinforced needle beams to hold the load of the wall when pockets blow foundations are broken.
  • Pouring concrete in the structure when a ring beam is built.

Moreover, here are some of the benefits of Piled Raft Method for underpinning:

  • Economical with depths more than 1.5 meters
  • External access is not needed
  • Offers lateral and traverse ties throughout the structure
  • Reduces disruption to drainage systems

Pre-test Technique of Underpinning

Pre-test method of underpinning is used for strip or pad foundations and applicable for buildings with 5 to 10 storeys. Nevertheless, this technique is not suitable for a raft foundation, and you can expect less noise and disruptions in the entire process.

Benefits of Underpinning in Homes and Other Establishments

Pre-test method of underpinning is used for strip or pad foundations and applicable for buildings with 5 to 10 storeys. Nevertheless, this technique is not suitable for a raft foundation, and you can expect less noise and disruptions in the entire process.

Benefits of Underpinning in Homes and Other Establishments

Underpinning, by definition, is a process of strengthening the foundation of a structure. Nonetheless, this construction process is more than that. Thus, after discussing the different methods of underpinning, let’s move to the benefits and advantages of underpinned foundation to homes and other properties. 

Opens Up Hidden Mechanics of the Building

The process of underpinning gives way to open up the mechanics of any buildings and make them accessible for inspection, repairs, and renovations. On top of this—since underpinning is usually done in older homes and any other buildings—outdated electrical, insulation, and plumbing system can be replaced with modern technologies.

Stabilize Building’s Structural Integrity

When the foundation of the house or commercial building moves and shifts substantially— to the point that it can no longer support the structure—basement underpinning is necessary. It works wonders if your home’s foundation is damaged and structurally unsafe.

One of the objectives of strengthening the foundation in large cities such as underpinning Toronto & basement lowering Toronto is to ensure that the stability of every structure is safe for everyone.

Also, here are the early warning signs that will tell you to underpin the foundation of your home or any other buildings:

  • Structural cracks
  • The difference in the alignment of doors and windows
  • Sinking, sagging, bulging or any other changes in the shape of the walls.

Moreover, if the signs above are already visible, professional assessment and design are needed so that underpinning can be promptly done before further damages arise. After all, it is good to know that underpinned foundation walls can stabilize a structure for its lifetime.  

Add More Living Spaces

Creating additional living space is another benefit you’ll get if you consider underpinning the foundation of your home. This construction process will let you transform your basement into a playroom for kids, entertainment area, or an extra bedroom for your guests.

Once you finish a basement underpinning, you can get the structural security you need, and you can remove all the unnecessary walls in the area. With that, new spaces will be available for renovation and improvements. Eventually, the room that was once used as a utility space or storage area will turn into a new room for the entire family.

Higher Demand for the Property

The most prominent benefit that comes with underpinning is the value that you can add to your home. Besides that, you will definitely find a lot of takers if you were to put it on sale.

In fact, businessmen and investors in the world of real estate are likely to invest in homes and any other infrastructures that are guaranteed to have enhanced structural integrity and ensures safety.