How To Build A Basement, Underground Room or House – Requirements, Foundations, Walls, Roof & Waterproofing

How To Build an Underground Room, House, Basement or Bunker

  • Preliminaries & Building Codes

  • Basement Design

  • Basement Earthworks

  • Basement Substructure & Superstructure

  • Basement Roof / Upper Floor

  • Underground  Basement Roof Structure & Drainage Systems

  • Drain Pipes, Back-Filling and Waterproofing To Retaining Walls

Basement Below Grade / Ground Level

In residential and commercial construction, underground rooms or buildings are called basements. In military warfare, bunkers are usually built underground as a camouflaged fortified chamber that hides and protects people from bombs, missiles and bullets fired from enemy aircraft. In luxury and exclusive opulent homes of the rich and wealthy, it’s very common to find an underground cellar, a small underground room to store wine. However, cellars have humble beginnings dating back to 1700 BCE in the ancient Middle Eastern city of Tel Kabri, but they probably existed much earlier than that in various native cultures. Before the advent of refrigeration, cellars were dug and built by the common villager living in cold climates to store root crops, vegetables, fruits, meat and other farm produce.

Basement Building Codes

Before you embark on building an underground room on your residential or commercial lot, you have to be familiar with building codes in your city or town. Like any new dwelling, structural extension or addition, a building permit is required to build a basement whether it’s part of the house or not. However, area-specific zoning laws may prohibit underground buildings. Find out if basements are allowed in your location. The horizontal and vertical expansion of your residential property is governed by zoning laws which may prohibit or restrict underground buildings in a specific location, just as multi-storey buildings may be restricted in certain areas. If you do get a building permit, the basement cannot be built as you wish. There are rules and regulations that you have to follow to ensure safety and compliance with not just the structural design but also drainage, ventilation, plumbing, heating, waterproofing, insulation, moisture control, flooding risk, ceiling height, lighting, fire safety, wall openings (egress), access (stairs), party walls (underpinning), site preparation and finishes. Unlike normal above-ground buildings, you almost always need a permit to undertake basement finishing and remodelling.

Building a basement or underground room should involve a lot of planning necessitated by the numerous regulation codes attached to it. The biggest risk affecting a poorly built basement is the risk of flooding and moisture penetration. Thus, moisture/water control and drainage is a critical factor when designing a basement. Another critical factor is the walls and foundation. Basement walls are not like ordinary walls above ground level, they have lateral earth loads acting on them. Basement walls are subject to horizontal forces caused by soil and water pressure, making earth settlement more likely. The deeper the basement below ground level, the higher the lateral forces pushing on the walls. Thus, basement walls should be built like retaining walls to withstand lateral earth pressure.

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