Looking for basement digout contractor (S)

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Topic: Looking for basement digout contractor (S)

Home and Garden January 18, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Looking for basement digout contractor (S)

I just bought property in DC and want to digout the basement to make a nice (permitted and legit) rental unit. I’d be happy for any contractor recommendations to get the work bid out.

I’m also 100% interested in any success, failure, hilarious, or horror stories on the subject of basement work, rental permits, etc.

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Hire a professional for the project, so you can obtain the permits. And then the professional will assist you with combing through the contractors bids.

Perhaps I’m not using the right terminology, but when I said contractor I meant someone/group that could provide initial estimates, lead the project, perform and analyze (have analyzed as applicable) test digs, structural engineering/reports, physical construction work, and monitoring of subcontractors. Also assumed I mean licensed and insured (big-time insured!)

What should I be calling this? Thank you,

There are several parts to that equation:

1- The design professional or architect or engineer, who drafts the permit plans for you, according to all codes, good construction practices, and who deals with the structural part of the design -as well as electrical, plumbing, mechanical, architecture (the ways it relate with the existing house, interiors and exteriors)
2- Soil engineering: consultants that will analyze the bearing capacity of the existing soil and will recommend remedial steps in order to build the basement (the structural design will include underpinning under the existing bearing walls)
3- The general contractor, who will execute the necessary work to have your basement built.
4- I would recommend to have third party inspections to expedite the process and to see if there are problems that need to be addressed.

The general contractor will give you a list(s) of materials, will deal with actual site conditions, some of them are unforeseeable (maybe there’s a pipe or a tree root in the way, nobody knows) and he is bonded, licensed, and insured.
The first and most important part is to know how much do you plan to spend in digging up a basement, how deep, and how large in terms of square footing. Budget is very important, and to keep within its limits is crucial.

Take into account that the minimum height for an habitable space is 7’6″, plus a certain depth for a foundation slab and flooring. If it is intended for anything else than storage, you will need natural light and ventilation by code, the windows should be egress type to be approved, plus Co2 and smoke alarms.

There are also requirements for external entrances in historic districts, and you should plan for a future location for an internal stairs if you ever want to incorporate that unit to house in the future.

Hope this helps.

Thanks odcstudio. I might have been going about this wrong then, looking for one contractor to act as a lead. You’re right about the codes – I intend to do a legal, permitted, up to code and then some basement rental unit and the long list of requirements is…well long (though each makes sense, it’s just a lot to go through).

you’re welcome… fell free to e-mail me if you need more information. Thanks…

I am going through the process now. I hired an architect to draw me up plans to submit to DCRA. Currently I am in the process of responding to DCRA’s comments. Now I am looking for contractors who can build my plans. Let me know if you have any leads! I subscribe to Angie’s List, but I generally find it to be useless.

A correction to what odcstudio wrote above: minimum ceiling heights for habitable spaces in DC are 7’0″ generally (with limited exceptions for lower heights near beams, bathrooms, closets, etc), not 7’6″. See DC Municipal Regulations 14-405.

As soon as your 6’8″ door gets installed your room start feeling very low at 7′-0″ since your ceiling will be sitting on your door’s top casing.
What DC regulations do is that they prescribe what the absolute minimum is, not the practical or good practice required height.
I recommend 7′-6″ -six more inches between the lamps and the top of the head are a blessing…. That is all between you and your architect, as the contractor will be too.

Monkeydaddy no problem. It took me a long time to get DCRA to respond (predictably they won’t recommend contractors / don’t keep a list or anything). It’s looking like I need to kill a day of my life getting my DL switched over and visiting DCRA. If you could share who you’re working with I’d appreciate that.

As for height, all I can get depending on cost is my goal.

Odcstudio good point – hadn’t though about the stairs once the floor is lower!

I have found a contractor who is willing to do the whole thing, but the first estimate has come in for a low 6 figures – ouch. I see a local house getting a digout, but it’s by an investor and walking up and asking what company was there…nobody knew.

I knew bidding would be a pain; I had no idea knowing what to ask, who to ask, and begging people to come offer to take my money was so difficult! I wish I was just doing roof-floor-bathroom-kitchen stuff like a normal person…

DCRA will not recommend contractors, officially. If someone recommends a contractor -from within DCRA- that person will be doing it only for his own benefit or for the benefit of the contractor, but that is not amongst the official duties of DCRA.

Usually your architect/engineer/designer will recommend a contractor with whom he/she feels comfortable working.

Your design professional will also think the whole space in a three dimensional way, and usually will offer you a few options to go about solving the problem.

Have a budget in mind, a realistic one, before you talk to a contractor. It will depend on the size of the dig-out, and the construction methods employed, and also on the particular conditions of your property.

Feel free to e-mail me at odcstudio AT aol DOT com.

Hi Vicar,

I’m interested in doing the same thing to a row home in DC. Have you made any progress with your basement digout project. I would love to hear you’ve made some good progress!


Yes! We’ve run into some hitches as I expanded from doing the basement to a complete gut job and renovation of the entire house. I’m working with Jordan of NewLeDroitPark and am very happy overall with the results. We’ve lost a bunch of time due to permits though, but everything I’ve seen from his work is a tendency towards quality without needing to be prompted. He’s also good on communication (for a contractor).


You mention that you “expanded from doing the basement,” does that mean you were able to complete your basement digout successfully? If so can you give an approximation on how much it cost you or any more details relating to the dig out?

I was afraid you were going to mentioned the delay of your projects due to permits when dealing with DCRA. It’s something i’m very concerned about and i’m looking for some advice on how to best speed up the process of getting permits approved. Are you handling the permitting yourself or are you leaving that to Jordan? Any advice is welcomed :-)!!!

Not yet – rather than doing the basement and then something else, I gutted the entire house at the same time, top to bottom (even the roof). The price on the basement can vary too much to really be helpful – you have to factor in whether you need underpinning, shared walls, any odd permit issues, how far you wish to go, possibly either soil type or sampling depending on the lunar-phase mood-swing of DCRA, square footage, and then what design you put in place / grade of materials you want to finish it off when you’re done. Prices easily range from 50k to 250k or more.

Jordan is doing all the permits (well him and experts/architects). I did bring up the idea of using 3rd party contractors as I was told the city kept changing what they wanted, but the city won’t let you switch to 3rd party after you start with them.

Understand full gut is full gut here – all floors, ceilings, walls, and framing was removed – leaving the place like a long ballet studio where you could see from the front to the back of the house, with nothing but exterior walls, joists, and subflooring.

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