Advice From TrueNorth Underpinning: What to Expect When You Underpin Your Basement

For Home Buyers

I recently finished underpinning my basement, which was a huge project. If you’ve ever thought about doing it, I can tell you from experience that there’s a lot to know.

We got our basement underpinned by the people at TrueNorth underpinning, and they did a fantastic job. So, I thought I’d reach out to Daniel Johnston, the owner of TrueNorth Underpinning, to ask him what people can expect as part of the underpinning process. Here’s what he had to say:


Q: How deep can you dig out the basement?

A: “A basement can be dug out as deep as you want but the deeper you go the more engineering may be required. The typical Toronto / GTA basement can easily be underpinned to achieve an 8′ ceiling without any problems. As you start to go deeper than 8′ there may need to be reinforcements done to the existing foundation walls. One other limitation to the possible depth of the underpinning is the proximity to the neighbouring property but this can be dealt with by a special design by the structural / geotechnical engineer.”


Q: Who takes care of the permits and permissions?

A: “Permits and drawings are generally taken care of by the architect or structural engineer who is doing the design for the project. If you live in a semi detached home you will require permission from your common wall neighbour to underpin the party wall. Without your neighbours permission you would need to install a bench footing along the party wall which still allows you to achieve the extra height but does eat up some floor space. The cost of a permit for an underpinning project is based on the linear footage of the work and generally costs around $350. This includes the cost of the plumbing and drain permits.”


Q: What about insurance and references? Is it common to provide these before you start?

A: “A properly insured company is essential for an underpinning project. Underpinning is NOT covered by a contractors general liability insurance. It is a speciality insurance and requires the contractor to carry the necessary licence to get it. A certificate of this insurance should be provided, if requested, prior to any work being started and it should indicate a minimum of $2,000,000 of coverage and the customers name and address. References are very important to check before you hire a contractor. is a great reference for checking into a company but you also need to go with your gut. It is a long working relationship you are about to enter into and you need to be able to work with you contractor through good times and surprises. Renovation can bring up unforeseen issues in older homes and they will need to be dealt with. Trust is everything.”


Q: How much does underpinning typically cost? And how long does the job normally take?

A: “A typical underpinning of a 600 – 700 sq/ft. home should take between 4- 5 weeks to complete (excluding the finishing work). The cost of the work can vary between $45,000 to $55,000 depending on the scope of work, engineering details and job specific conditions.”


Q: What are some of the costs people don’t think about when it comes to underpinning?

A: “Here are a few of the costs that you should plan for:”

  • Moving a water line / water meter if necessary
  • Moving an electrical panel if required for the new basement layout
  • Moving water lines, electrical, or HVAC for beam installations
  • Street parking permit if your driveway is required for a bin
  • Extension or rebuild of basement stairs
  • Coffee for the workers…. 🙂


For more information about TrueNorth Underpinning and their services, visit their website here at

Are you thinking about underpinning your basement? Can you think of anything else people should know if they’re considering underpinning theirs? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.


  1. Thanks for the idea of how long and how much an underpinning can cost. I like how you mention it is important for the architect or structural engineer to get the proper permits for your project. This way you don’t have the city or county shut you down before you are finished. I’ll be sure to ask about permits if I ever need any underpinning done in the future.

  2. Hi Melissa

    Great article / resource. I’m currently in the process of taking the steps to have my basement underpinned. With regards to the liability insurance that the contractor is required to take out on the project…who’s responsible to pay that premium…me or the contractor ? or is it included in the final price.

    Kindest Regards

  3. Hi Derrick. When I had my home underpinned, the insurance was all taken care of by the contractor, but I suppose each contractor might be different.

  4. It is great that it is your contractor’s duty to take care of the permits required for underpinning your basement foundation. This seems like a large benefit of hiring a professional. I know that building codes and policies are often confusing, especially since I’m not familiar with a lot of the home remodeling jargon that is used. It’s great that someone can take care of that for me so that I don’t make a mistake!

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