We have a fun project just getting underway in SE Portland: Raising an 1910 house off of the old foundation to create a new basement tall enough for a living space.
It is fascinating to watch the house raising process, especially when it comes to something as delicate as a brick chimney. I was skeptical that the chimney could be jacked up and still remain intact – but so far, so good. A pair of steel beams have been set on cribbing, and then extend out to carry the weight of the chimney.
In these photos, the house has been lifted up about three feet from the previous elevation. The condition at the side door illustrates this nicely:
Once the basement wallls are replaced, the house will be lowered back down to a final height of two feet above the original location. This will create enough room for a finished basement with a ceiling height of 8'-2", whereas the old basement had only 6'-2" of head room. A new driveway will also be cut in, creating access to a one-car garage underneath the house (currently the property has no parking available on site).
From a design perspective, the big challenge is to make the house look like it was meant to sit at that height all along. It can be tempting to max out the basement ceiling heights, but care needs to be taken to ensure that there will still be a managable and attractive approach to the front entry. I've seen several projects like this turn out poorly because someone wanted ten foot ceilings in the basement, and no one considered the impact on the front stairs until it was too late. I think we've found a happy medium here, and I'm looking forward to seeing it come together.