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Transforming Your Basement with Bench Footing

Turning an unfinished basement into a functional living space can greatly increase the usable square footage of your home. However, traditional basement finishing methods often need to pay more attention to a critical first step – installing proper structural support. This is where bench footing comes in.

Bench footing refers to a continuous concrete footing installed around the perimeter of a basement. It provides a sturdy foundation for framing basement walls and finishing the space. Bench footing helps prevent cracking and settling issues that damage drywall, tile, and flooring over time. This also allows for larger windows, doors, and even egress windows in the basement, as required by code.

Bench footing creates a robust structural base for a long-lasting basement transformation. It provides peace of mind that the finished space will stand the test of time. Investing in bench footing upfront saves on expensive repairs down the road. This guide covers everything you need about utilizing bench footing to create your dream basement.

What is Bench Footing?

Bench footing is a foundation used to support walls in a basement when converting the space into a living area. It involves installing a continuous concrete footing or foundation to support the basement walls and reinforce the structure.

Unlike a full basement foundation, bench footings do not support the full weight of the house. They simply provide a solid base along the perimeter basement walls to hold up any framing, drywall, cabinets, etc, that will be added when finishing the space. This helps transfer the weight into the ground and prevent settling cracks.

Bench footings are typically 12-24 inches wide and at least 8 inches deep. They run the length of the exterior basement walls, about 6-12 inches away from the walls. The rebar is embedded for reinforcement. The top of the footing should be just below where the bottom sill plate of the wall framing will sit. The finished bench footing basement provides a sturdy foundation, ensuring stability and durability for the entire structure. The gap between the footing and the wall is filled with compact gravel for drainage.

Benefits of Using Bench Footing

Bench footing provides a stable foundation for finishing a basement. By excavating and pouring concrete footings along the basement’s perimeter walls, you create a solid base to build upon. This allows you to convert unused basement space into valuable living area.

Unlike a concrete slab floor, bench footing maintains the basement’s drainage system. The gravel bed under the slab allows water to drain to the perimeter footing drains. Bench footing avoids moisture problems associated with covering the entire floor.

Creating a bench footing is also a cost-effective way to gain added living space. The materials are relatively inexpensive compared to remodeling an entire floor. Doing the excavation and concrete work yourself can offer huge savings over hiring a contractor. The usable square footage gained adds value to your home for much less than building an addition.

Bench footing delivers a sturdy and dry foundation to transform wasted basement space into a functional living area. The return on investment makes bench footing an affordable way to add valuable square footage to your home. You can create the additional living space your family needs with proper planning and preparation.

Considerations for Bench Footing

When planning to install bench footing in your basement, there are some key considerations to keep in mind:

Load Requirements

  • Determine how much weight the bench footing will need to support. This includes the weight of walls, beams, and anything else placed on top of the footing. A structural engineer can help calculate exact load requirements.
  • Overestimate load requirements to provide a safety factor. Footings should be over-designed rather than under-designed.
  • Design the footing width and depth accordingly to handle expected loads. Wider and deeper footings can support more weight.

Soil Conditions

  • Test the soil to determine its load-bearing capacity. Clay soils generally offer more support than sandy or silty soils.
  • If the soil is weak, the footing may need to be wider or deeper for adequate support. Or reinforcement like rebar may be added.
  • Drainage is important. Wet soils lose strength. Ensure water drains away from the footing area.


  • Most jurisdictions require permits for structural work like adding footings. Research permit requirements in your local area.
  • An engineer’s approved plans are usually needed to obtain a permit. They verify code compliance.
  • Permits help ensure work is done safely and correctly. Take advantage of this important step.

The Bench Footing Process

When getting ready to install bench footing in your basement, there are several key steps to take:

Evaluating the Site

First, thoroughly evaluate the basement space to determine the best placement for the footings. Consider where you want to locate walls, posts, and beams. Measure the basement dimensions and sketch out potential layouts. Identify potential issues like overhead pipes, wires, ducts, or low ceiling heights that could impact the design. Locate existing footings or foundations that could connect with new footings. Throughout this process, it’s important to maintain clear pathways for construction materials; for instance, consider arranging dumpster rental Toronto to efficiently manage waste removal without disrupting the workspace.

Designing the Footing

Once you’ve evaluated the space, it’s time to design the footings. The size and depth of the foundation depend on several factors, such as the weight load it must support, soil type, and local building codes. Consult an experienced contractor or engineer to determine the correct specifications. They can analyze the load requirements and soil conditions to design appropriately sized footings.


With the design complete, it’s time to excavate the footing holes. This involves digging down to the specified depth and width per the plans. Safety is paramount when excavating, so be sure to shore the sides of the holes to prevent collapse. Excavated soil should be moved away from the holes and disposed of properly.


Now the footings can be installed. First, pour a 4-6 inch gravel base at the bottom of the holes for drainage. Then, build forms along the sides. Make sure the forms are level, square, and properly supported. Next, run any necessary reinforcing steel like rebar. Finally, pour the concrete into the forms. Allow the concrete to fully cure as per manufacturer specifications before building on top of the footings.


It’s critical to have the finished footings inspected before moving on. An experienced engineer should check that the footings were installed properly and adhered to the approved plans. They will verify depth, concrete strength, reinforcement, and structural integrity. Only proceed with framing once the footings pass inspection.

These key steps will ensure your new basement bench footings are structurally sound and ready to support walls, posts, and beams. Take the time to thoroughly evaluate, design, excavate, install, and inspect the footings, and your finished basement transformation will get off on the right foot.