With prices and costs of homes in Israel rising, a lot of Israel homeowners find it more cost effective to extend their property rather than move. Some people choose to build upward into attic space in order to gain an additional bedroom or two. Others close off a porch, open up “challal” space or extend the main floor.
A common trend nowadays in Israel is to build a basement beneath a house. The addition of a basement to an existing property, can provide the owner with a large amount of additional living area and can also add significantly to the value of the property. However, basement excavations and conversions, carry many regulations and permissions with them. They are each unique and very much depend upon the condition and structural ability of the existing property.
There are a few important considerations and steps to be taken before initiating the addition of a basement to an existing structure:
1. Rights and permits:
Check with the Town Engineer in the local municipality what building rights, permits and conditions exist, if at all, to add an additional structure to the particular property.
2. Select contractors:
You will need to hire a range of different professionals and experts at various stages of the project. Before choosing any contractors or professionals, do market research, put up a tender, and ask for recommendations in order to increase the chances of satisfaction.
Make sure that the size of the basement is designed and built in such a way that it will justify the cost. Cost-estimate should be done in advance together with the architect and engineer, and all the other consultants involved in the project. Take into consideration all the fees that must be paid to the local authority (Building permission), as well as the cost of “improvement tax” (Hetel Hashbacha), a payment to the land authorities (Minhal Mekarkaey Israel), and additional fees due to all the consultants – architect, surveyor, structural engineers, soil engineer, specific lab test by the Israeli Standards Inst. etc. Additional costs of all the finishes must also be taken into consideration such as floor and walls tiles, plaster, paint, windows, plumbing, electricity, etc.
4. Architect’s plans:
According to the instructions from the local authority’s building department and the rights that are applied to the particular property, an architect should submit to the local authorities a suggested plan together with the structural engineer’s calculation of the proposed additional basement structure, while taking into consideration the existing structure.
5. Analysis of soil:
It is important to hire a soil engineer (Mehandes Beesus/Karka) who will take sample/s and analyze the soil underneath the existing house in order to determine what kind of foundations the new structure should have.
6. Structural support and connection:
Due to the fact that basements are built while there is already an existing structure above them, special care should be taken with structural support, and precautions must be taken in order not to cause any structural damage to the existing foundations in the process of the excavation. One also has to take into consideration the kind of the existing house structure, in order to connect the new structure of the basement to the existing structure, in the appropriate structural way.
7. Excavation effects:
It is also very important to take into consideration the influence of the excavation on the existing house and neighboring properties.
It is recommended that the basement will be naturally ventilated in order to avoid condensation and mould or dampness. In order to achieve natural ventilation (e.g. windows), it is recommended to design the basement in such a way that it’s ceiling will be a level higher than the level of the ground outside. This may be achieved by lowering the existing ground level.
Special care should be taken for waterproofing and insulation, because the external part of the walls is underground, and increases the risk of water penetrating the property.
The design must also ensure that the floor slab of the basement will be done with damproof membrane.
11. Relocation of existing plumbing and electricity:
It must be checked whether pipes and sewage, electrical wiring and plumbing are located under the existing structure, in which case, these may need to be relocated.
12. Radon testing:
Check for Radon gas, which is a naturally occurring radioactive gas common in some parts of Israel, and must be taken into consideration when building a basement. A simple test will measure the level of radon. If radon gas exists, it can be collected by buried drain lines and vented to the outside, much like excess water.
It is important to note that in some homes in Israel, there may be
already be an open space which was excavated in advance underneath the
structure during the time that it was originally built, with a future
view to have an option to extend the house, and use that space as a
basement. However, for legal reasons, the access to that open space
underneath the house was blocked by brick walls or similar partitions.
In order to find out whether or not a pre-prepared space exists
underneath the house, the original plans of the property should be
checked. Alternatively, one can try and demolish some of the partition
in order to examine beyond. However it must be emphasized that no
demolition should be undertaken without the consultation and supervision
of a structural engineer, as some of those partitions could be
structural load bearing walls.
In the case where there is an open space that has been already excavated
and can be used as a basement, then obviously the cost will drop
dramatically, and will consist only of the finishes such as floors and
tiles, plaster, paint, electricity, plumbing etc., without the added
cost of the structural aspects.
Each of these steps, considerations and decisions are extremely
important and no stage should be disregarded. Due to the complexities
and potential issues that can arise in building a basement in an
existing home in Israel, it is highly recommended to hire a professional
and experienced project manager from the outset who will supervise the
planning and construction and oversee the various stages of development
of your new basement.
The contents of this article are
designed to provide the reader with general information and not to serve
as legal or other professional advice for a particular transaction.
Readers are advised to obtain advice from qualified professionals prior
to entering into any transaction.
The writer is a qualified architect,
specializing in engineering surveys and property inspections for
building defects and faults. With more than 20 years of experience in
Israel, he is nationally recognized in his field, and appointed by the
Israeli Courts, as a leading expert in the area of construction
problems. Avi has offices in Tel Aviv and Modiin and can be reached at
052-8501535 or by email at email@example.com.
This article was provided by Buyitinisrael.com the official guide to Israel real estate