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Lifting And Building A Basement Under A 1920s Villa In Devonport Auckland

Devonport, Auckland | Build Firm

Creating Additional Living Space and Interior Renovations Project

Retirement marks a period in your life where you foresee a future spending more time with family and working on personal projects. You need a space which is comfortable and functional like your private work area and a place for your family and guests.

We did all of this and more for our clients Rob and Sarah. We did a new basement conversion with fortified foundations and piling that provided Rob with a practical place to work on his woodworking projects. We also renovated their interior, extended their living space, and added in a two-story deck that enabled them to accommodate guests staying over while having their own space and privacy.


Our client required a workroom for his woodworking projects. He also wanted an area that enabled his family to have their own space when they came to visit. That included an additional living area that could be used to hang out and listen to records and a bathroom and laundry room.

The villa was a 1920s construction, and the on-site access area was limited. The client opted for re-piling the foundation to get a solid base and new basement construction. It would give him a stable structure with a basement addition and more living space. It also fitted his future retirement needs.

The only way to add in the new basement was to disconnect the house from its existing timber foundation. The house would then be lifted 2m in the air which would allow the earthworks to be carried out.

During Lift
Lifting a House

How did we tackle the project?

Seamless integration of the old and the new to deliver a flawlessly finished building.

The house frame was old and required strengthening before we lifted it off the ground. We added new joists and connections to ensure that nothing would break while the house was upon the lifting rigs for two months.

We also had to dismantle an old brick chimney before the lift. The chimney had to be disassembled brick by brick from top to bottom. We tossed each brick inside the chimney from where it was lifted by our workers and loaded outside. All the furniture, heavy items were removed. The rest of the things were put outdoors near the supports. Installing the rifting rigs involved careful planning and prepping. Our workers had to build temporary concrete caged piles to support the lifting rigs. The lower end of the villa required smaller site piles with bottle jack setups.

We hired Auckland House Lifting, who did an excellent job of lifting the house for us. Once the villa was 2m in the air, we manually pushed the old foundation back. We then started on the earthworks with bobcats and a 1.5m excavator.

Each pile had to be drilled and concreted in stages as they had to be checked by the council and the engineers. That required extensive planning and coordination as the temporary propping had to be moved before each step.

Our crew completed all the foundations and the slab work, and we had pumpys finish layering the concrete for us. The frames, though pre-made, still required a lot of adjusting to fit the house, which was neither 100% square nor parallel. The structural steel had to be cut and installed into the existing floor framing to support the new open living areas. It required quite a bit of propping on our part to complete each step. Everything had to be worked into the structure from the existing framework underneath. It takes a lot of technical expertise to build from the ground below and align the new walls with the old. That caused many engineering problems with details that came up during the work and conflicting bracing systems for the additions.

Once we had lower infrastructure completed with the walls in alignment, we lowered the house back into its original position onto the new framing, structural steel, and piling.

After that, we moved on to the construction of the large 2nd story deck. It was built on large posts, maximising the gorgeous view of the nearby park.

Lastly, the interior renovation work was completed with lighting configuration, repainting, and floor sanding. Our building crew also organised and cleaned up the overhead power mains during the process.


The challenges of construction- From old to new

Our main challenge was disconnecting the water, gas, power, drainage, and all the existing services to be reconnected easily after the construction.

Another issue were the continuous changes to the current construction plan. We would often have to stop and re-measure the existing structure above us to get the alignment right.

The accomplishments we are most proud of from the Davenport villa project

Our biggest accomplishment was successfully lifting a house 2m in the air for 2 months! YES! And of course building a new basement while adding on to the foundations and piling.

We are proud of the tenacity and the technical expertise our team displayed in handling such a difficult job. The way we rose against the changing elements in the plan and synchronised our efforts to match the adjustments.

We would also like to acknowledge Sarah and Rob for allowing us to do such a specialised construction project and finish it according to their requirements.

In eight months of gruelling work, we were able to work as a cohesive unit and minimise delays by identifying issues beforehand. Our hard work was rewarded when we saw the happiness on our clients’ faces. We at Build Firm take pride in delivering superior quality work that exceeds customer expectations.

Case Study Video
Case Study Video