What Is a Michigan Basement?

If someone isn’t a homeowner, has always lived in apartment buildings, or has never come across the name “Michigan basement,” they might wonder what in the world it could be. So, we’re here to enlighten those wondering – what is a Michigan basement?

A Michigan basement is a basement created after building the house. It is usually made by expanding the crawl space and digging it out to hold deep storage and is suitable for people to walk in. The walls must support the soil around the original foundation.

Suppose we already have a home with a Michigan basement and want to make some modifications or have questions about flooding. In that case, there are plenty of answers to any questions available in our article, so read on for more.

An image of a Large spacious forsaken empty basement room of an ancient building or palace with cracked plastered brick walls, small windows, a dirty floor, and a wooden staircase ladder.

Here’s What a Michigan Basement Is

A Michigan basement is a crawl space converted into a more functional basement. This is achieved by digging deeper under the building but maintaining the soil supporting the foundation. A wall made from rocks or bricks is installed to avoid the soil caving in on the space.

There’s some vital information to be aware of when purchasing a house with a Michigan basement. Knowing what problems can regularly occur with these basements is critical, along with understanding the potential for updating or renovating the space.

Some structural differences make a Michigan basement unique. For example, the crawl space underneath a building is designed to give easy access to pipes, wiring, and foundations for inspection and maintenance.

We can also utilize the crawl space for storage, but there’s little room as it’s only designed for crawling.

Michigan basements were created when the U.S. economy boomed in the 1920s. People had more goods they wanted to store and needed a space to keep them. It was easy to create these spaces using the D.I.Y. method, and they can be found in many homes.

What Is a Full Michigan Basement?

A full Michigan basement is the same size as the house above; this means it will have the same dimensions in height and width. While a full Michigan basement will match the size of the space above, it may be unfinished or finished.

The basement may not have all the features needed to call it finished, but it will be easily accessible. It will have enough structure to store items, and people can easily move around.

A full Michigan basement will, in most cases, have some form of a side wall, meaning we can cover the wall in concrete or boarding rather than exposed dirt or stone.

Can a Michigan Basement Be Finished?

Michigan basements can be finished but are typically expensive, though they add value to the home. Finishing a Michigan basement requires adding or renovating electrical wiring, heating, water, walls, and stair access with the exact details of any other room in the house.

Before finishing a Michigan basement, we must address any common issues that can arise, such as moisture, mold, or flooding. After this, we can go ahead with modernizing to match up with the rest of the home.

While finishing a Michigan basement won’t increase the official square footage of the building, it will provide us with another comfortable living space. It can also noticeably increase the sale value of a home as a unique feature.

An image of a basement room in an apartment.

How much does it cost to finish a Michigan basement?

The cost of finishing a Michigan basement will depend on what state it is in to start and who does it. Hiring a professional to finish the basement can cost between $20,000 to over $45,000. If someone has construction experience, they can reduce the overall cost by taking it on as a D.I.Y. project.

While there are costs to finishing a basement if we need more space within the home, it’s usually cheaper than an addition. It’s a clever idea to inspect the basement and foundation before investing in a finishing project. After all, you don’t want to start a Michigan basement project if it will undermine the house’s existing foundation and stability.

If there are structural issues, we may have to spend a lot of money reinforcing the space before we can start upgrading it to a finished level.

Calculating the cost of a finished basement can be tricky; it’s essential to consider if the basement requires renovation or just a superficial face-lift and additional plumbing.

If we remodel the entire space, this can add to the cost. Also, if there are repairs required to protect the basement, this can quickly increase the price.

However, taking on some of the labor yourself will help reduce that price. Our final home DIY projects have been anywhere from 15% to 50% of the cost quoted by a contractor, depending on the project.

Why Do Michigan Basements Flood?

Michigan basements tend to flood because they usually have basic structural features and lack proper waterproofing. Many Michigan basements were D.I.Y. projects created in the early 20th century, so they often lacked the technology required to avoid flooding.

Since people dug out Michigan basements after the building was complete, they didn’t add other foundations. Commonly the supporting walls are made from stone or dirt. This means that water can often seep through the walls from the surrounding ground and flood the basement.

Another contributor to flooding in a Michigan basement is a lack of waterproofing, especially in very old buildings.

If a basement isn’t frequently used or is used to store belongings with little value, people may be hesitant to invest in new waterproofing or sump pumps that can prevent flooding.

If you use your Michigan basement regularly, or you use it to store important items, invest in waterproofing and a sump pump of some sort.

Can you prevent Michigan basements from flooding?

In most cases, waterproofing and a sump pump can help prevent a Michigan basement from flooding. These pumps collect water from the ground around the house, which can cause flooding. In the case of big storms or long periods of flooding, the pump alone might not be enough to protect the basement.

A sump pump collects water from the ground; once a large amount of water is collected, the pump will activate and push the water up and away from the home. This system is excellent for rainfall in general to prevent flooding.

In extreme weather conditions, the sump pump may not be able to handle the volume of rainwater. In this case, it won’t be enough to prevent flooding in a basement.

Important note: if you don’t use your sump pump regularly, know that it can go bad. Always check them before your local rainy or wetter season.

An image of a Basement renovation process. Dark dirty room with pipes.

Can You Waterproof a Michigan Basement?

It is possible to waterproof a Michigan basement to reduce the risk of flooding. There are interior and exterior waterproofing options available, as well as total replacements of the foundation.

When considering interior waterproofing, this refers to the use of a sump pump. Internal waterproofing can divert water to the pump to collect and be redirected away from the home.

Exterior waterproofing involves removing the ground surrounding the basement. The exterior walls can be treated to improve waterproofing and repair any cracks in the walls or floor. If the basement is basic, replacing the existing walls with more suitable materials might be better.

In cases where we are concerned about the stability of our basements, it’s a good idea to invest in a complete foundation replacement. This is an expensive option, but once finished, not only will the basement be waterproof, but there is no structural risk to the home.

How much does it cost to waterproof a Michigan basement?

When waterproofing a Michigan basement, the cost can be anywhere between $2,000 to $10,000. There are several factors to consider when budgeting the cost of waterproofing.

Factors such as the basement’s size or the cause of the issues can define how much we will need to pay. It’s also worth considering whether we can fix the problem ourselves or if we need to hire professionals.

While there are very affordable products such as sealant and waterproof paint, this won’t fix the issue if there are broken drains or a sump pump is required.

Most waterproofing companies are happy to inspect a basement and provide us with a quote before committing to the work. They will even discuss payment options if we cannot pay a large sum immediately.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

A Michigan basement was an innovative solution to storage problems in the 1920s. It’s a typical style of a basement that we may have come across before, even though we might not have known the name.

This space can be converted into a finished basement, increasing the living room within the home and adding value to the property.

While an innovative idea given the D.I.Y. nature of many Michigan basements, they can be susceptible to flooding. Many solutions, from sump pumps to a complete renovation, will help prevent flooding.

Whether modernizing an underground space or looking for flooding solutions, there’s plenty to explore when it comes to Michigan basements.


  • HomeGuide Editors. (2020, July 25). How Much Does It Cost To Finish A Basement? HomeGuide. https://homeguide.com/costs/cost-to-finish-a-basement.
  • Toledo, E. (2019, September 27). Protect a Michigan Basement from Water | EverDry Toledo| O.H. & MI. EverDry Toledo | Basement Waterproofing Blog | Latest News and Tips for Basements. https://www.everdrytoledo.com/blog/michigan-basement/.
  • Tomie Raines Housing News. (2019, November 29). What is the Value of a Finished Basement in Michigan? | Talking Real Estate. Talking Real Estate. http://www.tomieraines-housingnews.com/what-is-the-value-of-a-finished-basement-in-michigan/.
  • What’s a Michigan Basement? (2022, April 27). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfpKYWGoiu8

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