PDA

View Full Version : Why are basements uncommon in some areas?



amorey
07-08-2005, 02:36 PM
I was noticing in the housing prices threads that some areas donít seem to have basements. Why is that? Where do you keep all your stuff if you donít have a basement?

Aimee
07-08-2005, 02:39 PM
We don't in n'awlins because we're below sea level. Even the areas that are above sea level are still pretty close to the natural springs under ground. If we go more than a few feet down, we hit water.

We keep our stuff in the attic or the garage.

mrsdrummer
07-08-2005, 02:39 PM
I'm just assuming it's got something to do with sea-level. Obviously in some places they don't bury people underground so they wouldn't be able to have a basement. But I can speak for my area (southeast Missouri), we have them here because it's flat and storms get pretty bad and tornado's are a common occurance. That's my personal take on it.

Hello Kitty
07-08-2005, 02:46 PM
It has to do with the land the house is on, how far down the water table starts, what common natural events happen, etc...

We live in central IL, and actually have no basement - but that's just because our house is old. We keep our extra random stuff in the attic. We also have a garage (keep it empty) and a shed (just for yard stuff), but not having a basement keeps us nice and free of clutter! :D Can't keep/buy stuff if there's nowhere to put it!

dionysia
07-08-2005, 02:48 PM
The house I grew up in was a raised ranch and had no basement, but we did have an attic.

The house I live in now has a cellar and an attic as well.

ETA: I grew up near the coast (~10 miles) and now I live nearish the coast (~25 miles).

Di

greenbunny
07-08-2005, 02:49 PM
Not only where you are in relation to sea level, it's how high your water table is. I think they are usually pretty closely related, but not always. That's why when people have to dig a well they don't always hit water at exactly the same depth.

Also, it can be the history of the ground. For example, in an area slightly south of my town, there are a lot of houses being built in an area that used to have a lot of mining, like coal and zinc. The ground there is often unsteady and may suddenly give way, gap, get sinkholes, etc. Often it's seen as safer to build without a basement in that type of location.

camberne
07-08-2005, 02:50 PM
Yep, we're too close to the ocean... the water table around here is approximately 4 feet down!! Of course, you have to go down about 70 to get decent well water.

However, my grandpa's house on Long Island has a basement and he's no farther from the water than we are!! I wonder how that worked!?!?

amorey
07-08-2005, 02:55 PM
Okay, thanks, that all makes sense. Does Texas have a high water table?

Are attics more common in homes without basements? Around here it's just the rare old home that has one.

And how you do burry people above ground?

greenbunny
07-08-2005, 02:59 PM
And how you do burry people above ground?

In a mausoleum.

http://wheeling.weirton.lib.wv.us/history/landmark/Cemeteries/HannanMausoleum.jpg

It's usually a small building, with the coffin inside on a raised platform. If you've ever seen Romeo & Juliet (the movie), they were in one at the end when they died.

amorey
07-08-2005, 03:01 PM
See, that's what I was envisioning, but doesn't it get pretty crowded with all those buildings? Seems way bigger and more expensive than a grave plot.

sublime311
07-08-2005, 03:05 PM
I recently read an article that basements are more common in the east because builders already have to go so far down to get below the freeze line (??) so going down a little bit further to complete a basement doesn't really add cost. Whereas in the desert you only have to go down 18 inches to lay foundation. Additionally, we have rocky ground that requires more than your typical dig to get that deep - it adds a lot to the cost of building a home. It's cheaper to build up.

I'm not sure if this is a true factor or not, but we don't have the type of weather (read: tornados) that make basements more than practical in some states.

We don't really have attics, either. There are crawl spaces, but I wouldn't put anything up there - it's TOO hot! The garage ends up being the catch all for stuff that doesn't have a place inside the house (like holiday decorations, etc).

I would LOVE to have a basement! It adds soooo much space and creates loads of options.

greenbunny
07-08-2005, 03:08 PM
See, that's what I was envisioning, but doesn't it get pretty crowded with all those buildings? Seems way bigger and more expensive than a grave plot.

Locally, the only people who do that are super rich. In a place like LANO, where it's a necessity, I've only ever seen it in movies, but they do seem to take up a lot of room. I think it's a health issue, though, so they don't have much choice. Without getting overly graphic, decomposing bodies and a shallow water supply do not mix very well.

PookiePrincess
07-08-2005, 03:12 PM
I live in Texas and don't know of anyone in the state with a basement. The water table is too close to the surface and we are really close to the Gulf. There are some areas in Houston that have basements...like downtown under the skyscrapers, but when it rains too much (Tropical Storm Alison) they flood.

Every house around here has an attic...that's where we store things.

villanelle75
07-08-2005, 03:18 PM
I thin kit also has to do with climate. In coler areas, they have to dig down to place the foundation in the ground to help- with insualtion and such, so sicn ethey have to dig anyway, they add the extra few feet for very little cost and add a basement. IN CA, I've never seen a house with a basement because foundations are alwasy gdound level, so diggin a basement would be a huge extra ost if the only reason you were doin gthe diggin was to add the basement.

karlatta
07-08-2005, 03:22 PM
I've always been told the water table in Texas is high, and that's the reason we don't have basements. Right now I live in Houston, and I can't imagine that a basement would be a good idea here. Houston was settled over swampland, so the ground shifts a lot, the water table is high, and the earth is ridiculously hard clay soil.

I've never lived in a house in Texas with anything other than a slab foundation. We rarely see crawlspaces or anything here.

amew
07-08-2005, 03:28 PM
I believe it also has to do with the type of soil -- I think clay soil makes building and maintaining basements more difficult. I have always heard that is why you don't see basements in Oklahoma. We never had basements when I was growing up -- we stored things in the attic. DH and I don't have a basement or much of an attic, so we just use the garage for storage.

I also found this posted on another message board, which seems to go along with what sublime311 said:

"Basements in most areas are added because the foundation has to already go down a good portion of the way to be below the frost line. That they go ahead and go down an extra few feet and have it included in the house. Here in oklahoma the frostline is less than a 1'6" so basments around here are not cost effective untill you get to 4,000 s.f and up houses. But pretty much anwhere from kansas and up basements are the most cost efective way of adding s.f. to a house."

amorey
07-08-2005, 03:29 PM
Ah, I never thought about the climate. Now that I think about it, you never see slab foundations around here. In the rare case that a house doesnít have a basement, it will have a crawl space, which is 3í tall or so.

sublime311, I love my basement! I just put anything I don't feel like looking at down there! :p

hockeybrat
07-08-2005, 03:33 PM
Growing up in San Diego, I always thought it was because we were prone to earthquakes but I did see a some old houses in the Pasadena area a few years later that had basements.

Maybe it is a cost issue?

jeneca128
07-08-2005, 03:41 PM
Las Vegas doesn't normally have basements...and this is because if you dig down a little, many times you hit VERY hard patches or caliche. This can not be dug out by ordinary measures, and is often blasted out with dynamite.

Same problem is encountered many times when digging pools here....it can signifigantly increase the cost.

Aimee
07-08-2005, 03:43 PM
If you don't have a slab foundation, what do you have?

*perplexed*

hockeybrat
07-08-2005, 03:45 PM
Ah, I never thought about the climate. Now that I think about it, you never see slab foundations around here. In the rare case that a house doesnít have a basement, it will have a crawl space, which is 3í tall or so.

sublime311, I love my basement! I just put anything I don't feel like looking at down there! :p


I currently have just a crawl space. Having a basement would have made our house absolutely perfect. But right now, it is pretty damn close ;)

hockeybrat
07-08-2005, 03:48 PM
If you don't have a slab foundation, what do you have?

*perplexed*


I am not really sure of the term to describe the type of foundation that I have but it is basically a thick concrete wall and the house sits on top of that. I can try to find pics.


Picture of Foundations (http://www.vp-photo.com/photos/0505/full/050521_109.jpg)

This picture is a little big but you should be able to see the type of foundation I am talking about.

allison
07-08-2005, 04:00 PM
Where we live in Houston floods very easy. We built a new house in an older neighborhood and since the water table was so high and the flood possibilites we built our house up 4 feet. We have a slab foundation with about 100 pylons put in that help with shifting in the ground (it's mostly clay where we are).

jude29
07-08-2005, 04:24 PM
I live in Texas and we don't have basements here. I'm not sure about West Texas though. I know I've not seen any in Houston, Austin or Dallas.

suzubeane
07-08-2005, 04:52 PM
Ann, here in New England the frost line is at 4'-6" Ė I imagine that yours is somewhere around there. FWIW, things like foundations are also dictated by earthquake building standards in some parts of the country. In some places, it might just feasible to build a basement, but cost prohibitive to build it to local code. In those cases builders may opt for slab on grade construction becuase it's cheaper.

By the way, many newer homes that *appear* to have attics actually do not; The roofs are being built with trusses rather than rafters, and since the trusses have a horizontal member, there is no real usable space up there.

amorey
07-08-2005, 05:00 PM
If you don't have a slab foundation, what do you have?

Our foudation is cinder block. It's also just basically a concrete wall that the house sits on. There's poured cement in the basement, but that's just so you don't have to deal with dirt. Some older homes have dirt basement floors.

suzubeane, so what happens if you were to build a house on a slab foundation somewhere cold? I imagine you'd have super cold floors in the winter, but would it crack when the ground thawed? How do garages get away with slab floors then?

Hello Kitty
07-08-2005, 08:09 PM
Originally Posted by Aimee
If you don't have a slab foundation, what do you have?

We have pier & beam construction (original to the 1900 house), which is so, so weird for our area. It's kind of like your house stands on short stilts in the ground. To make it look nice from the exterior, there's a band all around the bottom (skirting) that's maybe 2 feet wide. Before we closed, we had the sellers replace our main beam, as it was made of two 2x4s! :eek:

We have no insulation under our house, and our floors get wicked cold in the winter - I can't imagine having a slab, as our heating bill is so high already.

http://www.homeinspectioncourse.com/images/preview/13.gif

Ann - you need to pour footings deeper than the frost line in order for your garage to not crack, like this (http://www.bhg.com/bhg/story.jhtml?storyid=/templatedata/bhg/step-by-step/data/hie_262.xml&catref=cat250092). Interesting - our garage floor has lovely cracks running through it - I'm guessing even this method isn't fool proof.

smiles33
07-08-2005, 09:08 PM
Others in CA already posted about how we don't have basements, so I was just going to add that we buy sheds to store all our extra stuff that doesn't fit in the garage. :)

Almost everyone I know with a yard (which means they have a lawnmower and random other stuff) has to get a shed, otherwise all that "stuff" ends up taking over the garage, which means you have to leave cars out on the driveway.

suzubeane
07-08-2005, 09:16 PM
suzubeane, so what happens if you were to build a house on a slab foundation somewhere cold? I imagine you'd have super cold floors in the winter, but would it crack when the ground thawed? How do garages get away with slab floors then?As Seb's Kitty pointed out, "Slab on Grade" is a bit of a misnomer; the slab IS on grade, but the perimeter still uses a footing, or in some cases they just thicken the ends letting the slab sit on something called a "haunch."

I have never worked on a home that was constructed on a slab here in New England (or anywhere) but I have drawn many an attached garage with footings only 18" deep (well above our frost line.) I also worked on many comercial properties that were slabs, including a pad site bank branch that was, for all intents and purposes, just like a wood-frame house on a concrete slab. So I know they do build this way in cold climates. (eta: it's only the garages that had footings that were not below the frost line.)

The concrete slab is reinforced and there is gravel or sand and insulation between it and the ground (as is the case with foundations now, too. Sometimes with foundations, you can see the rigid insulation before they backfill the soil; it looks like big Styrofoam boards, which is basically what it is!) Honestly, I never really thought about the ground thawing and cracking the concrete. I guess I just figured that's why we use the gravel/sand and insulation!

By the way, many people are now putting radiant heat in their concrete floors for comfort. It's a very simple installation if you do it before the pour, but I wouldn't want to have to repair one later!

Also, have you seen any of the polished concrete applications for finished floors? There are a few stores around here that have done it. They score the concrete and put like 10 coats of poly down - looks like tile when they're done. Then of course there are the concrete counter tops ...

I just get way to excited about building materials. ;).

MrsWilson
07-08-2005, 09:21 PM
My parents built the house I grew up in in 1980 and it had a basement. It was the only one in our area. They are not common at all in the south as far as I know. It was nice when the weather was bad and tornadors were in the area, but we had the worst problem with it leaking! It had to do with the water level (Memphis is on an artesian (sp?) lake) It is very, very unusual around here to have one.

In the house my parents just built, they have a traditional foundation (cinder blocks). Our place is on a slab.

suzubeane
07-08-2005, 09:24 PM
Seb's Kitty - I have piers and beams down the center of my American Foursquare, but a foundation wall (brick above grade, stone below) around the outside. We actually have a pretty tall basement.

I'm curious about your skirt board; how does it keep from rotting? It must be somewhat above the ground, right? A deep skirt must look really striking!

tgray99
07-08-2005, 11:07 PM
Okay, thanks, that all makes sense. Does Texas have a high water table?

Are attics more common in homes without basements? Around here it's just the rare old home that has one.

And how you do burry people above ground?

The Gulf Coast of Texas has a very high water table. It is extremely rare for a house on the coast to have a basement. In North/West Texas (ie, the Panhandle), the water table is lower and they're prone to tornadic activity so many houses out there have storm cellars (not attached to the house, usually unfinished) but not many basements. Pretty much every house down here has an attic.

southhavenjen
07-09-2005, 07:41 AM
Nearly everyone here in Michigan has basements. I know of a couple houses on a slab (a couple of our neighbors have them! :eek: ), but that's a big negative as far as resale value. Some people have crawlspaces - that's more common around lakes where the water table is higher.

You have to dig down 4 feet 8 inches to get below the frost line, so it's not much further to go to just dig a basement!

ManteoChik
07-09-2005, 07:51 AM
I'm from NC (the Outer Banks) and we don't have basements because we are right on the ocean. Some people do have attics but mostly things go in the garage. A lot of the homes are built up on stilts anyway to keep away from the water during a storm surge. However, a lot of my family lives inland in the Greensboro area and most all of them have basements. It's all about where you live.

chefker
07-09-2005, 08:30 AM
I think in New England basements are pretty common (at least inland), because it gets so darn cold here...back before refrigeration, this is where everyone would store their winter root vegetables, leave onions and garlic to cure, etc.

Interestingly, we have a very high water table where I live--our well is only 8' deep!--but we still have a basement. Which needs patching all the time when water finds its way in! :)

Our house USED to have a stone foundation/dirt floor. Many owners ago, they actually moved our house back several hundred feet (moving it to the top of a hill on our property), and set it on a new, poured concrete foundation. One of the previous owners of this place was a cement contractor, so he did the job himself. There are bits and pieces of the 'old' foundation & hearth in my front yard, which is sort of neat. There's also a massive stone wall in my backyard, which we are told was the foundation for a barn that used to be here.

kam
07-09-2005, 01:45 PM
From New England (CT, lived in MA) and most houses had basements in my area (even those on the shoreline which my house growing up was but the house was on top of a steep hill). My house in MA was built in the 1800s and had a basement but it was more along the stone/dirt variety.

A lot of the homes in NC are newer and building a basement is very expensive. I also think the red clay combined with water would cause a mudslide-type situation in our area.

suzubeane
07-09-2005, 05:21 PM
A lot of the homes in NC are newer and building a basement is very expensive. I would think it would depend on the part of NC - I know folks in Raleigh, and their house is as old as mine in New England (about 75 or 80.) The whole neighborhood is that age.

chefker, I love the story of your house being moved!

larslobster
07-09-2005, 10:51 PM
We have what is called a 'California basement' - a 10x10 basement under part of the house and a crawlspace under the rest of the house. I think this was the standard in home building when our 1922 house was built because most of the homes we looked at had the same setup. Although they could do the same or full basements here today, they do mainly slab because they are less expensive. Although, every plumber and electrician we've had come in to do work LOVES that we have a crawlspace.

We don't store anything down there because of the dirt factor. We don't store stuff in the attic either because it's hard to access (small opening in closet) and because it gets really hot up there in the summer. So we store things in the garage because our driveway is so narrow, I don't like driving back there anyway (apparently, Model Ts weren't as wide as VWs). : )

kam
07-10-2005, 05:18 AM
I would think it would depend on the part of NC - I know folks in Raleigh, and their house is as old as mine in New England (about 75 or 80.) The whole neighborhood is that age.

I understand there is older construction. My point was that with all the new construction going on (and there is always new construction going on in the RTP area), cost may have to do with why a lot of people don't opt to include it.

mamahammer
07-10-2005, 07:47 AM
My husband is a homebuilder here in the Dallas area - he says the two biggest factors concerning basements are the water table and soil composition. The soil here in Texas is not conducive to building downwards for the most part, and in many area of Texas, the water table is simply too high. Building a basement in an area with bad soil/high water table is not only asking for trouble on the homeowner's part, it's a warranty nightmare for the homebuilder.

DesertDweler
07-11-2005, 01:38 PM
I live in Arizona and I think there are maybe 2 houses with basements in my city (I might be exaggerating there, but still:)). I hear people say that it's because of the super hard soil (caliche soil), but I don't believe that cause everyone and thier brother has a pool here! It must be because of the non-necessity of getting below the frost line combined with the fact it's a whole lot cheaper not to dig a basement.

We have a shed to store all our stuff in. Older houses here don't have garages, but carports, which I prefer because they aren't as hot. Our laundry room also has lots of shelves to store things.

boilermaker
07-11-2005, 02:02 PM
Having recently lived in West Texas, there are a few reasons they don't generally have basements there. Most housing construction knowledge came from the coastal areas of Texas (Houston) where basements are not common. The soil is very rocky and not condusive to digging. They don't need to worry about the frost line.

In response to desertdweller, everyone in W Texas has pools also but it cost a lot of money to dig them. The housing markets wouldn't take to kindly to the increased cost of digging a basement. It definitely can be done...it's just nto worth it to most people.

Annette
07-11-2005, 06:43 PM
In Austin, you can get a basement but it will cost you. Here, the ground is limestone and granite. Pools cost twice as much too. On the east side of town, the soil is shifty.

amorey
07-11-2005, 10:03 PM
It never dawned on me that basements would actually be more expensive than above ground square footage! Around here, itís the cheapest way to go.

nuhmah
07-12-2005, 09:39 AM
Here in Oregon, the basement is taxable living space (finished or not), so people don't want them. The ground doesn't freeze here in Portland, so there really is no need to put in a basement. Most newer houses (built after 1980) have a third card garage on them, and attics are pretty common.

I grew up in NE where basements were common because of reasons stated before - food storage, root cellars, and whatnot. My hometown was right along the underground railroad (and was actually a pretty big spot for it), and they are still finding things/remains in people's basements.

irish74
07-12-2005, 01:27 PM
There is an occasional basement in a house here, but they are very, very rare. Either it is extremely cost prohibitive if you are living on bedrock or if you are on fill then it would be a bad seismic risk. So we pile up stuff in our garages & park the cars on the street. Yard stuff, everyone just gets a shed to put that stuff in. We are close to sea level downtown and I think it comes into play there, but for the most part I think in residential it is cost & risk in an earthquake.

JRPAGV
07-12-2005, 01:35 PM
Most homes in the town I grew up in (South Georgia) do not have basements... I think mostly because the land is so flat. They have attics instead. A lot of houses in the Atlanta area do have basements, though, because the land/lots are more hilly.