The Census Bureau estimates that 42 million standalone homes in the U.S. have basements. These underground spaces are popular in the Northeast and Midwest. Some homeowners use them as recreational areas while others as storage space. Let’s look at basement basics, types, design considerations, pros and cons, and ways to protect these areas.
What Is a Basement?
A basement is an underground part of a room or a room with a floor that’s partially or entirely below the ground level. Initially, basements were designed as a storage space for wine, food, and water. But due to their underground nature, these spaces were mostly dark, damp, and musty, making them the perfect breeding ground for pests, mold, and mildew.
Thanks to basement waterproofing, finished basements have become a part of the American building culture. What was formerly used as storage space for utilities now serves as a fully furnished space for living and recreation.
Types of Basements
The cellar extends below a small portion of a house to create cold storage for produce, wine, water, and preserved foods. Cellars also have plenty of standing room, allowing homeowners to bring in food and other items with ease. Due to their height, cellars can easily be converted into basement living space. Homeowners can even choose to extend the space across the rest of the home.
Half of its room is under the ground whereas the rest is above the ground. The space above often features windows that can open and close to let in fresh air and light up the space. This type of basement stretches across the building, effectively doubling the living space when finished.
This type of basement typically has a door to the outside on the lower level, with stairs leading up to the exit. It can either sit on ground level or partially underground. This type of basement usually has full-size windows that can open and close freely.
This is a basement floor that is usually found below a daylight or walkout basement. Subbasements sit completely underground and do not have doors or windows to the outside. They connect to the rest of the house by way of a staircase. Subbasements are typically used for storage.
Which Parts of the Country Have Basements?
Basements are common in the colder areas of the U.S. where the foundation needs to be built below the frost line. With that in mind, most homes in the western part of the country including the Midwest have basements. The northern, western, and central states are the heartland of basements.
Basement Design Considerations
There are several ways to build a basement. The three main basement design considerations include:
Masonry Wall Basements
The walls of these basements are built using masonry block units. These walls tend to have many joints where the blocks connect, making them susceptible to water seepage. To avoid this issue, contractors need to properly reinforce and waterproof the walls to prevent water from entering your basement.
Precast Panel Basements
This basement is highly preferred by residential builders looking to save on time and money. Precast panel walls are fabricated off site and then lifted into place using a crane. The panels are built using high-strength, low-water concrete mix that makes them more water-resistant over the long haul.
Poured Concrete Wall Basements
This is a common type of basement construction design. Poured concrete begins with the pouring of a footing for the foundation. Concrete is poured and contained with forms until the walls dry. This results in strong basement walls that do not typically cause many problems. Poured concrete wall basements have zero joints and are denser than masonry wall basements. As such, they tend to be more fire and water-resistant. These walls are also more sturdy and able to resist cave-ins which are caused by lateral pressure of the earth, soil, and wind.
Basement Pros and Cons
Like with anything, there are both advantages and disadvantages to homes with basements. That said, the quality of the unit plays a major role in whether it is a good or bad addition to a building.
- Additional space: Basements allow you to maximize the square footage of your property, offering valuable space.
- Easily convertible: The basement lets you create expanded living spaces, including recreation rooms, man caves, bathrooms, and more.
- Increases your home’s value: If you’re looking to sell, a basement makes your home much more attractive to buyers.
- Offers seasonal comfort: Basements provide cooler spaces during the hot summer months.
- Safe rooms: Basements offer a safe haven in dangerous weather like during tornadoes and hurricanes because they are built completely underground.
- Additional construction costs: While basements technically offer you additional square footage, they will generally cost you more. Adding a basement to the plans for your new house requires digging deeper foundations to carve out the space. Thus, it will automatically cost you more in terms of construction material and labor costs.
- Dampness and moisture issues: Basements tend to be humid, providing the best environment for mold and mildew growth.
- Dangers of flooding: Basements are prone to flooding, especially if you do not have sump pumps set in place to drain water out.
- Risk of pest infestations: With high moisture levels and poor access to sunlight, basements provide the best places for pests and creepy crawlies to build their homes.
- Increased humidity: Given that they are underground areas, basements tend to be higher in humidity which supports mold growth.
Waterproofing the Basement
Basements are prone to moisture issues and structural problems, which can undermine their use. You can control moisture and create a dry, habitable space by waterproofing this area. Basement waterproofing will also forestall problems like leaks, dampness, wood rot, and mold growth.
If you want to fix your damp basement or resolve other basement issues, contact JES Foundation Repair. We’ll perform a free basement inspection and provide you with a waterproofing estimate.