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What Is a Basement Foundation?

3-D image of home with a basement

Does your home have a basement, crawl space, or slab foundation? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18% of the 999,000 single-family homes built in 2023 had basements, while the remaining 72% were constructed with a slab foundation or other foundation type.

Whether your home currently has a basement or you’re considering purchasing a home with one, it’s essential to understand the benefits and challenges associated with this foundation type.

This guide outlines what you need to know about basements and ways to repair and protect this valuable home space. 

What Is a Basement? 

crew member in basement

A basement is an underground level of a home or building. These areas are constructed using concrete, creating a durable and enclosed space.

Finished basements are used as additional living areas, home gyms, or recreational spaces, while unfinished basements store utilities and other items.

Basement Types

There are several basement types, each containing unique characteristics. Here are six of the most common types:

Full Basements

Full basements are the most extensive basement foundation type, extending below the main floor with standard ceiling height and underground walls. They offer maximum square footage for various uses.

Partial Basements

Partial basements are partially underground, with a lower ceiling height and limited window space because most of the wall area is below grade.


Sub-basements are built below daylight or full basements. They do not have doors or windows with exterior access. Instead, they connect to the rest of the house by way of a staircase. Sub-basements are used primarily for storage. 

Daylight Basements

Daylight basements are built partially above ground, with full-sized windows on the exposed wall sections. These windows allow for ample daylight and create a more usable space.


A cellar is a small, fully underground space designed for temperature and humidity control. It is primarily used for food or wine storage but can also serve as a separate structure. Homeowners can also convert cellars into finished living spaces.

Walkout Basements

Walkout basements have a door on the basement level leading to the home’s exterior. These types can be full or partial basements and have the addition of full-size egress windows. 

Which Parts of the Country Have Basements? 

JES crew member installing basement waterproofing

Basements are common in colder regions of the U.S., where foundations must be built below the frost line to prevent freeze-thaw damage. The northern, western, and central states contain the primary geographical concentration of basements. However, basements are not uncommon in other parts of the U.S.

3 Basement Construction Material Types 

The three primary basement building materials include:

1. Block or Masonry Wall Basements 

These basements are built with masonry block units. The walls contain joints where the blocks connect, making them susceptible to water seepage. Builders should reinforce and waterproof the walls upon construction to prevent water entry. 

2. Precast Concrete Panel Basements 

Residents seeking faster construction times and a cost-effective solution prefer precast concrete basements. Precast panel walls are fabricated off-site and then installed by lifting them into place with a crane. The high-strength, low-water concrete mix provides long-term water resistance.

3. Poured Concrete Basements 

Poured concrete is the most common and widely used basement construction method. First, the concrete footing is poured as the foundation wall base. The concrete walls are formed and poured directly on-site, creating a solid and watertight structure. They offer robust and water-resistant versatility.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Having a Basement?

Basements have advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few basement foundation pros and cons:

clean, finished basement as living space

Basement Pros:

  • Additional Space: Basements maximize property square footage and provide valuable space.
  • Easily Convertible: Effortlessly converts into added living space, recreation room, man cave, and more.
  • Increases Home Value: A basement makes your home more attractive to buyers.
  • Offers Seasonal Comfort: Basements stay cooler in the hot summer months. 
  • Provides Protection: Basements offer protection during tornadoes and hurricanes, but sheltering should follow local authority advice. Homes at risk of flooding may not be suitable for hurricane sheltering.
damp moldy basement

Basement Cons:

  • Additional Construction Costs: Basements require deeper foundations, more materials, and additional labor compared to slab foundations or crawlspaces, resulting in significantly higher costs.
  • Moisture and Humidity: Basements are moisture-prone due to their underground location, which can lead to mold and mildew growth, musty odors, and damage if not properly addressed.
  • Flooding Risk: Basements are more susceptible to flooding due to their below-ground location, but proper waterproofing and sump pumps can prevent this risk.
  • Pest Infestations: High moisture and limited sunlight make basements attractive to pests, but sealing entry points, controlling moisture, and proper storage help reduce this risk.
  • Limited Accessibility: Basement stairs can be challenging for people with mobility limitations or small children, making the space more difficult to use as a living area.

What is Basement Waterproofing? 

JES crew installing basement waterproofing

Basement waterproofing systems control moisture and create a dry, habitable space. Waterproofing includes sealing walls and floors with a vapor barrier, installing interior drainage systems, and implementing dehumidifiers and sump pump systems. Proper ventilation is also essential to help control basement moisture. These steps ensure the area remains dry and moisture-free.

Basement waterproofing prevents leaks, dampness, wood rot, and mold growth, ensuring a durable and functional area.

Need Basement Waterproofing for Your Home?

JES crew and two JES work trucks

Basements offer valuable additional space and can enhance a home’s value. However, they come with unique challenges, making basement waterproofing essential to maintaining a dry, habitable space.

For homeowners in Virginia, DC, Maryland, West Virginia, or North Carolina, JES Foundation Repair provides essential support to ensure your basement remains a safe and functional part of your home.

Contact us for a free inspection and to learn more.

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    Basement FAQs

    It is generally recommended to have your foundation inspected at least once every few years, especially if you notice any signs of foundation problems such as cracks in the walls, uneven floors, or doors and windows that stick. Regular inspections can help identify any potential issues early on and prevent them from escalating into more significant problems. Additionally, if you live in an area with unstable soil or experience extreme weather conditions, more frequent inspections may be necessary. 

    It’s recommended to regularly check your basement, especially after heavy rainfalls or during seasons with increased precipitation. Monthly checks can help you spot early signs of water intrusion, allowing for timely intervention. 

    Yes, the way your landscape is designed can impact your basement’s moisture levels. Improper grading or drainage can lead to water pooling around your foundation, increasing the risk of water seeping into your basement. Ensuring that your yard slopes away from your foundation and that downspouts direct water well away from your home can help mitigate this risk. If you suspect landscape-related moisture issues, JES Foundation Repair can provide guidance and solutions. 

    Shaye Glisson

    Shaye Glisson

    Shaye is an SEO Content Writer for Groundworks with over twelve years of experience creating helpful content across various industries, including home services and retail. She is a Gulf Coast native and writes from her firsthand knowledge of the area's hurricane and flood impacts on the local community. In her free time, Shaye enjoys exploring the local food and music scenes.

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