Curious about basement foundations? Great! RegionalFoundationRepair is at your service 24/7. In this guide, we cover common questions like:
- What Are The Different Types of Basement Foundations?
- What Are The Benefits and Advantages of Basement Foundations?
- What Are The Common Problems of Basement Foundations?
- What Are The Correct Conditions for a Basement Foundation?
Want a quick pricing quote on basement foundation repair or installation? Tell us about your project in the form, and we’ll get you connected with one of our foundation repair technicians in your city, or continue reading to learn about basement foundations.
What Is A Basement Foundation?
A basement foundation is a home foundation that we construct to leave a whole floor of your home entirely below-grade. Many basements are set 7 to 8 feet below the earth’s surface to provide standing room in the under-home area. Basements can be left unfinished with raw concrete acting as the floor and exterior walls, in which case they’re generally used for storage. Alternatively, basements can be finished with flooring, framing, and sheetrock to add living space to your home.
When we build a basement foundation for a new home, the first step is to complete the extensive land preparation to ensure the soil conditions are ideal. We begin by leveling the soil and removing any organic material from the ground that could pose an issue down the line. We then excavate beyond the final footprint of your home down to 8 feet, or more for taller basements.
Once the ground is prepped, we lay down sand that will improve drainage beneath the slab, build the mold for the slab that will act as the basement floor, include rebar for reinforcement, and pour the slab.
Homeowners have two options for their basement walls: poured concrete and cinder blocks. If we’re moving forward with poured concrete, we build the molds and begin pouring the walls. If a concrete block wall is preferred, we start laying the blocks with mortar acting as the joints.
At Regional Foundation Repair, we go to great lengths to ensure that the basement foundations we build are as protected from moisture and water as they possibly can be. At this point in the construction process, we add footing drains or French drains, interior drainage systems like sump pumps, and vapor barriers. We use other waterproofing methods as needed to help maintain a dry basement going forward.
After the foundation walls are constructed and waterproofed, framing can begin above.
There are a few benefits to building basements that we don’t see with other types of foundations. The first is that this foundation type is suitable for sloped lots. Concrete slab foundations require perfectly level ground, and pier and beam foundations and crawlspace foundations can be used on slight slopes; basements, however, can be built into a heavily sloping lot. The result is a walk-out basement, which many homeowners prefer to fully underground options.
Another benefit to choosing a basement is that they’re suitable for most climates. Cold climates require deeper house foundations so that utility lines can be run below the frost line, which is required by building code. The frost line determines how much soil beneath the earth’s surface freezes during the winter, and basements are the best and sometimes the only option in colder climates. We can also safely build them in more moderate or warmer climates, so they’re the most versatile foundation.
There are some downsides to choosing a basement foundation for your home, the most significant of which is the cost. We need to complete large-scale excavation for basement foundations, far more than we would with any other foundation style. The labor involved is expensive, and basements also require more building material than any other foundation. As such, they are the most costly foundations to construct.
Additionally, we need to coordinate the construction of a basement foundation to ensure that the concrete will stay dry as it cures. Rain and snow can complicate scheduling and delay your project, pushing back the construction timeline.
What Are The Correct Conditions for Basement Foundations?
Basements are naturally prone to moisture accumulation and water damage, so they’re best suited for relatively dry areas. They’re best for locations that receive average or below-average rainfall and have deeper water tables, as heavy precipitation can saturate the soil around your home, increasing the hydrostatic pressure and compromising the structural integrity of your basement walls. Basements generally aren’t suitable for waterfront properties or homes set above shallow groundwater.
Basements are also prone to radon, given the large surface area of concrete exposed directly to the ground. At Regional Foundation Repair, we take every precaution to ensure your basement foundation is equipped with adequate protection from radon. However, basements are still more appropriate in areas where radon isn’t a severe issue.
As we mentioned before, basement foundations are ideal for colder climates where utility lines need to run several feet below the earth’s surface to reach under the frost depth.
What Are The Types of Basement Foundations?
There are three primary basement styles from which you can choose, which we’ll explain below.
Full Basement Foundation
A full basement is the size of your entire home’s footprint, essentially doubling the square footage of a single-story home. Full basements require the most excavation of all of the styles, and they provide significantly more living or storage space than partial basements.
Partial Basement Foundation
Partial basements include two slabs: one that acts as the floor for part of your first level, and another that is set about 8 feet deeper in the ground that acts as your basement floor. Only a portion of your home’s footprint is duplicated underground.
Partial basements have the advantage of requiring far less excavation than full basements while still offering some additional living or storage space. They are significantly cheaper than full basements, but they don’t add the same value to your home.
Walk-Out Basement Foundation
A walk-out basement, also called a daylight basement, is one we construct on a sloped lot, with the top of one basement wall reaching ground level and the bottom of the opposite wall also sitting at ground level. Walk-out basements are desirable to many homeowners because they offer an abundance of natural light and make the space feel more inviting.
These types of basements can be problematic because the ground naturally slopes toward one wall, leaving it prone to water intrusion and hydrostatic pressure from the wet soil. Our experts at Regional Foundation Repair prep the soil appropriately and include exterior drainage systems to ensure the risk is mitigated as much as possible.
What Are The Benefits and Advantages of Basement Foundations?
Homeowners enjoy many benefits when choosing and living with a basement foundation.
Provides Additional Storage or Living Space
Generally, the most significant appeal of a basement comes from the added storage or living space you’ll enjoy. Full basements and walk-out basements can effectively double the square footage of your first floor, giving you ample room to store holiday decorations, food, off-season clothes, or other belongings. A finished basement provides you with additional space to entertain and enjoy your home.
Adds Value to Your Home
Basements are desirable in many areas, especially if they’re finished. Although the cost of basement installation is higher than any other foundation type, the investment can be worth it. Basement foundations – finished basements in particular – add considerable value to your home and might be worth the added cost for resale.
Suitable for Sloped Lots
Basements are the best foundation option for sloped lots, especially those with significant sloping that make crawlspace or pier and beam foundation unrealistic. With proper land preparation and waterproofing methods, we can safely build a walk-out basement into a heavy slope.
Less excavation is required when placing basements on a sloped plot, and you still get the benefits of added living or storage space, plus plenty of natural light from the exposed basement wall.
Easy Access to Utilities and Underside of Home
Whether your basement is finished or unfinished, this foundation style provides easy access to any plumbing, electrical, and HVAC lines and ductwork that run through the area. It’s typically cheaper – and sometimes required by building code – to route utility lines through the basement. You can maintain easy access to them instead of having to cut through walls or, worse, through your concrete slab to get to the utilities. Your repairs will ultimately be cheaper, given how straightforward access is.
Additionally, the space under your home will serve as an easy access point for home and termite inspections. The price of these services won’t be more affordable because of the access, but they can be more thorough, often including beams and girders that a slab foundation would usually hide.
What Are The Common Problems of Basement Foundations?
Basement foundations have plenty of benefits for homeowners, but they aren’t without their fair share of problems. We’ll discuss the most notable issues with this foundation style below.
Prone to Moisture Accumulation
The most significant problem with basements is that they are prone to water intrusion and moisture accumulation. Your basement walls will be in constant contact with soil, which can become saturated and remain wet during and following precipitation. Concrete is a durable construction material, but it’s highly porous and prone to cracking. Over time, runoff can seep into your under-home area and accumulate in the form of liquid water and humidity.
Water is detrimental to your home because it can gradually rot wooden construction material, damage insulation, lead to mold and mildew growth, and compromise your indoor air quality. Humid air makes your home feel less comfortable, and airborne mold spores can pollute your living space and leave you with allergy symptoms and possible respiratory problems.
Prone to Pest Infestation
Moisture naturally attracts rodents and insects, so your basement, which is prone to moisture and water problems, is also open to pest infestation. Rodents can chew through electrical wires or leave holes leading to the exterior of your home, and wood-destroying insects like termites and carpenter ants can deteriorate your building materials, sometimes leaving you with severe structural damage if the issue goes unresolved.
Prone to Radon
Radon is a clear, odorless gas that is toxic to humans in high concentrations. It naturally occurs in the ground and can enter your home through any style of foundation. Basements are the most prone to radon because of the surface area of concrete in contact with the soil. The stem walls on crawlspaces and pier foundations can also allow radon into your home but to a lesser degree.
Our experts at Regional Foundation Repair specialize in constructing basement foundations with proper protection from radon gas, as well as retroactive radon sealing for basements that are already built.
Not Energy Efficient
Your basement’s location underground means it will naturally remain cooler than your upper floors. The large concrete slab and tall concrete walls are poorly insulated, so the R-value of your basement is relatively low. As a result, heat is more rapidly lost from your basement than from the rest of your house.
At Regional Foundation Repair, we take every step necessary to ensure your basement is sealed and insulated as much as possible. Still, even the most efficient basements will lose some heat to the soil outside. As a result, the air in your under-home area will be more challenging to keep warm than that in your living space.
Air from beneath your house naturally seeps into your upper floors, so basements will make your entire home less energy efficient than other foundation types. You’ll likely notice slightly more extreme temperatures in your home, as well as higher energy bills from having to heat your basement and combat the heat loss through your concrete foundation.
Finally, basements require the most extensive excavation of all foundation styles. More excavation naturally means more labor, which increases your cost of installation as well as the time it takes us to dig out the land and construct the basement. Your total project time and cost will be the longest and highest with a full basement. The price for a partial basement or walk-out basement will depend on the size of the space and the lay of your land, but they will always be more costly than crawlspaces, slabs, and pier foundations.
Basements are one of the most desired and most common type of foundations primarily because they provide additional living or storage space at a fraction of the per-square-foot cost of above-ground living space. They add value to your home and provide easy access to utilities and the underside of your house. However, they’re prone to moisture, pest infestation, and radon, so the proper care must be taken during construction to keep your home and your family safe and comfortable.
Our foundation specialists at Regional Foundation Repair go to great lengths to build and repair basements in the most responsible and affordable way possible. We understand the appeal of basement foundations, and we strive to help maintain the space in a way that makes it most enjoyable and beneficial to you.
Whether you’re looking to have a basement foundation built or need yours repaired or waterproofed, simply fill out our contact form, and we’ll connect you with one of our certified experts right away!