Depending on where you live, homes are either built with a basement, crawl space or on top of a concrete slab. There’s reasons for all three but in the Pacific Northwest you’ll more likely to see homes built with a basement or a crawl space. Here we will look at all three and see the pro’s and con’s for each of them.
Why Do Homes Have A Crawl Space?
There are two main reasons that homes are built with a crawl space. Cost and convenience. It will always come down to the area you live but in the Pacific Northwest, a crawl space is more common. Homes in the Pacific Northwest are prone to flooding and many homes are built along hillsides. This of course, can lead to foundations shifting if not graded properly. Moving around dirt to create a level surface and making sure that it’s settled to the point that major shifting will not take place can be more costly and is not a 100% guarantee that future shifting will not happen. Building along hillsides, you have to create a structure that will ensure a level foundation and one that is secure to prevent the home from sliding or shifting. Homes engineered with footers and raised beams provide a solution to this problem and naturally create a crawl space through this engineering method. Other homes built on flatter surfaces also benefit from having a crawl space as they are engineered to keep water from coming in from rains and possible flooding.
Convenience wise, a crawl space makes more sense because it allows for plumbing, wiring and HVAC systems to be easily maintanenced and repaired whereas homes with concrete slabs will install these prior to pouring fresh concrete. This means if there is ever a leak in one of your pipes, concrete may have to be removed to access piping, increasing the cost of repairs. Concrete slabs also eliminate space that one could use for storage. Many homes with a crawl space are lined with vapor barrier to help prevent moisture build up and this makes for a clean space to store anything you don’t regularly access.
Concrete Slab vs. Crawl Space
In terms of cost, concrete slabs are more cost efficient when looking at just the materials needed. If you’re not having to consider any excavating or grading work, they generally cost about half of what you would pay for a foundation with a crawl space. This estimate does not include any work that has to be done prior to laying the foundation as well. Other cost benefits of a concrete slab foundation are the energy costs. Crawl spaces have free flowing air underneath that affects the inside air of the home. Eliminating this air increases the insulation efficiency. Not only do crawl spaces allow for air to come through from the outside, they also allow for insects and wildlife to intrude on this space. This can lead to pest infestations, termite issues and contaminated air. These are also reasons to keep a crawl space clean. Having your home built on a concrete slab eliminates these issues.
But don’t give up on crawl spaces yet! They have their benefits too. Homes with a crawl space provide extra space for storage, have more give in the flooring and provide space for roots to grow underneath without causing structural damage. Concrete slabs however, are harder to work around when problems underneath the home start to arise. Piping for plumbing and wiring has to be drilled out if repairs are needed, tree roots growing into the concrete slab will cause cracks and possibly structural damage and concrete slabs don’t offer any give to the flooring homeowners walk on. Even though other materials layer upon its foundation, it is a noticeable difference that may be off putting for the home buyer.
Homes With Basements
Basements are very similar to crawl spaces. The differences are simply that basements don’t have free flowing air from the outside circulating through them and they offer a full height space to walk through along with the ability to be furnished with rooms or a larger living space. This can be an asset for smaller homes in need of more space, especially if you have the ability to make it a walkout basement. As with everything though, there is a cost. Basements will require more materials and labor. They will have the benefits of a concrete slab floor and the accessibility of a crawl space but will take more time to build and therefore be less cost efficient.
There is much to consider when thinking about the foundation of your home. You’ll need to take geography into consideration. Whether you’re in a wetter area or dryer climate. If flooding presents a problem and whether or not your home is being built along a hillside. You’ll also want to take into consideration what nearby homes are built on. Sometimes a different foundational structure can stick out and be an eye sore for resale purposes. Knowing your homes location, what is important to you and what your builder is able to produce will all factor into what foundational structure is best for your home.