Crawl Space vs. Slab vs. Basement


Crawl Space

What is it?:

A crawl space is hollow area underneath your home, typically about 3 feet in height. The crawl space normally contains access to mechanical components, such as plumbing, duct work, electric, and HVAC.

Benefits:

One obvious advantage of a crawl space is elevating your home off the ground, thus, providing an extra layer of protection for the ground level. Another benefit of the crawl space is that it can be cheaper to build than a basement. Furthermore, since the crawl space provides easy access to mechanical components, it can make repairs much more cost effective. For instance, if a pipe bursts, rather than excavating the floor, you can simply access the pipes through the crawl space. Crawl spaces can also be useful in certain climates that aren’t conducive to basement construction. This is true in coastal areas with sandy soil or high humidity areas with excessive moisture.

Things to Consider:

While it has many advantages, a crawl space requires some attention and can’t simply be ignored. Many homes are built with crawl spaces that have open vents and dirt floors. Especially in humid environments, this can lead to countless issues, such as mold growth, pest infestation and high energy bills. To prevent these problems, crawl spaces will require some investment to be properly sealed or encapsulated. In humid environments, a dehumidifier is often needed to maintain a consistent humidity level.

Slab Foundation

What is it?:

In a slab foundation construction, the home is built directly on the soil.

Benefits:

Slab foundations typically require less excavation and construction compared to a crawl space or basement, making them a cheaper building option. Another common reason people choose a home with a concrete slab foundation is that the home is closer to the grade. This means that you only need one or two steps to enter, making it ideal for older or disabled people.

Things to Consider:

Since there isn’t an easy way to access mechanical components in slab construction, any repairs can be quite costly. In addition, while slab foundations are an advantage to certain demographics, they may be be harmful to your homes resale value.

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Basement

What is it?:

A basement is the lower level of a home that is partially or completely underground. Unlike crawl spaces, basements are larger areas that can be easily walked around in. Depending on if they are finished or unfinished, basements are often used for additional living space or storage. Just like crawl spaces, basements often provide access to HVAC, plumbing, and other mechanical components.

Benefits:

The advantage of a basement is that it can provide additional living space without having to build a larger structure above ground. While it does require extra money to finish a basement, it is a cheaper way to add square footage compared to adding above grade space. Additionally, a basement can be more energy efficient than a larger above ground space since the ground helps moderate the temperature.

Things to Consider:

Similar to crawl spaces, basements are prone to moisture problems. Moisture can enter a basement by drainage through soil, capillaries in the foundation walls, condensation from humid air, or water vapor from unprotected concrete. Once moisture is in the basement, it can lead to mold, mildew, structural damage and poor air quality. Because of this, it’s crucial to contain the moisture levels by following practices such as ensuring humidity levels are managed, backfill against basement walls is free draining, and drainage is diverted away from the basement.

How to Choose

Choosing the right foundation for your home depends on many factors out of your control including climate, type of soil, water table depth, and grading of the lot. Additionally, factors such as building codes, property value, and local regulations can play a role in choosing the right foundation type. Once you have considered all of the factors out of your control, you can think about what works best for your family, such as accessibility, cost, or amount of storage.

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