Building on slab vs. crawl space vs. basement? Advantages / disadvantage
There are many different issues to consider when it comes to the choice of a basement, crawl space, or a slab foundation for your new home. In many parts of the country full basements will be the norm, while others will have slab foundations and still others will have crawl spaces. One of the fundamental items is what do your neighbors have? If you are planning a crawl space, and all of your neighbors have basements, your house may be more difficult to sell unless you are prepared to lower the price. This is simply a value / price perception issue since many people feel that having a full basement gives them more room even if it is used only for storage purposes. And of course, the potential is always there for someone to finish the basement and add extra living space at some time in the future.
Basements tend to be cooler which can be important in hot climates. Basements add value to the home and provide more room whether finished or not. Consumers can add a family room or use them for workshops and storage. Basements tend to be more expensive due to the footings and walls that must go below the frost line.
Drainage is very important for basements and crawl spaces – as you don’t want water in these areas. Slabs and crawl spaces are generally less expensive than full basements to build, especially in conditions were there is a great deal of rock to be removed. In some locations it is almost impossible to install a basement without the large expense of removing solid rock.
Crawl spaces need to be insulated and protected from the elements in the colder climates. Warm climates tend to have semi-open crawl spaces, which are a place for moisture, mould and rodents to collect. There are a number of health issues that can be aggravated by moisture and mold. Homes with crawl spaces are difficult to sell if most other homes have full basements.
If you are the type of person that needs a lot of storage or likes to have a basement workspace, then a crawl space or a slab is definitely not the type of foundation that you should consider.
Slabs are very popular in warm climates and also in areas with lots of rock. If there is no basement, the wiring and the plumbing will be in the walls or in the ceilings. Space will also be required for the furnace and the water heater within the house. Water pipes must be insulated especially if they are in the attic.
One major advantage of slab foundations is that there is little chance for water and outside gases to leak in providing a healthier environment. Also slabs are lower to the ground as a rule and they have fewer steps to go up which can be an advantage for older seniors or people who have difficulty in climbing stairs.
There are several potential drawbacks to slab foundations. Any cracks can cause long-term problems and are more difficult to repair. Soil movement, tree roots can lead to cracks in the slab. Slabs homes are also more prone to insect problems.