Basement construction is an essential consideration whether you are building a home from the ground up, or finishing a basement that already exists in your home. Basements are not always required in homes depending on the climate, though they are still often preferred because they add space within the home that is completely located beneath the ground floor. Basements can be either finished or unfinished depending on the desires of the homeowner. Finished basements go beyond the concept of simple storage or utility space and allow basement spaces to become far more functional.
Types of Basements
- Daylight Basement: Also known as a Walk-Out Basement, this type of basement is installed when a home is located on a slope, meaning that part of the floor is above the ground and there is a doorway that goes to the outside. In this way, there would be a partial “true basement” but the entire basement will not be underground. From the street, this type of home may appear to be a single story or two-story home, even when it has an entire finished story hiding from plain sight.
- Look-Out Basement: In this type of basement, the basement walls are extended in such a way above the ground level that there are windows present, but the basement is primarily underground. Look-out basements are ideal when the basement is not entirely underground but there is not a sufficient enough slope to accommodate a walk-out basement.
- Walk-Up Basement: This is the type of basement that can be entered only through a stairwell down. Some of these basements have special bulkhead doors or basement doors which are designed to prevent rainwater from accumulating where the stairwell is. This may include stairs down from the outside, or stairs down from the inside of the home, depending on the individual construction.
- Crawl Space: A crawl space exists under the home like a basement, though it does not have the height of a traditional basement. Instead, a crawl space is the middle ground between a basement and a simple foundation. Crawl spaces tend to exist to provide access to ventilation and other systems beneath the home. Crawl spaces can be anywhere from one foot in height to more, though in order to qualify as a crawl space an adult should not be able to stand.
Design and Construction Considerations
For houses, the walls of a basement are designed to act as the foundation for the home. In areas with colder climates, the foundation needs to be below the frost line, though this does not always necessitate a full basement.
Building a foundation typically involves excavating the site first with an excavator or a backhoe. If the construction contractors find shelf rock, blasting may also be necessary. Once the basement walls are constructed, the contractors will then need to backfill the area to make sure that the soil is returned to grade around the construction site. This is a good time to install any additional drainage systems, depending on your wishes as the homeowner. For example, a water stop, French drain and gravel will help to prevent any water from entering into the basement.
Drainage and flood protection considerations are vitally important when building a basement and the decisions made surrounding basement construction should not be taken lightly. The concrete floor in the basement is not the structurally important part of the basement. The walls are tasked with keeping water out and supporting the rest of the home, and so building these walls to be as structurally sound as possible is integral. There are different ways to build a basement depending on your desired preferences.
Types of Basements
- Unfinished Basements: Unfinished basements are common in many regions, where the basement offers access to electrical, furnace and other systems and utility space but not much else. Unfinished basements typically have concrete walls and floors. In an unfinished basement space you may house work benches, freezers, refrigerators, washers, dryers and other such equipment. Unfinished basements are essentially combinations of cellar and attic spaces, since many homes with basements do not also have attic spaces. Unfinished basements may or may not add value to the home, depending on the state they are in, or their level of finish.
- Finished Basements: Finished basements offer greater utility, as the space is designed either at the point of construction or later on. Finished basements are much more functional as compared to unfinished basements, since you can add bedrooms, bathrooms, personal gyms, offices and other functional spaces to a finished basement. Finished basements tend to be functional spaces or living spaces, such as recreation rooms and bedrooms more than utility rooms, though they should still allow for utility spaces as necessary, such as a space for the furnace or a washer and dryer for laundry. Many homes utilize extra space in the basement to create additional bedrooms, which can add value to the home. Another option, of course, is to have a partially finished basement which combines the utility with the functional space beneath the house.
- Partially Finished Basements: In a partially finished basement, part of the basement is left unmodified while part of the basement is finished and turned into a more functional living space. Some partially finished basements appear to be fully finished in that they have drywall installed over the concrete, carpeting or tile floor over the concrete flooring and so on, but they may not actually be in use as functional spaces as a finished basement would. There is no real advantage between a partially finished basement and a fully finished basement, unless there is a specific reason that you would want part of the basement to remain unfinished while other parts are finished. This is ultimately up to you to decide as the homeowner.