What Are the Pros and Cons of a Wood Basement?
If a home is built with a wood basement, it essentially means the house has a wood foundation rather than a poured concrete or stone basement. The advantages of a wood basement include cheaper construction costs, easier replacement of posts or beams, and the possibility of reusing the materials should the house be torn down at any point. A basement made from wood is not as resistant to water damage as concrete, however, and wood is likely to rot after several years of being exposed to moisture. This type of basement is also not as consistently strong as a concrete basement, though if constructed correctly, it is strong enough to adequately support the weight of a home.
A wood basement will have to be waterproofed thoroughly to prevent moisture from entering the home. This can be costly and time-consuming, negating the benefits of the wood basement over a concrete one. A concrete basement is more expensive to initially construct, and it takes more time than a basement made from wood to complete, but once waterproofing is factored in, the cost and the time comparison is fairly even. Basements made from wood are more versatile than concrete basements, and it is easier to make changes to wood basements after they have been built, but they will require more maintenance in the long run.
While wood basements are certainly adequate for holding up the weight of a home, after time the boards are likely to warp under the weight of the materials above them. Concrete will not buckle under weight if poured correctly, though it does run the risk of cracking after years of exposure to moisture and changing weather conditions. Concrete is also less susceptible to ground moisture than wood is; wood will have to be properly treated and retreated after several years to resist moisture from the ground. If the home is in an area with prominent insect populations, wood is also susceptible to damage from insects and rodents.
The ideal basement made from wood will have a concrete slab as a base and a waterproof layer between the wood and the ground outside. This eliminates the problem of ground moisture affecting wood beneath the flooring, and the waterproofing will help extend the life of the basement walls. Such waterproofing can be expensive, however, meaning a concrete basement might be just as good of a choice. Aesthetically speaking, wood basements are far more appealing, and hanging drywall or installing basement windows will be much easier, but this convenience comes at a cost.
No one mentioned here that the wood used for wood foundations is pressure-treated, and with higher concentrations of preservatives than the pressure-treated lumber used for decks.
I have to say I prefer the idea of a wood basement, just because it's so much more eco-friendly than a concrete one. Concrete can leach chemicals into surrounding soil and is a burden on the environment to make in the first place.
Wood can also be bad for the environment, but it's a lot easier to get right than concrete in that aspect.
@irontoenail - It really does depend on where you live though. There are places where you might be at risk of earthquake and it would be better off with a wood basement because it's more flexible. I would look at other local basement floor plans and talk to a range of local building companies before making my decision.
But definitely don't let cost dictate what you are going to make. If you can't afford what's necessary for the foundation of your home, you can't really afford the house at all.
You also need to take into account the weather and potential disasters of the area you live in. I know quite a few people in tornado zones at the moment who don't have adequate shelters.
Most of them have a nearby public shelter they can go to if necessary, but some of them don't have that option, either because they have an animal like a dog that can't go to a public shelter, or because there simply isn't one nearby.
I think anyone who is building a new home in these areas owes it to themselves and future owners to put in a proper basement that can be used as a shelter, and that is usually going to mean using concrete as the main construction material.
If you don't like the way it looks, or want to use the room for other purposes, you can always put wood finishing on the basement walls.
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