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What Is a Basement Foundation?

By Kendall Perry
Updated May 16, 2024
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A basement foundation is an architectural structure that basically secures a house or other building about a floor below ground level. Nearly all foundations are sunk into the ground to a certain extent, but the distinguishing thing about a specifically basement style is that it allows owners to create a “finished” basement that can serve as a normal room or multipurpose space beneath the rest of the structure. Homes that have basements are almost always built on this sort of foundation. It can be possible to add a basement later on, after the initial foundation has been poured and the structure finished, but not always. In addition to added storage space, basements also offer protection against flooding and added insulation and climate control. The extent to which these benefits are realized often depends on the quality of the construction, though. Problems with a basement foundation can lead to major structural problems for the entire building, and can also allow things like moisture and mold to penetrate.

Role of a Foundation Generally

In modern construction, all buildings, whether large or small, are built up from a foundation, which is basically a “footprint” for the structure as a whole. It’s normally made of cement and serves to anchor the walls as they’re built. If walls were built directly into the ground, they’d be subject to settling and shifting, and would also be much more susceptible to the natural moisture in soil. A cement grounding adds stability.

A specifically basement foundation is a type of foundation that allows the lowest level of the house to be completely or partially below ground level. It differs from other types of foundations, particularly such as slab foundations, crawlspace foundations or post-and-pier foundations, because it allows for a finished, full-size room or rooms below the first level of the house. A basement foundation typically consists of poured cement on the bottom and cement walls that rise to just above ground level.

Main Advantages

These sorts of foundations are often more expensive to pour since they require a more extensive excavation, but in most cases they bring a number of benefits. First on the list of many homeowners is the natural increase in the livable space of a house. Basement-level foundations are considered by many people to be a good choice for hot and dry regions of the world because there is virtually no danger of flooding, and they can remain cool and comfortable even in the heat of summer.

Importance of Good Construction

Most of the problems that arise with these sorts of foundations are due either to age or poor construction. A well-constructed basement foundation will protect against water damage. Pea gravel, drainage tiles and water barriers can be used help with most water issues in very saturated places, too. In areas where flooding or heavy rainfall is possible, a sump pump typically is installed to pump water out of the basement if it starts to become flooded.

Differentiating Various Types of Basements

Most of the time, basements that serve as entire rooms or floors require a specific foundation. There are other types of below-ground storage and access that can be managed with a more standard foundational structure, though.

A slab foundation is built into the ground at ground level and generally provides no available space below the first level of the house. A crawlspace foundation is built at ground level or is slightly raise above the ground, and a small space, usually just wide enough for a person to crawl through, is available under the first level of the house. This crawlspace can be used to access or install pipes and electrical wiring below the house, and it sometimes can be used for additional storage space. A post-and-pier foundation is used in areas where flooding is possible or likely, and it is constructed so that the home is raised off the ground. The posts upon which the house stands must be driven deep enough into the ground to provide for a solid and stable foundation.

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