The 3 Most Used House Bases

When starting the home building process, one of your first major decisions will be choosing the type of foundation for your new home. To ensure your dream home is built to last, the foundation must be strong and firm to support the structure for the long term.

The types of foundations for the home are not one size fits all. Basic considerations, such as climate, terrain, house design, and budget, play a role in determining the best solution. While there are several types of foundations on the market, each has its own benefits and disadvantages to consider.

There are three types of foundations: full basement, semi-basement and concrete slab. Each of these main options may be more suitable for a particular climate or environment, so it’s critical to examine your lot for soil issues or terrain challenges. Lots that pose particular terrain challenges, such as a steep slope or a high risk of tropical storms, may require alternative foundation types, such as pillars and beams or raised slabs. Be realistic in your assessment of foundation limitations due to your regional climate and ask your builder or local government for help in determining your options based on the area’s weather patterns.

Research is key to choosing the ideal type of base. It’s best to do your research early on or you may risk paying for expensive repairs after a damaging flood or the first frost.

To help you get started, let’s take a look at the three main types of foundations, and the pros and cons of each, so you can determine which one will be best for your new home.

Full basement

A complete basement consists of a deep hole 8 feet or more in the ground with foundations placed below the frost point and walls to clad a 4-inch-thick concrete slab. Walls can be laid with poured concrete, stacked concrete blocks, insulated concrete panels, or pressure-treated wood and plywood. A complete basement is completely underground, unlike a partially underground or unemployment basement.

This underground area can be left unfinished as convenient storage for utilities like water heaters or plumbing structures, or it can be finished as an additional living space. Insulation is required for finished basements to reduce the risk of mold and mildew in hot climates. Finished basements may include temperature control, as may areas above the floor of the house.

Best for…

Full basements are suitable for homeowners who want additional square footage for storage, safe shelter, or more living space. They are not ideal for seniors and people who cannot use the stairs, unless you can install another accessible option to enter. Many ranch-style homes include full basements, but they are also common in single-story homes where the builder decides to expand outward and downward, rather than upward.

Suitable Climate and Lot Requirements

Digging out an entire basement is most effective in dry, cold climates, so it makes sense that they would be more commonly found in the Northeast or Midwest. Areas with moist soils, such as swamps, wetlands, or coastal regions, contain too much water in the soil, making basements an impractical option, as soil can expand and move when saturated.

In southern states like Texas, where the water table is quite high, there are places where you can find water just 7 feet underground. It is unwise to dig a basement near or below the water table, as it is likely to flood during rainy seasons and hurricanes. In addition, lots with underlying limestone or thick bedrock pose a challenge for basement installation. While it is possible to blast, dig, and dig through the rock, it is a difficult task with an extensive time frame and an expensive price.

Regional frost lines can create an incentive for homeowners in cold climates to choose a basement basement. The frost line is defined as the maximum depth of frozen soil during the winter and varies depending on soil composition, vegetation and snow cover, and the amount of seasonal cooling. Building codes in the United States require foundations to be built below the frost line to prevent damage from potential frozen pipe breaks. This means that cooler regions have an incentive to dig deeper for starters, resulting in a comparatively lower cost than areas with warmer climates.

Cost and Prices

In general, full basements are the most expensive type of foundation, but they have the potential for higher return on investment because they add to the square footage of your home and therefore increase the value of the home on resale. And if you finish the basement, you may be able to rent the space to offset some of the cost.

The average cost to build a basement is about $10 to $100 per square foot, depending on the composition of the soil, ground conditions, and whether you choose a finished or unfinished basement. Unfinished basements can cost between $10 and $25 per square foot, while finished basements tend to go up to an average of $30 to $100 per square foot. Keep in mind that total costs can vary drastically depending on how you plan to use the space and any additional features you want, such as washer and dryer connections, lighting, temperature controls, or a fireplace.

If your long-term plan is to have a finished basement, it may be cost-effective to finish the basement during initial construction. However, you can choose to schedule your renovations over time and save on upfront expenses. You can also opt for a partially finished basement leaving part of the area unfinished for storage space and access to utilities.

There are several additional costs related to the installation and long-term care of a basement that you should consider in your budget. You may need to waterproof your basement if you live in an area particularly prone to moisture, which can cost on average between $500 and $3,500. Adding a sump pump to help with flood protection may require another $1,000 for installation. To prevent your basement from turning into a frigid refrigerator, you’ll want to insulate the entire space with spray foam, which costs on average between $2,000 and $8,000.

Basements can also sink and settle over time, so repairs are usually the most expensive of any other type of foundation. Therefore, you will need to stay vigilant to ensure that problems are detected and dealt with as soon as possible.

General Advantages and Disadvantages


Basements offer incredible opportunities to expand your space and will add value to your home. If you have an active lifestyle and plan to use your unfinished basement as storage space for your kayaks, sports equipment, or even seasonal decorations, basements offer a simple solution for all your needs.

With a finished basement, you have the opportunity to get creative and customize the space to fit the aesthetic of your home. Consider renovating the space into a personal home theater, bowling alley, or family playroom. You can set it up as a storm shelter or allow it to transform into a functional warehouse. If you are looking for relaxation and stress relief, you can set up a yoga studio or an exercise gym. Some homeowners have transformed their basement into a fabulous living room for family and friends.


Basements can also present several major challenges, such as limited availability in hot and humid climates, high upfront costs, long-term maintenance expenses, and longer construction time. If homeowners are not careful to ensure that the project is completed correctly in the initial stages, it could lead to costly repairs in the future.

Building a basement is a big decision and a considerable expense, but if you have the right weather conditions and soil, you can reap the benefits in additional space and increased property value for years to come.


On a narrow space base, the house rises about 2 to 3 feet off the ground and is supported on short columns. A vapor barrier is usually placed over the ground to prevent mold problems. Modern access spaces in new homes can be designed as mini-basements to include foam-insulated walls and air conditioning to aid in energy efficiency.

Best for…

Semi-basement foundations are suitable for individuals and families who want some extra storage space under their home and easy access to utilities. A narrow space is similar to a full basement but with less space and a lower cost. You can find them in a variety of house types, including bungalows and small cottages.

Semi-basements are also ideal for homeowners interested in energy efficiency, as they can be built with insulation to protect plumbing and HVAC systems. Choosing to isolate your access space can save you money in the long run by helping your systems run smoothly and last longer without repair or replacement.

Suitable Climate and Lot Requirements

Areas that are prone to minor flooding may be suitable for basement foundations, as long as the first floor is elevated above flood levels as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Entrainment spaces can be used for specific soils, such as red clay, which may not be strong enough to support a cement slab base. If your lot is sloping and a basement is not an option, a narrow space can be an ideal solution as the bases can be adjusted to level the ground floor.

Cost and Prices

Semi-basement foundations typically cost an average of $5 to $16 per square foot to install in new construction. However, there are some other expenses you should budget for this type of base. Vapor barriers, which are required in some states, can cost between $0.05 and $1.50 per square foot. If you choose to insulate the area, you can expect an additional cost of around $1400 to $2300 and installing a dehumidifier can cost between $800 and $1000. A sump pump to drain excess water could cost another $1,000 on top of your construction expenses.

General Advantages and Disadvantages


Often described as a mini-basement, this foundation is a simple solution for homeowners who need minimal storage space at an affordable price. They are suitable for flood-prone areas and provide easy access to electrical and plumbing systems for repairs when needed.


Narrow spaces pose minimal challenges, which can usually be avoided with regular maintenance, but one disadvantage is the escape of hot or cold air through the ground floor, which can increase energy consumption. You should keep the area ventilated, as narrow spaces tend to get very wet and carry an increased risk of mold and mildew, and can also attract annoying pests. You can reduce this risk by choosing to seal and insulate walls and use a dehumidifier.

Concrete Slab

Concrete slab foundations are built directly above ground and do not include underground storage. The ground must be leveled and a space dug around the area to build the foundation. Typically, gravel is scattered over the area before pouring concrete to form the slab and 4- to 6-inch supports.

Best for…

The concrete slab foundation is known to be the most popular among modern homeowners who are building on stable ground. Financially savvy buyers love that it’s a reliable, low-cost option and easy to install, so you can move into your new home sooner than with most other options.

Suitable Climate and Lot Requirements

Slabs dominate new home construction in the south, where warmer climates mean minimal frost. Colder climates are not ideal for concrete slabs because when the soil freezes and thaws, it can cause the slab to move and crack. A broken slab is difficult and expensive to repair or replace.

Concrete slabs can also crack or break if placed on an uneven floor. Lots with a steep slope are not best suited for slabs and may be more suitable for a basement or basement. Slabs are also an optimal choice in areas with a high water table, as they do not expand deep into the soil.

Cost and Prices

Of the three main foundation options, concrete slab is the least expensive. On average, slab installation costs between $5,200 and $13,000. A quick and simple installation process means less time and labor costs. Dwelling sites that require leveling may cost more for excavation.

General Advantages and Disadvantages


The sweet charm of concrete slab foundations is enhanced by its low cost, easy installation, reliability and minimal maintenance. There are many reasons why most new homes are created with this foundation. Concrete slabs are sustainable in most climates and, unlike basements and basements, are not vulnerable to mold, termites, and other pests.


Unfortunately, concrete slabs present some challenges. They do not adapt very well to colder climates where they could crack, and excessive humidity must be controlled to prevent the slabs from breaking. The biggest challenge with concrete slabs is access to plumbing systems, which are often placed under the slab. Any necessary system repair or replacement could be complicated and expensive. It also sacrifices the potential for additional storage or additional living space that may be possible with a basement or basement basement.

From your first step

The first step to building your dream home may seem like a daunting task at first, but laying a stable and supportive foundation is important for the overall integrity and longevity of your home. You can save money in the long run by researching your options and making an informed decision ahead of time, reducing the risk of costly repairs down the road. Choosing a foundation that meets your needs, qjhjue is well suited to your climate and soil composition, and fits your budget will be a healthy investment for years to come.

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By Catharine Bwana