What Is The Difference Between Foundation And Basement?

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For some homeowners, the definition of foundation and basement can be a bit confusing, and most of the time, the terms are used interchangeably. However, these are two important components of any home or commercial structure and it’s vital knowledge. We’ve researched basements and foundations and compiled the best information for you to understand each.

Not all foundations are considered basements, but all basements are partly, if not fully, foundations. The difference between them is that a basement is a completely separate floor below the ground level, while a foundation is what supports a structure to stand erect and is the lowest supporting groundwork for any house or building. 

A foundation is many things and depending on personal preferences and feasibility, a basement has many advantages, but you may be wondering what other types there are, how to tell them apart, and if a basement is truly necessary. Keep on reading and we’ll go into the nitty-gritty of foundations and basements.

A bricklayers who level the freshly poured concrete to lay the foundations of a building, What Is The Difference Between Foundation And Basement

The Difference Between Foundation and Basement

It can be mistaken that a foundation of a house is simply a basement and vice versa. There is an amount of truth to this but it needs further explanation.

A basement is basically an extra room that is built underneath a house or below the main floor. The purpose of a basement is that it gives you more space for storage or inhabiting.

The fact that it is below the main floor makes it possible for it to be the foundation of a house. A foundation is the groundwork on which a house is built and supported but it is not only the basement foundation that achieves this. A basement is not the only foundation option.

How Do I Know What Type of Foundation my House Has?

It’s easy to tell apart the types of foundations based on how they are built and how they physically look. To know what type of foundation your house has, you have to know what types of foundation there are.

Types of Foundation

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Some homeowners are not as particular with foundations as builders are but these are concepts that need to be known before building a secure structure. There are many combined types of foundation but ideally, there are three main options on which a foundation can be made. 

Crawlspace Foundation

A crawlspace is a type of foundation below the main floor and it lifts your house or building from the ground by a few mere feet. In between the main floor and the base of the structure, there is a space filled with sand, dirt, stone, or --if preferred, cement. 

From the word itself, a crawlspace foundation gives you enough room to crawl in it but it does not give you enough ceiling height to stand up or walk leisurely. The purpose of a crawlspace foundation is to store plumbing, electric lines, heating devices, and other items inside the crawlspace to save more space inside the house. 

Easy access is one of the perks homeowners look forward to with a crawlspace foundation. However, one of the drawbacks of a crawlspace foundation is that it may require moisture and pest control.

It’s recommendable to place a good ventilation system in the crawlspace to prevent moisture and to allow air to circulate. If there are appliances like a heating device or water pipes stored in it, there must be adequate breathing room for them to function effectively.

This type of foundation has short pillars or walls supporting the house and they’re usually made of concrete thus, sturdy and reliable. 

Slab Foundation

A slab foundation is a flat, concrete slab near the ground level and a house can be supported and built right on top of it. Keep in mind that this type of foundation has no available space between the main floor and the ground level.

This means that, unlike the crawlspace foundation, there is no place for water pipes, heating devices, and electric lines. But, it is not entirely impossible because some electric lines and pipes can be embedded first before the concrete is poured. 

This type of foundation is less expensive because it doesn’t need the site to be excavated, unlike the crawlspace and basement foundations. However, the downside to it is that it doesn’t have the option to free up space in your house.

The slab foundation is recommended for leveled and warm areas. In cold climate areas, you risk the slab cracking and the house left with a shaky foundation.

Basement Foundation

Last but not the least, the basement foundation is like an extended room below the main floor with not only enough space to store your things but to inhabit as well. The basement is a space between the ground level and the main floor with sufficient ceiling room height.

The benefit of a basement foundation is that it offers you the option to increase your living space. The basement should be equal in depth with the rest of the house’s floor space. This also means more storage availability.

Still, more space means more maintenance is needed. For example, a basement entails its own drainage system. Water problems are common with basements but they’re not troublesome if a proper drainage system is put in place. 

This type of foundation is more costly compared to the other three types of foundation but it is worth having if you cannot compromise on additional space and resale value.

What is Underneath a Foundation?

Dirty closeup spade in dry clay soil, basement construction

Builders and homeowners have many considerations aside from the budget before building a house, such as a site area, soil type, and climate. Beneath a building structure’s foundation lies solid and durable soil, and concrete footings. 

The slab foundation may be the easiest to establish but builders do not just pour concrete on the ground. The first thing to ensure is that the soil in the area is suitable for construction and house framing. 

If the soil is not reliable, you may need to take it out and replace it with more condensed soil. Adding gravel or cement is also an option. 

Once the soil is secured, we can proceed to the concrete footings underneath the foundation. These are slabs of concrete that serve as the base of the foundation.

The entire house structure greatly depends on the footings’ capacity to distribute the weight onto the soil. From the start of establishing a strong and secure foundation, the footings should be guaranteed to hold the house in place. 

Is a Basement Better Than a Slab Foundation?

Of the three main types of foundation, there is no superior type among the others. Choosing the right foundation for your house includes consideration for the location, soil suitability, area climate, and of course, the finances.

The basement foundation provides more storage and living space that a slab foundation cannot. Consequently, if you don’t need too much space, a slab foundation may fit your needs more. Both basement and slab types are quality foundations.

Do Houses Need Basements?

Basement construction for a new house

A basement is not always a requirement for a house. In reality, a homeowner has personal preferences, and depending on the area, a basement may or may not be a necessity.

A basement is good for storage. You can put extra things in the basement that don’t have a place inside your house. An example is situating your laundry place in the basement if the floor space in the house is lacking. 

If you live in a place where the climate is cold, the basement can be the perfect place to store a heating device or a furnace. For as long as there is a power source and electric lines, appliances don’t have to stay inside the house's living space when you can put them in the basement.

Because a basement should have its own drainage system, power source, and electric lines, it can also easily be converted into a habitable room for other family members or guests. There are many things you can do with a basement.

Final Thoughts

A foundation and a basement are two completely separate terms in construction jargon. A foundation is what a house is framed on and what a building structure is supported by. A basement, on the other hand, is a room below the main floor.

The other types of foundation are crawlspace, slab, and basement foundation. So, not all foundations are basements, but all basements are considered to be a foundation of a house or a building structure.

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