Why Aren’t There Many Basements in Texas?

cross section of house and basementTexas has frequent tornadoes, boiling summers, and freezing winters — all conditions that make a basement an ideal escape from the weather. Plus, a basement is a convenient storage space. So why do so few homes in Austin have basements?

It’s Expensive and Unnecessary

Building codes usually require that home foundation be built below the frost line to prevent burst pipes or foundation cracking during freezes. In the north, the frost line is five to six feet below the ground, which means that builders have to dig down to the basement level anyway.

In Texas, the frost line is only about a foot below the ground, which is about the typical depth of a concrete foundation. Unless a home is being custom-built, builders simply don’t want to take on the added expense and risk of digging out a basement if one isn’t required.

Texas Basements Flood Easily

In most of Austin and surrounding Texas, the water table is only a few feet below the ground. To protect against flooding, most Texas basements need to have special water sealing along with sump pumps.

Even then, there is still a risk of flooding, which drives up insurance premiums. The added construction and insurance costs cause most local residents to pass on a basement.

Texas Soil Is Not Basement-Friendly

In the north, basements are typically built in homes on rolling hills with soft, dry soil. Austin’s geology is the opposite of ideal for basement construction.

Some areas are hard limestone that’s very difficult and expensive to cut through to dig out a basement. The remaining areas have an unstable type of clay that swells significantly when it rains and shrinks during the dry season. To withstand the forces of the clay expanding and contracting, basements need additional reinforcement, and the extra costs make adding a basement less worth it.

Buyers Don’t Expect Basements in Texas

Even when they don’t think about the scientific reasons Austin doesn’t have basements, most buyers don’t expect to find a basement in a Texas home. This means builders won’t feel they need to add basements to attract buyers, and homeowners won’t see adding a basement as a way to increase their property values.

If your home does have a basement and you experience problems with your foundation, please contact us to make an appointment.