Why Don't More Charlotte Homes Have Basements?

Basement Updated

Well, that's a pretty good question, actually.

According to the US Census Bureau around 795,000 new homes were built in the U.S. in 2017 and of those, about 204,000 had partial or full basements. That's a lot! If you've spent any time in the Charlotte area (or anywhere in the South) you've probably noticed that not many homes have basements. Why is that?

There are a couple of reasons. 
The first and most overarching is the frost line. The frost line, or the depth to which the ground freezes during a hard frost, is important for home builders to know because a foundation built above the frost line can move, break, and become unstable as the ground expands and contracts. Local regulations always require footings of a new home to be built below the frost line for a specific area: In Mecklenburg County, the frost line is 6" and footings must extend 4" below that. So what does that have to do with basements?

In the north, the frost line is much deeper, sometimes up to 6 or 8 feet, not inches! Since builders already have to dig to these depths to legally put down footers it makes sense to go a few feet deeper and build out a basement which ads livable square footage to a home. In the South, basements simply cost more to build than they do in colder climates.

Basement Room

Another factor for basement builders is the water table. Adding a basement to a home within an area with a low water table sets it up for constant flooding and moisture problems. It makes much more sense to build a basement into dry, solid soil. Southern cities like Charlotte generally lie lower than many other areas although of course, underground water issues vary from house to house.

Lastly, if a house sits on bedrock rather than soil or clay it becomes prohibitively expensive to add a basement. At that point not only does a dig have to occur, but the operation also becomes an excavation. And bedrock is one of the most stable foundations you could hope to build a home on to boot!

 

All that being said, there are plenty of homes for sale in Charlotte that have basements. They're certainly not impossible here, they're just less common than in some other parts of the country. If you've got questions about basements, crawlspaces, or any other new home feature simply give us a call!

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