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View Poll Results: Do you presently have a basement?
Yes, I have a basement and like having one. 44 52.38%
Yes, I have a basement but wish I didn't. 4 4.76%
No, I do not have a basement and don't want one. 16 19.05%
No, I do not have a basement but I think it would be neat to have one. 16 19.05%
The previous four choices just don't fit for some reason but I wanted to vote. 4 4.76%
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Basements
Old 06-21-2009, 08:19 AM   #1
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Basements

The following paragraph posted on Buckeye's house-selling thread intrigued me:
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Originally Posted by youbet View Post
Basements are very popular here in the Chicago suburbs too. We benefitted from ours in two ways over the years. While we were raising the family, it was a large, indestructible place for kids to be in the winter where activities such as indoor soccer, floor hockey, mats on the floor for tumbling, etc., etc., were not only allowed but encouraged. Now that we're empty nesters, my workshop and hobby activities reside down there. A basement really can be quite useful, especially in areas with cold winters where heating the garage enough to do projects is tough.
When I was a kid in St. Louis (before we moved to Hawaii) we had a huge, more or less unfinished basement. The main room was big, probably 40'x50' and mostly empty. We used to rollerskate in it - - it had a smooth cement floor and pillars that I would grab with one arm and catapult around on my roller skates, increasing my speed. It had a pingpong table, the washer/dryer, and baskets at the bottom of the clothes chute, but otherwise the big room was empty. In the basement my brothers and I could behave like "wild Indians" as my mother used to phrase it. [edited to add: we also used to dribble basketballs down there, play hopscotch, and even hit tennis balls against the walls! In addition to the large room there were smaller rooms, one of which was a B&W photography developing and printing lab, one that was my father's woodworking shop, one was a furnace room, and so on.

Never had a basement since, and since New Orleans is below sea level basements are not an option for most. I have been thinking it would be nifty to have a basement when we move north, though! Mostly I would like it as a tornado shelter - - would probably have a bed, phone, and TV/computer capabilities so that I could shelter there all night safely and still check the weather.

Do you have a basement? Do you wish you had one, or wish you didn't? How do you (or would you) use your basement?
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Old 06-21-2009, 08:49 AM   #2
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I live near Chicago, have a full basement. I had a basement in my Ohio home. I did not have basements growing up in Texas and elsewhere. I did not have a basement in our house in Florida. Going from a home with a basement to without is a tough change, what do with all the stuff? Other way of course is fine.
  • Many people finish them off for more living space, but I wouldn't. One failed sump pump or extended power outage and you're faced with big $ damages. Battery backups for sump pumps are notoriously questionable. Even if insurance pays for it, ripping out and replacing carpets/pads, drywall/framing, etc. is a real pain.
  • I use ours for my woodworking and other workshop, large workout area (stays cooler than the house) and a lot of storage space.
Finally, the older we get the more happily environmental/eco conscious and LBYM we get. Our next home will be as small as we can be comfortable with to save purchase price $, prop tax $, insur $ and of course utility $. So we're looking to minimize heated/AC space for kitchens, living, bedrooms, baths etc.
  • I want a workshop but it does not need to be heated/cooled - basements stay surprisingly constant temp without heat/AC.
  • We want a workout area, but we only use it an hour a day, it does not need to be heated/cooled and the basement is a little cooler in winter which is nice for working out.
  • Your hot water heater, water softener (if you have one), furnace, part of your AC, electrical panel all need to be somewhere. In the basement is much better than somewhere in the living area or outside. If your water heater goes and drains itself (most eventually do), no big deal it goes down the drain. In the living area - yuck.
  • Laundry could be in the basement too.
  • And we certainly don't need heated/cooled for storage - that's just a waste IMO. The basement never gets really hot or cold, unlike an attic or outbuilding. Stored items are easily accessible, unlike an attic or outbuilding. However, we do make sure everything of value that we store in the basement is up off the floor in case we do have water creep in (it has happened to us twice in 17 years, less than an inch deep both times and due to extended power outages coinciding with torrential rains).
YMMV

Edit based on Martha's post below: Ours is completely dry so I have never encountered what she is talking about, but obviously an important insight. I'll have to consider that on our next house - thanks.
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Old 06-21-2009, 08:57 AM   #3
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I really dislike basements in our part of the country. Walking up and down to do the laundry.(Which I am doing right now). Musty so you have to run a dehumidifier. Even so, it is no good for storage, things will smell musty forever. In our part of the country most reputable contractors say do not finish your basement, the moisture is guaranteed to be too high unless you have a very new specially built basement.

That said, if you live where you can have an absolutely dry basement, it would be nice. In our fancy house days we lived on a sand bar the projected out into lake superior. With these conditions we had an absolutely dry basement. It was nice for storage and nice for project space.

In Missouri I most certainly would have a basement as it is tornado country. But I suggest finding out how really dry they are down there.

Oh, and be sure to have a radon test done.
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:13 AM   #4
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I suspect the preference/aversion to a basement has a lot to do with where you live and what your experience with basements may have been. I voted "don't have one/don't want one" largely because I live in an area where basements are unnecessary and as rare as rocking horse poop. The cost to build a basement would be prohibitive (solid limestone 'subsoil') and I'm guessing it might also be difficult to sell if you ever wanted to move ("How come you built your house over a hole?").

I've owned one house with a basement and did not have a positive experience. A couple of power outages after huge thunderstorms (Kansas) flooded the place and made it a dank, unpleasant spot to spend much time. Like Buckeye, we have a huge over-the-garage storage area and we had stairs built for easy access. Yes, it gets hot - but it doesn't flood or smell.
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha View Post

Oh, and be sure to have a radon test done.
W2R, I'm pretty sure Martha means on the basement, not on you.
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:17 AM   #6
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Here in the soggy midwest, the saying is: "Basement--another invention that didn't work!"
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:25 AM   #7
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LOL!! Post on. I am reading all of these and getting a kick out of them.

Maybe the ideal situation would be if Frank happened to buy a house with a basement where I could shelter in the event of a tornado! From what I understand a high radon reading is usual in southern Missouri.

Edited to add: In southern Missouri, homes with full basements are generally older. The soil is rocky and the terrain is hilly, and newer homes will often be built on a hill with a "walk-out basement" but not a full "walk up basement" on a mostly flat lot (my preference). We are interested in homes about 50 years old, and perhaps a quarter of them or more have basements.
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Old 06-21-2009, 09:50 AM   #8
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I think the implied assumption in WTR's post is that the land you are building on is appropriate for a basement. That is, it won't be expensive to excavate due to rocky ground requiring blasting and it will be dry.

Secondly, I really like having a basement and consider basements to be inexpensive, incremental space, not substitute space. If building new, I wouldn't substitute a basement family room for a first floor family room. I wouldn't substitute a basement laundry for a first floor laundry, etc. Having to walk up and down to a basement laundry isn't the basement's fault. It's the fault of the folks that built the house and didn't plan for a first floor laundry.......and a basement.

Building on a basement rather than a slab or crawl doesn't have to eliminate any upper floor amenities whatsoever. But, no basement where the ground and topography don't support it.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:02 AM   #9
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If I bought a house with a basement laundry, the first thing I would do is get a contractor out there to figure out how I could put the laundry as close as possible to the master bedroom, on the first floor.

I am not interested in building a new home, so excavating the basement wouldn't be a problem for me. The presence or absence of a basement would just affect my evaluation of potential homes to buy.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:16 AM   #10
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My Midwest childhood basement was a combo of what Youbet and W2R describe: three large finished rooms with two entrances, one for the sub-zero & laundry, one a bedroom and later hobby room, and the third a dark room/hobby/storage area. We did stay there during tornado warnings.

In the city where I live now, many basements are at ground level or if the building is built on a hillside are way above ground; many houses have basements turned into “mother-in-law” apartments. Before moving to my current location, I lived (for 20 years) in a two-bedroom ground level basement mother-in-law apt. It was huge with a small patio and separate entrance. Remember the windows in Laverne & Shirley’s basement apt., supposedly in Milwaukee? They could see people’s feet walking by; IIRC they used the same joke on “My Sister Ilene.” My apt was a bit higher so we could see people at chest height and they could look directly in. That apt. had the equivalent of a basement which was a large separate room with furnace, clothesline and large storage area, beneath that was a crawl space.

My current apartment building has three basements, all above ground on a hill, the first has the laundry room and storage, one the hot water heater and the lowest one is just partly dug out and leads to the back yard. I sometimes imagine what it would be like to wait out a disaster there: there is old exercise equipment, lots of old clothes, beds, chairs, lots of reading material. I plan on adding some supplies, especially water.

As a kid, I loved watching a TV show with a character called “Uncle Johnny Coons” who was a janitor in charge of looking out the window. He hosted movies during his break in his office in the second sub-basement.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:20 AM   #11
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Our old house has a basement with foundation stone walls and a concrete floor. The utilities are down there as are the washer and dryer. Since I'm in the use-it-or-lose-it camp, I believe the more I use stairs, the longer I'll be able to use stairs, so I don't mind at all that our bedrooms are on the second floor and the washer and dryer are in the basement (in my dreams I build a small two-story addition just off the kitchen and our bedroom upstairs to house a first floor laundry room and a second floor master bath, but that's never going really to happen).

We threw a piece of carpet down there and a toy box when the kids were really little to make a play area but it's really not that kind of basement. Now we have an exquisite antique cobweb collection instead.

I wonder if any of our more technical members know whether climate as well as subsoil influences basement construction. Seems like the colder regions are more likely to have them.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Want2retire View Post
If I bought a house with a basement laundry, the first thing I would do is get a contractor out there to figure out how I could put the laundry as close as possible to the master bedroom, on the first floor.

I am not interested in building a new home, so excavating the basement wouldn't be a problem for me. The presence or absence of a basement would just affect my evaluation of potential homes to buy.
I helped my folks spec out the house they built in northern Arkansas for retirement. They were within 150 mi or so of where you're planning to be.

Basements were not common there due to the extremely rocky ground and the resulting high excavation expense. I don't like slabs due to the issues involved with routing the HVAC and plumbing and difficulties with repairs/modifications later. So we went with a crawl space and that worked out OK.

We accomodated his desire to have a shop by expanding the attached garage so there was an alcove with workbench, cabinets, electrical outlets, etc. I noticed some other nearby homes had heated and cooled outbuildings to accomplish the same thing. Land was cheap there so lots were large and the space for an outbuilding (substitute basement) was readily available.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:46 AM   #13
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I helped my folks spec out the house they built in northern Arkansas for retirement. They were within 150 mi or so of where you're planning to be.

Basements were not common there due to the extremely rocky ground and the resulting high excavation expense. I don't like slabs due to the issues involved with routing the HVAC and plumbing and difficulties with repairs/modifications later. So we went with a crawl space and that worked out OK.

We accomodated his desire to have a shop by expanding the attached garage so there was an alcove with workbench, cabinets, electrical outlets, etc. I noticed some other nearby homes had heated and cooled outbuildings to accomplish the same thing. Land was cheap there so lots were large and the space for an outbuilding (substitute basement) was readily available.
Yeah, the cost of excavation in 2009 can be a big problem if a person was dead set on building a new house in a rocky area such as Springfield. On the other side of the coin, houses in Springfield built before WWII generally have basements. Houses built from 1950-1979 (that interest me most) come with or without.

Not a big issue at all for me, as far as expense or availability is concerned. Sorry your folks had problems but it sounds like they found a compromise they could live with.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:53 AM   #14
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Two basements in MO...both leaked. No more basements for me.
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Old 06-21-2009, 10:54 AM   #15
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Used a basement to survive several tornadoes (and a hurricane once). I will likely always want one. Plus they are great for storing odd garden implements, kids playrooms, doing messy projects indoors and exercise equipment. I'd much rather take a trip downstairs at whatever hour is convenient to work out instead of having to make it into an excursion to the gym. It's faster, more efficient and I'm more likely to do it.
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Old 06-21-2009, 11:34 AM   #16
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Basements

I do not currently have a basement. My house here in western PA is five years old and the terrain was not suitable for one. I don't see any negatives to it as my previous experiences with them were of dampness and a place to store junk. My house is two story, and I carpeted the downstairs living area with a nice wool carpeting which keeps the floors warm in the winter. My laundry room is off the upstairs bedrooms. My place in FL is a ranch, no basement and washer/dryer are in the garage.
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Old 06-21-2009, 11:46 AM   #17
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We had a basement in the first apartment we ever lived in and it was downright scary! I remember my mother asking my brother and I to go down there and get soda or other things she had stocked up on sale.....we would both go there together and then run up the stairs as fast as we could!
I don't want a house with a basement......I would be terrified.....that is where all the monsters and ax murderers hide for god's sake!
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Old 06-21-2009, 12:06 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bestwifeever View Post
I wonder if any of our more technical members know whether climate as well as subsoil influences basement construction. Seems like the colder regions are more likely to have them.
I'm definitely not an expert, but since you asked..............

Sometimes basements are very expensive vs. a slab or crawl, especially if excavation is going to be tough due to rock. Sometimes basements are almost incrementally free. We have clay here. Cheap to excavate but it heaves substantially in the winter. Therefore footings must be pretty deep to give the house a firm foundation. If you're going down 5' - 6' for footings, there isn't too much more to do to get a basement instead of a crawl. Our basement added about 6% to the cost of the house vs. a crawl space. (Personally, I wouldn't even consider a slab in the Midwest.)

Moisture and the topograpy of your land is key. My sump pump runs when it rains. The basement isn't musty or damp, but the tile system around the outside of the foundation definitely collects water during a downpour. (That's its job! ) I've been here 32 yrs and never had a flood, or even seepage for that matter, but you do need to change the pump every few years. My son's house about 20 miles from here is drier. His sump NEVER runs. The pit is dry as a bone. He's been in that house 11 yrs.

Land is expensive here in the Chicago suburbs. We're frequently talking $150k/up for a 1/8 acre lot. So large lots to accomodate outbuildings are out of the question. Building goes up and down, not sprawling across the land.

If you live where basements work and are cheap to do, it's hard to decide not to have one for incremental space. But I think if you try to do one where it's costly or where moisture is an issue, they're not worth it. Ours has turned out to be a huge plus for our lifestyle and the value of our house. YMMV.
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Old 06-21-2009, 12:08 PM   #19
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Quote:
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We had a basement in the first apartment we ever lived in and it was downright scary! I remember my mother asking my brother and I to go down there and get soda or other things she had stocked up on sale.....we would both go there together and then run up the stairs as fast as we could!
I don't want a house with a basement......I would be terrified.....that is where all the monsters and ax murderers hide for god's sake!
LOL
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Old 06-21-2009, 01:13 PM   #20
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I have a basement which I consider to be the bowels of the house. The laundry, furnace and utilities are down there. I use it for storage. I did consider developing it, but I live in an area susceptible to flooding. Also, when something needs fixin', or leaks, it's easy to get at, but it would be a nightmare if covered by drywall. Since the ceiling is low, I figured that the space would never be as good as the main floor anyhow. So I have left it undeveloped.

I could cheerfully do without a basement provided I had alternative storage space.
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