Choosing a house - How Big a Deal ls a Basement?

I was raised in a real house (1915) - still had the coal chute and one wall of the coal bin; furnace had gotten a gas burner.
It also had an old cistern (go ahead, I’ll wait :smiley: ).
I was raised to loathe slab construction as being beneath contempt - if you’re too damn lazy to dig a real basement, at least have a crawl space (having one’s furnace BELOW the living space makes TONS of sense).
Now, the surviving pre-WWII (when basements were the norm) are either in places I don’t want to live, or are priced out of reach.

So Dopers:

I suspect this is a guy thing - we still love our caves :smiley: . The last time women had much use for such things, they were called “root cellars” (yea, go ahead…). Since the advent of factory-canned goods, the food storage angle is kinda moot.

and who the hell is the genius who decided to put the friggin’ furnace in the ATTIC? Brilliant!

When my daughter and I both developed asthma, I started getting interested in home construction issues. If anyone in your family is sensitive to mold, you might be wise to avoid basements, they can really exacerbate allergies. Jeffrey Mays’ book My House is Killing Me explains it better than I ever could.

Our house is built over a crawl space.
Our furnace has its own room. :slight_smile:

I would say it ultimately depends on the square footage of the first level. If it’s large enough, probably no big deal. If small, you may find your self overwhelmed with stuff you want to keep, but may not be willing to pay for storage. I’d get the basement myself for the utility space, and man cave reasons.

In some part of the US having a basement to run to may be important, but on the west coast it’s hard to find a basement anywhere. So unless I am living someplace where there are hurricanes or tornados… meh

I’d say it depends on where you live. In areas that get cold winters, basements are a must–you don’t get heaving from autumn frosts and spring thaws if you go down far enough and create a good foundation. I spent some time in a place here (Canada) that had no basement, and the floors weren’t level, the windows and doors were out of true, etc. The only straight and solid thing was the stone fireplace. Which reminds me–if you live in such a climate, you need a place to put the furnace. A basement works well for that.

Needless to say, I like them.

I grew up in Illinois, and every house had (and had to have – see Spoons frost line comment above) a basement. Some home owners fixed them up into living space or such, some did not and it was a place for the furnace and storage. I moved to California, where basements are at best unusual in a home. I miss the option of buying a house with that extra space.

One potentially large drawback of a basement: if your basement is below the water line if there is a flood, or generally in a wet area where there is seepage into the foundation, you will have issues with either a) sealing the foundation so water will not run into the basement, or b) pumping water that seeps in out of the basement. Or both. It depends a in a huge way what your local soil/drainage is like.

Overall, if seepage is not a concern or is manageable – basements are a great “found” space in a house for pretty much whatever you want to use them for.

I would just assume a house has a basement. I don’t think I’d buy a house without one.

Basements are really handy places when you hear tornado sirens around here.

I was exactly the same way until I moved away from the prairies - lots of places in Kingston, Ontario, didn’t have basements due to their proximity to Lake Ontario. I was sort of shocked to see that.

I won’t even consider a house without a basement. I’m close to the Chesapeake Bay, but far enough away that our neighbourhood has basements.

There’s no such thing as a ‘basement’ in Australia. If yer’ really lucky (and rich) you might get yourself an historic home with a* wine-cellar.* but that’s about it really.

I want a room to shelter from tornadoes. I’d prefer above ground for anything else.

If you don’t have a basement you likely have to no place to shelter from a tornado. They can say take shelter as much as they want, but people can’t lay in a ditch all night in a thunderstorm.

It’s worth noting that in Illinois, at least the part where I grew up, basements were free from property taxes. As a result you essentially could double your square footage by finishing your basement without any change in your taxes. That detail was particularly good for resale value.

I grew up in a slab home, oh so envious of all my friends that had basements to play in.

I wound up buying a home with a crawlspace instead, and the furnace is on the first floor not under. Sometimes I’d sure like the extra space for storage, or to furnish as a family room but having seen basements in my neighborhood flood over and over again, I don’t regret my decision.

Tornado protection is the big one for me. When my ex-g/f and I were house-shopping, she asked me why I kept insisting on having a basement (I had been saying a basement would be the ideal place to put my stupid-guy-stuff like arcade games). She was from Pennsylvania and hadn’t yet gone through a tornado season. After that spring, she was on my side.

So, tornado protection first and foremost. Beyond that, I prefer basements (with a raised floor, sump pump, and a dehumidifier) to keep my “collections.” Books and arcade games are heavy-- my library actually damaged the floor of an apartment I used to live in-- and I have plenty of both. Into the basement they go. The games are less of an eyesore down there, and the book stacks won’t sag the floors.

You’d be hard pressed to find one here with a basement. If you don’t have a slab house, you have a “conventional foundation” which is the crawlspace mentioned above. Some of the older houses in hill country have what they call a “walkout basement” but that’s not a true basement.

I’ve managed to live here almost fifty years with no basement. If you’ve never had one you wouldn’t miss it.

We have one furnace in a closet and one over the master bedroom. :wink:

Weeeeeird. My sister’s house in Kingston has a basement, but I didn’t realise that was the exception rather than the rule. Travel 3 hrs west to Toronto and a house without a basement is pretty much unthinkable.

We love our basement. We lucked out in that 80% of it is fully finished, with the exception of the furnace/laundry room - we even have a half-bathroom and a room with a door, so that area doubles as a guest suite so that our overnight guests can have a little privacy when they come to visit.

I’m seriously considering excavating the crawlspace under the porch to make a cold room too, because I’m old school like that. :slight_smile:

I’ve never even seen a basement. Houses around here are definitely not built with them by default. It’s possible they’re not even allowed to build them.

Unless you want an indoor swimming pool downstairs, a basement in Florida isn’t really the greatest idea :slight_smile:

I’ve never seen a basement either. I’ve never lived anywhere where the water table wasn’t too high for a basement. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I had one. Probably fill it up with crap.

In western Pennsylvania, most houses have basements. When my cousin relocated to Atlanta (like half of the rest of western PA) they built new on slab. Two years later the lack of basement was driving them nuts as they had a lack of storage space. Property values in the area had increased such that they were able to build new again, and the new house has a basement.

I grew up in a house with a basement so wet that it was suitable only for storing plastic things that wouldn’t rust and you could wash the mold off of. Mushrooms grew in the floor. We had a huge walk-up attic for storage instead. As long as I have some dry, easily accesalbe storage space somewhere, basements don’t really interest me.

My husband, however, is obsessed with the concept of a fixed up basement. The dry, half above grade, partially finished walk-out basement of our current house was a real selling point for him. The house he grew up in was small, and the basement was his “play” space, so he’s comfortable down there.