Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To basement or not to basement?

As relatively new transplants to the Pacific Northwest (we've been here since 2005) we've always been a little confused as to why so few houses have basements out here. Nick grew up in Ohio and I spent a lot of time on the East Coast where it seemed like everyone had a basement to hang out in. Until recently, no one could provide an explanation as to why basements are so few and far between but we think we've finally figured it out!

In colder climates the frost line is lower (your foundation sits on a footing, but because the ground swells when it freezes, the footing has to go below the frost line) which means the structure for a basement is accidentally made. It would be silly to not take advantage of that space. However, in the Pacific Northwest the frost line is about 3 feet, not quite enough for a basement :)

We have decided that even though it's out of the ordinary we're going to do a full basement (terraced with partial walk-out). Since we're building the home on a budget we can basically build the first floor (a 3,300 square foot rambler with 3 bedrooms), get our certificate of occupancy, and then finish the basement as our family grows.

We got the estimate from one builder (who has tried to talk us out of the basement because of the cost) and the additional cost is about $54,000. This includes the extra cost of the foundation, the framing (which I thought, oh, why don't you just wait on that too but then I was reminded that you have to have something to set the house above on), the framing labor and the basement floor (a 4" concrete slab). At first thought that seems like a lot, but, when you consider that we'll be gaining at least 2,500 more square feet, that's only about $21.60 a square foot! Now that doesn't include all the finishing but for the basic shell of a basement we'll take it.

Photo Credit: I took this photo outside of the Catedral de Leon in Nicaragua. It is a statue of Maximo Jerez, a 19th century military leader.

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