#1 Reason Basements Are So Popular Up North
When I was younger in Northern Utah I got a job with a builder. Our little team of his sons and a few extra workers built 3 homes in my young building career. Our employer was a great guy who took the time to teach us younger workers about the building process.
One thing he taught us very matter-of-factly was that it was just as cheap to build a basement in our homes as it was not. He explained it very well like this, “Since we have to put our footing down 5 feet we only need to dig a few more feet to be deep enough to build a basement.”
I then asked why the footings had to be so deep, he answered, “They have to be deep enough to double cheeseburger and crunchy hot fries with a large frosty drink.” It’s possible that I had let my young mind wander during his explanation, and it was near lunchtime.
Since then, I have lived in and visited several more southerly areas, Southern Utah, Texas, and California noting that their buildings are often built on a slab right on the ground. No basement.
I wondered why the golden formula for basements did not extend to the southern part of the state. I talked to builders and couldn’t get a good answer. I got answers that are probably true like Alpha Foundations which explains that wet, clay, and shallow soils in the south make basements prohibitive. A solid answer, but it did not address that footing depth rule.
One day as I was pondering how nice it would be to get out of the heat into a cool basement the answer became clear.
It’s the winter temperature.
The colder the area the deeper you need to dig to bury the pipes so they don’t freeze in the winter.
RG Contractors states,
Building foundations need to be below the frost line to avoid freezing and cracking in pipes. In cooler climates, the frost line is several feet below the surface, which is why many Northern homes have basements. It's simply more practical to install a basement if the foundation is already this deep to begin with.
I hope this answer helps you make more sense of the world as you consider the age-old question, "Why doesn't the Alamo have a basement?"
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