Why no basement in Texas?

sailor86July 21, 2008

I'm originally from the Maryland area and scarce was the house that did not incorporate a basement. I've been here in Texas since 1990 and have never been given a satisfactory answer to the question concerning why there are very few if any basements in this state. Ground too hard. Ground too soft. Which one is it?

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This may just be another fallacy, but
I heard basements are more common in the north because of having to dig below the frost line. Sometimes as much as 4 feet. Not much of an issue in the south.

But this shouldn't be a reason why they can't?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 4:42PM
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Depending where you are in the state, you've got shifty clay soil, high water tables or solid rock. Basements can be done, but they're not cheap.

Here is a link that might be useful: Basements in Texas

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 9:51PM
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I live in TX and we have a basement and I wish we didn't. It has leaked 3 times, 2 times really badly. They don't tend to put in sump pumps here, so it's a mess. The first time it was over a foot deep and the fire department had to come drain it.

The only way we could stop it was to install gutters, landscape slopes away from the house and install outside drainage. Now it doesn't leak, but we have never re-installed the carpet or walls. It's just empty concrete. I don't trust it and if I ever move, I'll never have another one. It seems like everyone who has a basement has leak problems at one time or another. Anyway, so there are some basements in TX. Lol

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 3:14PM
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I've lived in TX for over 10 yrs and I, too, initially was puzzled by the lack of basements. However, I now realize there are two good reasons why most houses are built here without basements. A large part of TX has heavy clay shrink/swell soils (Vertisols) that swell when wet and shrink and crack (and I'm talking cracks that can be 6 or more inches wide and greater than 12 inches deep) when dry. This would spell doom for a concrete basement because moving soils exert tremendous pressure on any buried structure. This is the reason why there are so many house leveling businesses in central TX; the moving soils move (or sometimes crack) the concrete slabs or the piers (for a pier and beam support) beneath houses so they periodically need to be leveled as they tilt first one way then the other. The second reason is that much of Texas is underlain by limestone. In some places in the state there are only a few inches of soil atop the limestone parent material. I guess you could jackhammer or dynamite a basement of sorts from the limestone, but it would be very expensive and if you had water leak into it, you would have essentially created a giant swimming pool beneath your house. The result of no basements, however, is a limited amount of storage capacity. Thus, you often see garages that are packed top to bottom with stuff that would normally be stored in the basement. This forces homeowners to park their vehicles on driveways or on the street.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2008 at 5:05PM
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