Building From The Ground Up: The Pros & Cons Of Different Foundation Types

Posted by Larry Tollen on Friday, February 17th, 2017 at 8:14am

home foundations

Types Of Foundations

When it comes to building a new home, it all starts with a solid foundation. Most people take their homes’ foundation for granted, especially if they come from another part of the country. People from the Midwest are used to having a basement, while people in Florida are accustomed to having homes built on a slab.

But for people who relocate to the Triangle, or even those who have been here awhile, thinking about the different kinds of foundations is likely unfamiliar territory, because all kinds can be found here. Understanding the different kinds of foundations, and the pros and cons of each, is important for anyone considering buying a home here.

There are three basic kinds of foundation, each with its pros and cons:

1. Homes with Basements

The only time a home in this area has a basement is when it’s built on a sloped lot and the builder has no choice. One side of the basement (usually the back of the home) will be a walk-out, while the opposite side is below grade.

Pros: Walk-out basements offer additional living space that can be used for a rec room, additional bedrooms, or storage. Their convenient access to the back yard can be a nice feature.

Cons: In this area, basements are prone to problems associated with moisture - mold, water damage, buckling walls. Basement walls can be waterproofed, but this is not always done correctly, and on older homes may not have been done at all.

Verdict: If you’re considering a home with a basement, proceed with caution, as the potential problems may outweigh the benefits.

2. Slab on Grade Foundations

A slab foundation is the easiest for contractors to build. It’s basically just four to six inches of concrete poured over a leveled, compacted piece of ground.

Pros: Slabs allow the entry to be at grade level, or slightly above, eliminating the need for steps or ramps. It’s also the least expensive foundation to build.

Cons: Plumbing and other pipes are sealed into the concrete. If leaks or other problems occur, or if you want to remodel, accessing pipes will be difficult and expensive. Slabs are also subject to moisture problems if they aren’t waterproofed well.

Verdict: Unless grade-level access to the home is important, we do not recommend homes with slab foundations.

3. Homes with a Crawlspace

Homes with crawlspaces are the most common in the Triangle. This involves building a concrete or brick footing that sits about 30 inches above grade. They will include a vapor barrier and insulation below the ground floor, depending on if it’s a Building a crawlspacesealed or ventilated crawlspace.

Pros: Crawlspaces offer greater energy efficiency and permit easier access to mechanicals for repairs or renovations. Ventilated crawlspaces can also offer some storage space, depending on the height

Cons: The house is built at least a couple feet above grade, making steps or ramps necessary. For ventilated crawlspaces, care must be taken to close them off in the winter to prevent freezing pipes.

Verdict: If steps or ramps are not a concern, we believe crawlspaces are the best foundation type for this area.

For more information about foundations and buying and selling homes in the Triangle, or just general questions about buying a new-contructon home, contact My NC Homes today online or by phone at 919.659.5173.

4 Responses to Building From The Ground Up: The Pros & Cons Of Different Foundation Types

Alex Dean wrote:

My husband and I are in the process of having our new house designed, and one of the things we need to look at is what kind of foundation we would like to have. I like how you pointed out that when it comes to choosing a basement foundation is that it will provide a lot of extra space that our family may need. It will be great to have more bedrooms for the kids, and a rec room for them to hang out in.

Alex: Basements do offer extra space, however they also cost considerably more than stick frame building and can be problematic depending on the soils in the area you're building. If you're building in an area where the soils have a high clay content and annual rainfall exceeds 20" a year (for example here in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area where I'm located) if you're going to have a basement put in you really need to make certain that the below grade walls are water proofed and that good foundation drainage is installed, otherwise 10 years down the road there's a very high probability that you will be dealing with moisture related issues in your basement. If you are building in our area and would like to chat further, feel free to give us a call. Thanks for taking the time to read our article and leave a comment.

Posted on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 2:42pm

Building Your Own Home? Slab-On-Grade Foundation vs. Basement Foundation | Affordable Concrete Services wrote:

[...]basement, one primary concern, and a phenomenon you may have experienced yourself firsthand, is the presence of moisture within a basement space. Whether it be through an obvious damp musty odour or the sight of water[...]

Posted on Friday, July 27th, 2018 at 3:49pm

Jocelyn McDonald wrote:

My brother wants to build a home from the ground up, and I suggested he take careful considering with the foundation for this. Your article had great information regarding this, and I liked how you said to consider a slab foundation, as this is the easiest and least expensive foundation to build, and eliminates the need for stairs. Thanks; I'll share this with my brother to help him considering the foundation for his home.


Glad you found the article useful. - The My NC Homes Team

Posted on Thursday, February 14th, 2019 at 9:18am

Kate Welling wrote:

I love the idea of how a basement can be a walkout basement to the backyard, as you said. My husband and I have always dreamed of building our own home, and we're getting so close to achieving that goal! It would be nice to have a basement like this in our floorplans. I'll need to look for a concrete contractor to ask about this and see if it is possible to do this on our property.

Kate- Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, glad you found the article helpful. - The My NC Homes Team

Posted on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019 at 6:01pm

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