Oil, texas, etc
April 17, 2005 11:48 AM   Subscribe

Why don't people in texas have basements?
posted by delmoi to Home & Garden (20 answers total)
 
I think it's because the below ground water is really close to the surface there.
posted by drezdn at 11:53 AM on April 17, 2005


My guess is that it is because they don't have to build them. Houses in the north have to be built down below the frost line so that the ice doesn't move the foundation during the winter. Basements are expensive to dig out and and if you don't need to most people will not want to pay for them.
posted by octothorpe at 12:04 PM on April 17, 2005


Well, some people do, but it's uncommon because it's really expensive. Flooding is a big problem in a lot of Texas (largely because of the reason that drezdn mentioned, but also because much of Texas has soil that is very easily saturated), so you really have to put a lot of engineering into making them leak-free.

Also, it's doen't totally fit with the Texas aesthetic. People by and large like things to look big and opulent, so adding square footage where you can't see it doesn't really square with that, especially given the added cost. Land is cheap outside urban areas (and even that's cheap in relation to similar urban areas in other states), so you can just build out instead of down.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 12:10 PM on April 17, 2005


Also because of the prevalance of A/C in Texas and the South?

Here in the NW a good portion of homes have basements, maybe to serve as a cooler room during the summer since most homes I've found up here don't have A/C. When I lived in the South (just outside Memphis), I can't remember a single house that had a basement nor can I rememebr a single building or home that didn't have A/C.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 12:13 PM on April 17, 2005


I have lived in the SW. The reason is the soil and heat. Their soil is primarily clay, and it bakes in the hot summers. Shifting happens. Some people have basements, but they tend to be leaky.
posted by 6:1 at 12:16 PM on April 17, 2005


Here in Austin, we're sitting on limestone and it's expensive to dig out (as my friends who have installed pools can testify).
posted by j at 12:20 PM on April 17, 2005


I recently had a conversation with a friend in Dallas who told me he was wondering the same thing, and found out that it's because of what octothorpe said - you have to dig deep enough to get the foundation below the frost line so a house doesn't move around when it freezes. In many places, since they have to do some digging to get below the frost line, they make functional space (a basement) out of the dug-out area. In Texas, since getting below the frost line isn't an issue, and it's expensive to dig, there aren't many homes with basements.
posted by Buzz at 12:37 PM on April 17, 2005


On the other, non-limestone side of Austin where I live, the houses are built on slabs that semi-anchor/semi-"float" on top of volatile clay soils. Slab breakage is a huge problem over here... I looked at a house that had a 4" differential over a fairly short distance. Would basements help, as they are in a sense four deep retaining walls?
posted by rleamon at 12:38 PM on April 17, 2005


What about the basement at the Alamo? ;)

I would think it's also a topographical thing... in the Northeast there's much more rocky, hilly land area, especially along coastlines, which probably necessitates basements because of the elevation and "evening out" the land. I would imagine that flat land doesn't need basements as much for leveling and support.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:17 PM on April 17, 2005


I've noticed people in SoCal (San Diego, south) don't have it either. Here in Kansas City, when my parents built their house they had to dig all the way to bedrock with five huge concrete pillars. The contract screwed the builder, it cost him more to do that then build the whole house.
posted by geoff. at 2:04 PM on April 17, 2005


I grew up mostly in Houston and I believe that the water table there is just too high to dig a basement. Where I lived, you would hit water about 3-4 feet down. It was a big disappointment that we couldn't build our underground clubhouse.
posted by kamikazegopher at 2:48 PM on April 17, 2005


We have a basement in the place outside Fort Worth.
posted by joaquim at 9:05 PM on April 17, 2005


A Base-ment is a base, a foundation. The main function is simply to support the house from below the frost line.

A basement is a wonderful space. It can be left bare and utilitarian, a place you can store stuff, have a workshop, leave cluttered. You never have to show visitors your basement either, if that suits you. OR you can 'finish' the space into a lovely family room that stays cooler in summer weather.

Those of us who grew up where a basement was the norm, miss them when we move to other areas. Some places lack them due to the lack of deep freezing, others due to high groundwater.

I loved my in-laws house in Belgium. They had a basement, except it was really the attic. It just functioned exactly like a basement in Michigan. Workshop, play area, and even an extra bedroom (exactly like my house) where my partner had his room. Only difference, the laundry wasn't there (no surprise).
posted by Goofyy at 10:18 PM on April 17, 2005


As drezdn knows (hi bikeal cherry!) in Milwaukee (and Wisconsin in general), every building has a basement. It was a real shock moving down to Arkansas and discovering that people didn't have them here (like Texas, I guess).

Good question, good answers!
posted by chota at 9:23 AM on April 18, 2005


rleamon, can you mail me at my profile address? My wife and I are considering moving to Austin next year, and I am always eager to hear from people that already live there.

j, you've got mail.
posted by Irontom at 9:32 AM on April 18, 2005


yes, in east austin (and much of the rest of east texas) it is definitely the clay soil. We are contending with a shifting slab right now. With the west, you've got limestone to chisel through. I was told these were also the reasons that much of the infrastructure (phone, cable, electricity, etc.) is above ground in Austin.

Most underground projects require extra digging so you can infill with something more stable, then build on top of that.
posted by whatnot at 9:43 AM on April 18, 2005


grew up mostly in Houston and I believe that the water table there is just too high to dig a basement. Where I lived, you would hit water about 3-4 feet down. It was a big disappointment that we couldn't build our underground clubhouse.

I grew up near Port Arthur, and there, the reason was that the water table was too high. Even as a kid digging holes in the backyard, we hit water. The house was built on post foundations sunk in the soil, and had an airspace underneath it.

That's really the only reason I ever heard. I cast doubt on the 'Texans jest like things bigger' theory. Most of the houses in our neighborhood were small ranch styles of one story. They didn't sprawl much. Wanna see some big houses? Check out a Northeastern McMansion suburb. Then let's talk about big.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on April 18, 2005


No basements? Where do they keep all the crap they've accumulated over the years? I mean, I've got my NeXTStation, IBM PC, and Apple ]['s in my basement, along with about 30 cans of paint, boxes full of books, tapes, junk, etc...
posted by raster at 10:30 AM on April 18, 2005


Raster,

I grew up in Central California, where most houses also didn't have basements (homes built pre-WW2 did). (And no homes had attics, either.) Those of us who didn't have basements kept all the stuff in the garage. The only people who actually parked in the garage were those who had fewer cars than the garage was designed for. But most people left their cars in the driveway.
posted by luneray at 10:44 AM on April 18, 2005


No basements? Where do they keep all the crap they've accumulated over the years? I mean, I've got my NeXTStation, IBM PC, and Apple ]['s in my basement, along with about 30 cans of paint, boxes full of books, tapes, junk, etc...

When I moved to Texas from New Jersey last year, I wondered the same thing. Turns out that a lot of houses here have attics tha are as spacious as basements back home.
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2005


« Older Does anybody recognize this series of classroom...   |   Anal Prevention? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.