Why Do People Build Houses without Basements in California?

Why do people build their homes without basements in California?

It is a question that many ask themselves when they visit this wonderful and unique southwestern state. In fact, the reality is different.

The Flag of the State of California
California Flag

There are a lot of houses in SoCal (Southern California) with basements, just not the new ones. Many of them are built on a hillside and they have a specific kind of basement, namely walkout basement.

However, there are many houses in the northern states or in the East without a basement mainly due to a high water table or bedrock just to name a couple of reasons. Generally, the rock below a home makes putting in a basement too costly.

Yes, one of the main reasons why a home is without basement is because of the height of the water table under it. If the water table level is higher, as in Florida for example, basements can be all the time flooded. Therefore, basements are not indicated for buildings in areas with a high water table.

But perhaps, the biggest reason you do not see too many basements, not only in California but everywhere, is they are not really needed, so it is less expensive to build a house without one, not to mention that to own a property in California is expensive and usually it is cheaper to build up rather wide or down.

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This is the explanation why is not a big difference between the price of a large two level house and a smaller one level home.

More than that, California has a kind climate all year round and an underground for energy conservation is not really, a concern to homeowners.

We must not forget also that California is an area with high seismic activity. Earthquakes can cause significant and serious damages to a basement such as cracks and tears and waterproofing issues. So, earthquake prone areas are not recommended to have houses with basements because they require more building than a slab house.

Basements are more common in other countries and because they are an effective and safe shelter against natural disasters such as tornadoes and hurricanes. Fortunately, California is exempt from these disasters.

In many areas, you need to go deep with the house foundation to reach a hard enough ground to build on. It is not the same case for California. If you are going down only a few feet you will hit a hard ground like bedrock, which is perfect to build on. Therefore, the bedrock below your home makes putting in a house basement too costly.

Another important reason why houses have basements in many states and areas such as Colorado and in Northeast areas is to have house footings below the frost line, where in many cases it is between 3 and 4 ft. below and if you dig that deep, why not to use this space adding a floor to your house. This is not the case for California so it is enough if these home footings need to go down only a few inches. As for getting some extra space, it is usually, less expensive to use more land area and to build at ground level, unless of course, real-estate prices being extremely high prohibit this.

How I mentioned above a lot of houses in California are built on a hillside they have a special type of basement, called walkout basement, that are in fact a half of basement. But even such of basement is built, there are no stairs to connect the walkout basement to the main part of the building. Why?

Because, stairs are pretty expensive and take up from the living space and space is expensive in California.

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