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Why Are There No Basements In The South?

Why Are There No Basements In The South?

Are you planning to move to the South?

Do you know that, unlike the North, the South of the USA lacks a basic room in their homes? The basement. 

Many northerners are surprised to discover that southern homes do not have basements.

It’s pretty common not to have a basement in the South, and this isn’t because of personal preference. It’s due to geographical reasons. 

The main reason why there are no basements in the South is due to the region’s damp soil, which makes it difficult to build basement levels to many homes. 

This also leads to the question of how do southerners create storage space if they don’t have a basement?

What Is The Main Purpose of a Basement?

In the past, basements were used strictly for storage purposes. People used to store water, wine, or food in the basement.

However, they used to store everything in glass jars due to the excessive moisture in the cellar or basement.

The tables have turned nowadays, and basements today are being used as recreational rooms, bars, extra sleeping spaces, or even movie rooms. 

The change is due to technology, which has made it possible for humans to move to the basements without any adverse effects.

Dehumidifiers, humidifiers, and such have made life easier in the basement. Due to these facilities, there is extensive use of basements in the North.

Hence, northerners are always surprised to find that there are hardly any basements In the South.

However, there is no pitying or feeling sad for the southerners; they have their own functional storage spaces that the North may not have, such as attics and external storage sheds.

In the South, most homes come with attics or storage sheds placed outside the house to compensate for the lack of basement storage.

Following are the reasons why the South doesn’t have basements. 

Damp Soil

Damp Soil

The main culprit is damp soil. Most southern states have high populations, vast areas of wetlands, significant coastlines, and swamps. 

This means the amount of water under the soil is too much for them to make basements practical in southern homes.

Why would you pay tons of money to build a basement only to have it flooded?

It makes no sense. Not only is that pointless, but it can also be potentially dangerous. 

The required water height underground to construct a basement is 8 feet.

However, it’s more or less 3.3 feet in southern areas, which is too high to build a basement that won’t flood.

Even if the basements don’t flood, the high moisture concentrations make it very difficult to have a basement that won’t get mold or rot. 

Clay Soil

Not all of the South is wetland; there are drier parts. What about them? How come the drier areas don’t have basements?

To answer that in the simplest way is to examine the clay soil. Even in the dry regions, basements are rare due to soil composition.

The drier states in the South have a high concentration of clay. Soil with a high concentration of clay expands and contracts as the weather changes. 

When the weather is wet, the soil expands, and when the weather is dry, the soil contracts.

It’s this movement that happens with every weather change which makes it highly difficult to build foundations underground.  

When the clay expands and retracts, it puts immense strain on walls, it may not be apparent, but it wreaks havoc on the walls and can be highly dangerous for the foundations of the house.

Due to these reasons, building basements in the South are highly impractical and potentially dangerous. 

However, there is still a way to counter that if you are adamant about having a basement in your Southern home.

Builders can start the basement as well as the foundation digging if the soil pack is strong enough.

The moisture levels can be easily offset by adding lime mixtures so the basements can be constructed without any problems. 

Frost Line

Why there are no basements in the South has a lot more to do with location than personal preference. If it’s not the wetland, it’s the clay.

If it’s not the clay, then it’s the frost line. When building foundations, you need to construct it in a way so the pipes that go through them don’t freeze.

However, in the South, the frost line lies closer to the surface, which makes it hard and impractical to build basements. 

In the North, the frost line is several feet below the ground; hence building a basement is normal.

Because the foundation goes several feet in the ground, it makes total sense to use the extra space and build a basement. 

Shallow soil

Shallow Soils

Many Southern states have solid limestone bedrock underneath the shallow soils. This makes it practically impossible to build basements.

One can dig through the limestone and build a basement. However, the cost of such makes it very impractical to have a basement under the house since excavating such a mass of solid rock is not an easy or cheap task. 

If you are still keen on having one, you will need to bring in heavy machines, as well as hire an engineer to supervise the whole thing. This is such a hassle to build extra storage space. 

You can still have a basement in the South if you want!

Southerners have given up on having basements as the cost of having basements is too high. But if you are relocating and are adamant about having a basement in your Southern home, you can think about using the encapsulation method.

However, the cost of such extensive waterproofing can be too high. 

If it’s only storage you are looking for, many South homes have crawl space underneath their homes. You can use this space as your storage under the house.

However, the crawl space under the house isn’t liveable. It can be dangerous even to attempt digging out the crawl space.

Many builders or contractors will advise you against it.

Bottom Line to The South Not Having Basements

Most people use their basements for storage purposes. Southerners could use their sheds and attic instead of a basement.

Since the location makes it impossible to have basements, it’s better to explore other means of storage than basements. Many different types of soil, along with the frost line, make it difficult for those who live in southern states to build basements for their homes.

Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.