Whether you have moved into an existing home with a basement or you are in the process of building a brand new home, understanding how your basement was built can be helpful. Knowing what a floating basement floor is and why it is not a French Drain can be priceless.
The basement in its early history was little more than a cellar where the cold storage took place. Root cellars are for keeping food supplies at a low temperature and steady humidity. They keep food from freezing during the winter and keep food cool during the summer months to prevent spoilage.
When boilers replaced fireplaces for home heating, the basement was where the coal bin and heating plant for the home was located.
After World War II came to the development of large, mid-priced suburban homes and basements became easier to build. Big excavation machines like backhoes and front-end loaders made the job easier than the manpower required to excavate by hand.
The basement has become commonplace in construction today as a space in its own right. Typically it is a large, concrete-floored space, accessed by indoor stairs, with exposed columns and beams along the walls and ceilings.
A basement provides additional living space and storage for your home. It can be used in almost exactly the same manner as an additional above-ground floor of a house. However, basements are considered standard in many places with temperate climates. There are a number of different ways that a basement might be constructed, and the method used will depend on the soil conditions and the standard construction of the area.
A house with a basement starts with a hole about 8 feet deep. The basement in then constructed in three parts:
- The footings are then formed and poured. The typical footing in a ranch style home is 16” Wide by 14” Deep.
- The 8” thick wall (either poured solid concrete or hollow concrete blocks) is then centered on the footings and built up to about 7’ 3” in height.
- The slab floor is usually 4” and is poured concrete.
If you live in an area with clay soil, basement foundations can become unstable as the condition of the clay fluctuates. As rainwater passes through the clay it expands. When the clay dries, it shrinks. For this reason, many contractors will install floating basement walls under these conditions. Floating basement floors do not actually connect to the walls; instead, there is a gap where the floor and wall come together. Many homeowners don’t even know they have a floating basement and think that the space between the walls and floor is a French Drain. A floating basement is not a drainage system, but rather a way to prevent the basement floor from cracking. The floating floor allows some breathing room for the ground to rise and swell without causing structural damage to the home
The type of basement you have will depend on the soil conditions under your home and the preferences of the builder who constructed the house. It is good to understand the type of basement construction your home might have in case you ever have problems with your basement structure. A properly constructed basement will provide a firm foundation for your home for years to come.
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