different types of basements

Types of Basements

Types of Basements

Having a basement in your home or installing a new one can be a good investment – one that can increase your home’s value and function. Finishing a basement can cost around $7 to $23 per foot, including labor and materials, but it has an ROI (return on investment) of up to 70 percent. Plus, basements can be used for a wide array of purposes (more on this below).

However, a number of factors, including soil and climate, can affect your ability to build a basement in your home. Poor soil conditions, a downward sloping lot, or high water tables can make construction difficult. You can install a waterproofing membrane or caissons (deep piers) to reinforce the basement but that will add on to your building cost. So, before anything else, let’s check if the state where you live or plan to live in is more suitable for building a basement or not.

The five types of basements are:

  1. Full basement
  2. Partial basement
  3. Walk-out basement
  4. Crawlspace
  5. Cellar

Basements in the United States

If you’ve resided or observed houses in different states, you might notice a pattern: More houses in some states feature basements than others. Why is this so?

As already mentioned, basement construction is influenced by the variations in climate and soil conditions in specific areas of the country. These factors can make deeper underground excavation – which is required for constructing basements – easier or harder.

With this in mind, you’ll find that many homes above the Mason-Dixon line will have some type of basement. This is because foundations of homes here must be built deeper into the ground than the frost line, so it makes sense for homeowners to excavate some more to make room for a basement.

In contrast, Arizona, California and other areas in the more Western part of the country find it more difficult to build basements due to the significant amount of clay in the soil. Clay takes in more water and expands when wet, as well as dries out and retracts easily when dry, so it’s dangerous to build a basement within this soil type. Instead of basements, you’ll often find that attics and outdoor storage spaces are more common in the area.

Along the East Coast and south of the Mason-Dixon line, the thin layer of soil holds extra moisture, i.e., its wetter, and below that is a stronger lime bedrock, which makes excavation almost impossible.

Uses of Basements

Basements are usually where utilities and amenities are located. So, you’d often find the electrical system, water heater, furnace, breaker panel or fuse box there.

In addition to being a utility space, basements can also be used as:

  • Family room
  • Home office or workroom
  • Guest or extra bedroom
  • Home entertainment center or media room
  • Children’s playroom
  • Home gym or exercise area
  • Den or man cave
  • Laundry room
  • Parking area
  • Storage space

Types of Basements

There are five broad categories of basements. They are as follows:

Daylight Basement

Also known as an English basement or lower ground floor, a daylight basement is divided into an above-ground space and an underground space. The above-ground portion features small windows which can open to let fresh air in. This basement type stretches across the entire house, which doubles your living space but doesn’t have any external doors.

Daylight basements can be used as a living space, as a garage or as maintenance rooms. The below-ground area is commonly converted into storage or a laundry room or to house utilities like HVAC and water tanks.

Walk-Out Basement

Unlike daylight basements, walk-out basements feature a door to the outside and full-size windows. It can be ground-level or include an above-ground portion like daylight basements. It could also include stairs to the exit. It is used much like daylight basements, with the above-ground portion as living space and the ground-level portion for utilities and storage.    


Essentially a basement within a basement, a subbasement is completely underground, sitting underneath a daylight or walk-out basement. As such, it doesn’t have any exterior doors or windows, but it does have a staircase that connects it to the rest of the house.

A subbasement is a rare residential feature because the entire foundation would have to be redone and it is also prone to flooding. Homeowners that do have a subbasement typically use them as storage space.


A cellar is an underground space that functions as cold storage for wine, produce and preserved foods. It extends below a small portion of the house and has plenty of standing room, which makes it easier to transport food and other items into the space. In the U.S., cellars can serve as shelter from tornadoes.


Typically accessed through a small door or hatch, a crawlspace is often only a couple of feet high – just enough space for a plumber or electrician to crawl through, hence the name. It covers the entire residence, though plumbing lines and other components may hinder access, and the surface is commonly soil.

A crawlspace can serve as storage for infrequently used items, but it has to be protected from moisture that can result in mold or mildew and damage to stored items.     

Basement Construction Tips

Basements offer premium quality living space that’s very flexible in terms of how you can use it, depending on your needs. However you might plan on using your basement, make sure to talk to your builder to get the most from your home now and in the future.

  • Basement entrance – The best placement for a stairway is along a basement wall. This maximizes your usable floor area.
  • Ceiling height – Higher ceilings can open up the basement. Many basements now feature 9- and 10-foot ceilings.
  • Windows – Improve the lighting and mood of the basement with a daylight window. Natural light can make the basement a more cheerful area instead of a dark and gloomy space.
  • Lighting – Varying the lighting you use in certain areas can help create the vibe you want. For instance, track ceiling lighting can highlight special items or make the space warm and inviting.
  • Electrical outlets and utilities – If you’re planning to use the basement as an extension of your living space or for something else, it makes sense to think about where electrical outlets, switches, HVAC ducts, and water and sewer lines will be located. Placing these utilities together in one area provides you with extra space.
  • Finishes – Add interest and appeal to your basement with the right finishes. Hardwoods can make the space look more traditional while wrought iron can create a more industrial or outdoor garden vibe.

Most importantly, work with a reputable contractor, especially one who has experience in basement construction or renovation. An experienced contractor will be able to spot potential problems and provide appropriate solutions.

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