What is a Basement Foundation?

The basement foundation of a house may be partially or completely beneath the ground.
Batter boards are commonly used to help keep a basement foundation square during construction.
Basements often have drainage systems that use sump pumps to remove excess water.
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  • Written By: Kendall Perry
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2015
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This foundation is an essential part of a house because it helps the structure remain stable regardless of the type of ground on which it is built. A basement foundation is a type of foundation that allows the lowest level of the house to be completely or partially below ground level. It differs from other types of foundations — such as slab foundations, crawlspace foundations or post-and-pier foundations — because it allows for a finished, full-size room or rooms below the first level of the house. A basement foundation typically consists of poured cement on the bottom and cement walls that rise to just above ground level. In most jurisdictions, building codes require the basement foundation walls to have a certain number of doors or windows that allow people in the home to escape from the basement in case of an emergency.

There are advantages to having a basement foundation, including the fact that they greatly increase the livable space of a house when the basement is finished, which means that amenities such as electricity, lighting, carpeting, drywall and plumbing have been added to the bare cement basement, making it look and feel like the rest of the home. Basement foundations are considered by many people to be a good choice for hot and dry regions of the world because there is virtually no danger of flooding, and they can remain cool and comfortable even in the heat of summer.


The disadvantages of a basement foundation are few if the home is new. A well-constructed basement foundation will protect against water damage. Pea gravel, drainage tiles and water barriers will help with most water issues. In areas where flooding or heavy rainfall is possible, a sump pump typically is installed to pump water out of the basement if it starts to become flooded.

A slab foundation is built into the ground at ground level and provides no available space below the first level of the house. A crawlspace foundation is built at ground level or is slightly raise above the ground, and a small space — but large enough for a person to crawl through — is available under the first level of the house. This crawlspace can be used to access or install pipes and electrical wiring below the house, and it sometimes can be used for additional storage space. A post-and-pier foundation is used in areas where flooding is possible or likely, and it is constructed so that the home is raised off the ground. The posts upon which the house stands must be driven deep enough into the ground to provide for a solid and stable foundation.


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