Why No Basements in Dallas or the North Texas Area?

By
Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams
http://actvra.in/Gfm

Relocating home buyers ask "why are there no basements in Dallas or any part of North Texas?" The simple answer is the North Texas clay soil moves too much, making a basement cost prohibitive. It's structurally safer and much less expensive for a home builder to build a second story than to build a basement.

cracking clay soil

 

The clay really shrinks when dry and expands when wet. It's not uncommon to see cracks you can stick your whole hand in. This expanding / contracting / moving soil exerts tremendous pressure on buried structures like the floor and walls of a basement.

Is it Possible to build a Basement?

Is it possible to build a basement? Sure. Just not wise. Do you want to buy a home with a risky foundation? Do you have the desire or money to repair a major basement foundation issue?

What's the Cost to Build a Basement?

Some Dallas luxury homes do have basements. It's hard to know how much they cost since these are not your "ordinary basements". I have asked custom builders and the answer is "it's cost prohibitive".

Basement Foundation Warranty?

Perhaps home builders don't build basements because of foundation warranty costs. New home builders provide a 10 year limited warranty on Slab or Pier & Beam Foundations. This warranty is purchased through a large warranty insurance plan. The cost of this foundation warranty is passed on to the home builder in the purchase price.

It's Cheaper to "Build Up"

If home builders could have figured out an inexpensive way to build structurally sound basements they would have because people love basements. Builders have found it is cheaper to build a second story than it is to build a basement. Instead of a dark basement rec room you get an upstairs game room and or media room.

 

 

Basements and Tornado Safety

Relocating buyers ask about Tornado Safety, Yes, North Texas is in Tornado Alley. No there are not basements or underground storm shelters. It is uncommon to see a home built with an above ground room reinforced as a safe room or storm shelter.  Smaller interior rooms on the first floor are the rule of thumb.

Summary:

Why are there no basements in The Colony, Dallas or any part of North Texas? Because the clay soil makes building a basement on a new construction home cost prohibitive.

These are the opinions of an experienced local Realtor, not a structural soils expert.

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  1. David Krichmar 08/31/2010 05:14 PM
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Rainer
44,265
Mark Hitz
Keller Williams

Hello Willie

Thanks for the reply. 

Never say Never.

I like basements. I'm from the midwest and grew up with basements.

When I moved to North Dallas in 1990 I decided to build a home with a basement in Flower Mound Texas.  I told the custom builder that I wanted the basement unfinished.  He said something like "No Problem, the basement will be so unfinished you won't even know it's there".  He explained that they don't build basements because of the soil.   So I talked with the Flower Mound town new home inspector who said there was no law against basements but that he wouldn't green tag one.  For everyone reading this - if an inspector won't green tag new construction, the home cannot be occupied.

Fast forward to today...

I just did an MLS search of ALL Flower Mound homes Sold and For Sale.  The MLS provided 12,409 home results.  I then narrowed the MLS search to ONLY homes with a basement.  The MLS provided only 12 results where the listing agent indicates a basement.  For each home I then searched the Denton County Appraisal District Tax Info and I found that 8 of the 12 have SLAB foundations which means the listing agent made an error (no suprises there). 

So 4 homes have basements  - smallest is 3,600sqft.  2 basements appear to be walk outs.  1 home is a 12,000 sqft $1,600,000 McMansion with a 1,700sqft basement.  The last home is a 3,700sqft. home that appears to have a real basement.

So yes there are basements.

I know of no big box builders that will offer a basement for whatever the reason.

If and when I come across a buyer client that really wants to build a custom home with a basement, I will contact you.

 

October 15, 2011 08:54 AM
Rainer
44,265
Mark Hitz
Keller Williams

So I just took a look at your basement kings site and looked at some photos. I couldn't find any price ranges.   It appears the homes are walk out basements built on a slope where you are not digging a traditional hole in the ground basement. 

The pics also look like the home built above the basement uses serious I beam and all steel wall framing. Nice sturdy home but how much did that home cost the home owner? 

Do you have examples of nice $200,000 new construction homes within city limits with a basement?

 

(For people from other areas reading this... Homes here in the North Dallas suburbs are newer brick and wood frame construction and are very reasonably priced compared to other major cities. )

Thanks - Mark

 

 

October 15, 2011 09:40 AM
Anonymous #12
Anonymous
Willie King

Your correct with your research and it is really nice to see someone like yourself who is arming yourself with the facts for your readers.  To respond to your question about smaller basements in the $200k range so far we consulted on a project just outside of Galveston of all places.  We are just now consulting with more informed custom builders but we don't market to builders.  Our primary customer is the home owner because builders don't want to built them to avoid taking longer to build, avoiding any liability and due to their lack of knowledge about them.  We consider our-self a basement specialist who will help the future home owner design and build their own basement.  The steel frame home that is on our website was designed because the owner wanted something to stand up against a Texas tornado.  The fact that the project turned out as a walkout and was steel framed had nothing to do with the area or soil for that matter.  They were just working with the land they purchased.  In reference to the cost we can help someone build something as small as a wine cellar if that is all they were interested in building.  We consulted on a small project which was in-fact a wine cellar in the same subdivision as our show home.  The house is located on oak wood trail in oak wood estates - Fairview, Texas which they build cost about $6.00 sqf to build.  The home has sold once since it was originally built but if you would like a picture of the home let me know.  I hope you got a chance to read part of my book but if you did not here is a special link to allow you to read some of it.  If you like it and consider informing your readers about it, I will send you a special copy for your personal reference.

By the way we are certified by the state as a professional inspector service for people who either want to get a basement inspected, or is having problems getting one past my their town inspector.  Really they don't have a handle on basements because non of the Texas courses don't reference basements.  To be honest basements are not even covered in the material taught or tested by the state.  So the majority of new inspectors in my opinion are not qualified to inspect or offer any advice about basements period.  The older inspectors are knowledgeable about basements because over 25 yrs ago many were built as cellar all over Texas.

If you need any advice about basement, The Basement Kings are here at your service.

http://www.fastpencil.com/publications/2884-Building-Basements

Great Blog Mark!

wking

 

October 23, 2011 09:00 PM
Anonymous #13
Anonymous
Michael

My wife and I purchased a lot along a golf course sitting on a nice hill back in 2008. I mentioned to her it would make a nice walkout basement home with a great view. 12mo later we were done.  We built with Royal Crest Custom Homes - Dean Smith and connected up with North Texas Basements - Tom Werling.  North Texas Basements spent 5days digging out the site of which only the footprint of the home was cut into the hillside. All the dirt was pushed out to form the new raised backyard and space for the pool.  The drain field was set both inside and out of the footers thus giving any water from rains or possible springs an exit out. They used aluminium forms to case the walls with plenty of steel along with some great electrical grounding points. Total basement build took 5weeks and gave us over 3000sf of finished living and 1000sf of unfinished mechanical areas. Royal Creast Custom Homes spent another 5wks framing the home which consist of the 3000sf basement area with 2bd 2 full baths, Rec room with kitchen and a guest room. Finished ceiling height is 8.5ft. The main floor is built with a 20inch truss floor system hosting the main living areas and a large patio over looking the golf and lake. From the street you would think its just a single story home but its actually 3. The 3rd story is 600sf large 5th bedroom with the 5th full bath turn into a home office with lake view out of its own 5 windows.   Est 22 trucks of concrete made the basement floor and walls including the 3car garage. Piers were not used since the ground core samples resulted in good soil with a solid base.  The walls are 10in thick and with a 5in floor locking in the walls mother earth cant let this home move.  All ext concrete walls have stone fill so if any water soaks in it can drain out the back of the home using the drain field.   Its 4yrs later and we are very happy with the constuction and the efficiency of the home.   I will say we build with 6in ext walls foam filled and installed 2 water furnace geothermal units for AC and Heating. Drilled a private water well for the geo units and the water left over is used to irrigate the landscaping. Any extra water is returned untreated into the creek out back feeding the lake down stream.

If you say it cant be done its because your not thinking outside the box. 

August 21, 2012 05:48 AM
Anonymous #14
Anonymous
Basement Guy

 

After 37 years of homebuilding experience with the last five specializing in Texas basement construction, I can assure you there are no legitimate reasons not to build a basement in Texas.  My goal is to dispel the many myths around the numerous reasons not to build a basement and to educate on the many reasons TO build a home with a basement!

 

 

 

I often hear the reasons – high water table, expansive soils, ground it too hard, and costs.  So I will address each below.

 

 

 

High water table only exists in specific locations and under specific conditions.  True, you may not want to build a basement along a shore line but at the same time not all building sites are on a shore line.   Also, your lot may not be basement friendly if it is a flat lot with underground springs.  However, know that I have come across this situation and have done one successfully!

 

 

 

Expansive soils…that is probably the most important reason to do a basement.  Soils move all over the world; it is a fact of nature.  In the north it is actually known and identified as a “frost line”.  In Texas, we know the soil moves as a result of rain, wind, and sun exposure.  So it makes sense that the closer to the surface the more potential for movement.  Most slab foundations are only 24 to 28” deep.  How much does that help you with moving soils?  Actually none!  With a basement, the earth is 100% compacted and not subject to soil movement from wind, rain, and sun.        

 

 

 

Ground is too hard? Maybe if you are shoveling by hand but not for a tractor.  To date I have had to use a jack hammer on only one job!  True, rock sites are tougher and we don’t like them but this is not to do a basement.

 

 

 

Other items come to think of - Storm shelters.  Basements are a great place to protect your loved ones during a tornado.

 

 

 

Air Conditioning costs are lessened with a basement.  When you have a basement all you have to do is pull the free cool air out of the basement and send it to the first floor to save money - the electric bill is lower and your furnace will last longer!

 

 

 

All things considered, building a basement is an economical choice in the long run.  

 

And from someone who actually has experience with building basements in Texas -  

 

There is NO reason not to build a basement in Texas!! 

 

 

 

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call on North Texas Basements, Inc (817-770-BSMT) today!!!

 

September 14, 2012 04:29 PM
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