LAST UPDATED: October 17, 2022 by Ryan McCain
Basements are not a common feature in the South because in southern states the water table is very close to the surface of the ground, making any basement extremely susceptible to flooding. Basements have become a very popular staple in American homes as they present options for storage, entertaining, and added living space. While having a basement in your home may be fun and convenient, you may want to reconsider if you live below the Mason-Dixon line.
In southern states such as Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, many homes were never built with basements because these states have a lot of swampland or wetland territory, with too much water in the ground to make basements possible. The water table is less than a meter underground, and the required depth to build a basement is eight or more feet.
When building a home, the foundation needs to be placed below the frost line in order to ensure that pipes do not freeze or crack. It makes sense to dig a basement in homes located in cooler states where the frost line is already deep in the ground. In warmer climates, the frost line is close to the surface, therefore digging a basement is often an extra expense.
When adding a basement to a home, the soil beneath the foundation is a key factor. The clay composition can make basements impractical and in some cases, dangerous. Clay in soil absorbs water and then dries out, which can cause the soil to expand and retract leading to movement. Soil movement can have a large impact on the foundation of a home, especially with changes in weather that bring excess water and extreme heat. To account for soil changes and movement, builders in the south often build a home on a strong soil pack and often build homes on a hard layer of limestone bedrock. This common feature of southern homes can deter builders and homeowners from digging basements. In an ironic twist, cool and sheltering basements are seldom found in an area where they are sorely needed – in southern states with extremely high temperatures and frequent tornadoes.
- The largest U.S. aquifer, or underground layer of water, is called “Ogallala Aquifer” and stretches from Texas to South Dakota.
- The United States has the highest tornado count of any country, with an average of 1,000 tornadoes per year—Canada is a distant second with around 100 per year.
- The Sydney Opera House’s car park extends twelve stories down into the earth and is considered the deepest basement in the world at 120 feet.