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Where Are Basements Common?

In which states can basements be found? There are important structural reasons to build homes with and without basements, and here’s why.

Basement, tan walls, hardwood floors, area rug, small white couch with teal throw pillows and black and white blanket, two black and white chairs

Do you find it strange when a house does or doesn’t have a basement? As someone living in the United States’ Tornado Alley, I have come to expect a basement in every house I visit or move into. The fact that there are some places where basements aren’t common was surprising!

Where are they? Where aren’t they? And why is there such a difference between certain locations?

Map of the USA

On average, in the United States, basements are most commonly found in the Midwest. This includes states such as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri. Expect to find basements in areas that are susceptible to tornadoes, for the purpose of shelter, or a frost line, in which case the house foundation is required below freezing depth.

There are so many regulations and restrictions when it comes to the way houses are built, and differences in their requirements depending on where they are. It can be pretty confusing if you don’t know what you’re getting into, especially when moving from one area of the US to another.

That is why in this article I will explain everything from where basements are, where they aren’t, why they’re important, and how in certain areas they can do more harm than good.

Table of Contents

Which States Are Basements Allowed In?

Of the 50 states in the US, only in 7 are basements commonly found. These states are known as being a part of ‘Tornado Alley’. That doesn’t mean there aren’t basements in any of the other 43, only that you’re less likely to find them there.

There actually isn’t a state where basements aren’t allowed, just not preferred. And for good reason, trust me.

The 7 states that house the majority of the United States’ basements can be found in the Midwest – no pun intended!

  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Iowa
  • Nebraska
  • Missouri
  • Kansas

Although they all reside in ‘Tornado Alley’, the threat of thrashing winds isn’t the only cause for concern. Do you know what a frost line is? Before this article, I had no idea how important it is.

frost line [frawst-lahyn]

noun

the maximum depth at which soil is frozen.

Definition according to Dictionary.com.

The frost line varies with different locations and is another factor that determines the need for a basement. Not for shelter, but to prevent frost heaving from damaging the foundation when groundwater in soil freezes and, in doing so, expands upwards. This will push your house off balance, potentially cracking walls, ceilings, and pipes to a point to warrant danger.

Corner of a stucco house with a crack, white window trim, blue sky

Basements keep this from happening by acting as supports at least two feet below the frost line. Because of how the frost line fluctuates with location, supporting basements can be found in many states other than the common 7 listed above.

On the other hand, if the frost line is closer to the surface, it becomes harder to find a house with a basement. This is thanks to high expenses for construction, as well as flooding and rock that is too hard to dig into. Houses in these areas are less likely to need support or protection from freezing pipes and cracking walls.

Do you want to know where the frost line is in your state? Check it out here at WorldPopulationReview.com! It could be anywhere from 100 inches below the surface to less than 5 inches away!

Why Are Basements More Common In The North?

Why do some areas of the US have basements? The North, in particular.

As you may know, the further North you travel, the colder the temperature becomes. Due to cooler weather and the dropping position of the frost line, basements are needed to prevent heaving and frozen or cracked pipes.

Frozen pipe with a crack, ice on pipe

In states such as Texas, the weather hardly gets cold enough to harm their pipes, and as such they can be found simply a handful of feet below the surface. The frost line rises closer to the surface as you near the equator, the opposite of nearing the poles, and so the need for support lessens.

I don’t know about you, but as someone in a colder state I was surprised to find this out. It can get so cold that even our basements don’t protect our pipes from freezing! Heat tape is a lifesaver!

States Where Basements Are Common:

Are Basements Common In California?

No, basements are not common in the state of California. This not only has to do with warmer temperatures, but it was cheaper to build homes on a basic foundation rather than over a basement.

However, this has been changing through the years. We have come to realize that basements are not only a convenient and nearby place to take shelter in the event of a tornado but during an earthquake, too. They may not be common in the majority of homes in this Western state but they are making appearances in newer buildings.

Cutout map of California, California flag, sun, ocean, surfer, airplane

Are Basements Common In Georgia?

This is a state where basements really aren’t necessary. With Georgia having a warmer climate and one of the highest frost lines, only five inches from the surface according to WordPopulationReview.com, there isn’t much need for a basement other than storage purposes.

However, paying for a basement to be built on top of other construction fees may be too steep in some people’s eyes, and not worth the risk of flooding from the water table or working around the type of soil found there.

Cutout map of Georgia, flowers, trees, mountains, peaches

Are Basements Common In Texas?

You aren’t likely to find many houses or buildings with basements when in this state.

Why aren’t basements common in Texas? The high water table causes anything underground to be prone to flooding. It costs close to a fortune to get around this with the use of pumps and pipes. Most people don’t think it’s worth it just for a bit of extra storage.

The bedrock is also closer to the surface than in other states. While the soil above bedrock is unconsolidated rock, bedrock itself is consolidated, meaning it is very solid and very tough. This makes it difficult to dig down and install a basement – extremely difficult. Just like the previous roadblock to basements, this will cost you a lot of time and money to get past.

Cut out map of Texas, mountains, trees, bull, cowboy hat, cactus

Are Basements Common In Colorado?

It’s true that there are some parts of Colorado where up to 50 to 60 percent of homes have basements. The frost line may not be as much of an issue here as in other Northern states, but because it’s 44 inches below the surface, basements are still needed to support homes and other buildings.

With temperatures dropping as low as 6°, the groundwater in soil will freeze and expand to push the items around it. Basements are a strong, sturdy way to ensure that this doesn’t affect the leveling of a house. Once one part of the structure is displaced, the entire house is at risk.

Colorado stamp, mountains, trees, tents, dinosaur monument, national park

Are Basements Common In Kentucky?

The need for basements in Kentucky tends to vary depending on location. Some consider it a Southern state, others a Northern state, due to the fact that it sits a bit in the middle of the US. At 15 inches, there are many buildings that do, indeed, have basements.

Check it out here on the frost line map at WorldPopulationReview.com and decide for yourself whether it’s a Northern state or Southern state!

Kentucky cutout, bridge, mountains, trees, corn cobs, running horse, tall buildings

Are Basements Common In Oklahoma?

Due to the high water table, which moistens soil and can cause flooding, basements are not common in Oklahoma. Because the frost line is only 20 inches below the surface, there is no expansive need for supports or to keep pipes from freezing the way they do in Northern states.

That’s not to say you won’t find a basement or cellar here and there. They simply won’t be a common occurrence.

Cutout map of Oklahoma, mountains, barns, running horses, lakes, tornadoes, teepees, watermelons, turkey, dreamcatcher

Are Basements Common In Oregon?

When construction first started in Oregon, the consequences of basements or underground construction may not have been widely known. Now that we are aware, you will not find newer houses with basements.

Not only is support not required, with the frost line being 18 inches below the surface, but flooding is a genuine concern in Oregon. As with many other West Coast states, basements here are more subject to flooding from the ocean and the high water table.

It’s for the best that basements are skipped during construction here!

Cutout map of Oregon, lakes, trees, campfire, tents, tall buildings, beaver, lighthouse

Are Basements Common In The UK?

It would be silly to assume that the US is the only place you can find basements. Of course there are other places, but how common are they?

In the UK, for instance, you will find basements. However, they aren’t the typical basement you think of when you live in the United States, spacious and at times finished to become an area to casually occupy. Here, they tend to be smaller and are used for storage, like a cellar for wine or other goods.

Empty stone basement

Those cellars used to be used for coal but as time progressed, less and less homes were constructed with a basement, or cellar, beneath them. Because of the cost of digging down to an acceptable depth and waterproofing, the tradition of coal cellars was pushed aside. Those that you find now are more than likely very old.

Map of England, clocktower, doubledecker bus, mountains, tea cup and kettle, top hat, ocean, boat, birds

Are Basements Common In Germany?

Yes. Unlike in the UK, basements are very common. Not unlike the UK, they tend to be smaller in size but are typically used for storage in housing blocks

Don’t know what that is? Well, a housing block is basically just an apartment building. I know, I thought it was something else, too! Of course, apartment rooms are small and don’t have much space for storage, especially when you’re moving out of a bigger house.

Apartment buildings, brick pavers on the ground, trees, green grass and bushes, cloud covered sky

Instead of having to rent out a storage unit ten miles away, the renting lease generally includes storage space in the basement of the building. These can be separated by walls or chain-link fencing, locked for the residents’ security.

Map of Germany, castle, trees, mountains hot air balloon, German flag, lighthouse, airplane, ocean, boat