Slab house or house with basement????

I'm shopping for a house - smaller, 2 bedroom, under 100K. Located in Iowa City,Iowa. I've looked at homes with basements and homes built directly on a concrete slab. Other than basements giving more usable space is there anything that makes either slab or basement type homes better? Do slap houses tend to have cold floors. And how about houses with only a crawl space underneath? Should that be avoided because of the possibility of moisture and mold trapped in the crawlspace as well as various critters making it their home? Thanks!
Cameron Davis
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All three construction types (basement, slab and crawlspace) work fine in the right area. I am glad you included the area.
Local conditions often rule out basements because of soil conditions or water table issues. While you can build a basement almost anywhere, the cost and/or chance of leaks tend to rule them out of some areas. I suggest you should be ok in your area.
Slabs save a few $$$ but they also mean less space (basements can be used for more than just storage) but more important for me is access to home utilities and a place for the furnace and water heater.
Crawlspace homes are something of a compromise. Like a basement home, they can be problems in some areas, but generally are not a problem. Moisture problems with crawlspaces almost always a problem due to poor grading of the lot, insufficient or closed vents etc. The vents must be kept open winter and summer.
Personally I like basements, but if I moved to an area where they were rare, I doubt if I would consider one, there is usually a reason.
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Joseph E. Meehan

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Basement and crawl provide for eaiser home repairs (plumbing, electrical, etc). And Basement houses are usually warmer.
Sitting right on a slab gives off lots of cold, and sucks the heat out of the house.
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Just a comment on the vents and crawl spaces. It depends on where you live. It gets cold here and the recommendation from nearly every source here is to close the vents in the winter. Moisture is not a problem in the winter here.
But I sure agree about the basement. If you are building, the cheapest source of square footage is a basement and next is another storey.
Joseph Meehan wrote:

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I'm not familiar with soils in Iowa but if the soil your hose will be on is expansive, or otherwise unstable it is imperative that you have either a foundation that goes down to stable soil or piers under the slab that are on a stable layer.
Look in the classified phone directory and see how many firms doing "foundation repair" are in the area. If there are a lot talk with a few about what the problems are in the area and be governed accordingly.
RB
J. Cameron Davis wrote:

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Excellent point
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Good advice, regardless of how many problems are in the area.
When I took my foundation engineering course, the professor confessed to what happened when he had his own house built. The soil was glacial till with sand on one end. Both make for a good soil. However, what he neglected was differential settlement. One end of the house settled more than the other and a big crack ran roughly vertical up the middle of the basement wall. Quite honourable in admitting his own big goof.
He went on to tell how a bit of rebar appropriately placed can make almost any poured concrete basement (slab and walls) virtually bombproof. He showed the calcs and it was not a lot of $$ worth of rebar.
Reinforcing concrete basements (beyond tempurature and shrinkage) is not standard practice. But paying for the rebar and placement costs _may_ be good insurance.
Mike
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On Mon, 19 Jan 2004 19:50:00 GMT, "Michael Daly"

Depends on where you are. Out here in earthquake country, everything is reinforced within an inch of its life and then more is added just to be sure.
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<< is there anything that makes either slab or basement type homes better? >>
From the sheer home durability standpoint and given a proper soil structure, a basement is far and away the best choice. The biggest problem is that being under-appreciated, they are also mostly under-designed and casually built. The ideal basement must be well drained, waterproofed and above all, have far more head room than is common today. A basement with these parameters will return the the investment many times over when the house is sold, and adds little if anything to the tax bill. Consider the storage space you gain as worth $60-90 a month if you had to use a self storage facility. HTH
Joe
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Joe Bobst wrote:

I agree mostly. But in my area the basement will definitely add to your tax bill even if it is unfinished.
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On Mon, 19 Jan 2004 05:02:52 GMT, "J. Cameron Davis"

Part of my house has a basement and part is on concrete slab. The slab part definitely has much colder floors, but then I am in a colder area than you. Ceramic tile is warm where there is a basement below, cold on slab, unless you put a heated grid under it. Of course these problems can be solved with radiant floor heat.
When it comes to doing any wiring and plumbing, the part with the basement is simple. The other is very difficult and requires holes in the walls. To get a gas line to the fireplace in a room on slab, most run the line outside the house.
The basement provides a good place for furnace and ductwork, water heater and softener.
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I would think that a basement would be much better unless it's in an area where it's likely to have water problems. Besides the obvious space considerations, it's probably much easier to maintain a house with a basement.
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After 17 years in this slab house, I can say its only advantage is the basement doesn't flood in the Spring. One major disadvantage comes with radiant heating in the slab if the coils are copper. The concrete attacks the copper and in about 25 years, leaks start. I just replaced my heating system with baseboard heaters. The lack of storage space is a constant aggrivation.

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On Mon, 19 Jan 2004 15:29:47 GMT, "William W. Plummer"

Out here, we had a gymnasium locker room floor heated using a radiant water system. It was steel pipe. Since the expansion and contraction rate was about the same as the rebar in the slab, never a trouble. However, we have professional maintenance and excellent water treatment. The pipe looks nearly new on the inside.
Another great idea was distributing the air underground and diffusing it out through the lockers. This method kept the lockers and contents dry and there were no drafts due to the large number of outlets. Again, an excellent system that could be adapted to a home. Think if your linen closet was one of the distribution ducts.
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snipped-for-privacy@zotnet.net said...

The stench must have been wonderful.
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wrote:

decomposing in the damp clothes in the locker. The quicker they dry, the less they stink. Fresh sweat doesn't stink that much.
aem sends...
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Remarkably, there is almost no smell at all. The laundry drys out so fast that it does not grow mold and the lockers themselves never grew any because they were always ventilated. Sounds strange I know. Tis true though.
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"J. Cameron Davis" wrote:

The basement house is the best, but be sure to check with building officials and state hydrologists to find out the water table in the area of the house. Crawl spaces are standard for ranch houses in my area as is my house. No, they do not have cold floors. Nor do they have problems with moisture and critters if they are properly constructed.
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The other point about a reinforced foundation is that if the rebar is carefully double tied it will make a superlative grounding electrode. That will make the house far more resistive to surge and spike damage to it's electrical system and anything that is connected to that system. The technique was developed by an engineer named Ufer and is commonly called a Ufer ground. Let me be very clear that the twenty feet of bare copper wire that is placed in the footers of modern homes is not a true Ufer ground but rather a minimum concrete encased electrode. A true Ufer uses a stubbed up piece of galvanized rebar as the connection point for the grounding electrode conductor. Even a single piece of galvanized rebar will perform better as a concrete encased electrode that bare copper wire as it will better withstand the corrosive properties of the concrete. -- Tom H
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