When it comes to building a home or renovating an old one, choosing between a crawl space and a basement can be a difficult decision.
Both are subterranean areas that you can use for storage or as additional living space. While they share some similarities, there are a couple of significant differences that can affect your final decision.
So, which is better? A crawl space or a basement?
Keep reading to learn more about the factors that can determine this answer according to your needs and budget.
Let’s start with the aspects that both crawl spaces and basements share.
Both basements and crawl spaces are under the house, housing support structures for the main living area, including electrical wiring.
Moreover, both come with a hatch or door located on the main floor or outside the house from where you can get to the space.
Both crawl spaces and basements serve as an area for storage, support for the main living area of the house, and housing mechanical equipment and electrical infrastructure.
Furthermore, they provide a space for the installation of electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems.
The construction of either a crawl space or a basement involves concrete, block or brick walls, and a concrete or dirt floor. Add to that, the soil beneath the house has to be excavated to build either a basement or a crawl space.
Both require proper ventilation and insulation to prevent moisture buildup or mold growth.
Despite the similarities, there are a couple of significant differences between crawl spaces and basements that you should consider when deciding which is better for your home and living situation. Let’s delve into these differences.
Depth is the most significant difference between basements and crawl spaces.
Basements are a lot bigger, with their walls being eight feet tall and sometimes reaching ten. These walls are built on a concrete slab that’s typically four inches.
On the other hand, crawl spaces have a minimum height of 16 to 18 inches. The maximum is 70 inches. If it’s higher than that, it would become a basement and not a crawl space.
Basements give you much more space to store belongings and move around while standing up. Contrastingly, crawl spaces only allow you to move around on your hands and knees—crawling, hence their name.
Moreover, basements come with windows and access from within the structure, as there’s enough room to provide so. Contrarily, crawl spaces don’t have any windows.
When you take into account the size and complexity of a basement compared to crawl spaces, they cost more to build. Think of all the materials and labor you’ll have to invest in building one.
Yet, basements add a lot more value to the home than a crawl space, which is why they’re a worthy investment in the long run.
Still, crawl spaces are a budget-friendly and practical solution if you’re looking to create a place for storage beneath your house.
Maintenance is another area where crawl spaces and basements differ. Crawl spaces require more maintenance than basements as they’re more prone to moisture and mold.
If you own a house with a crawl space, you should regularly check for any water damage. Find and seal any cracks and install proper ventilation to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.
While basements are also susceptible to moisture, they’re easier to deal with, maintain, and keep dry.
Both a crawl space and a basement have their advantages and disadvantages, and it all boils down to what you expect and want out of your extra space.
Perhaps two of the most detrimental factors are budget and climate.
If you’re on a tight budget, opting for a crawl space would be much more accommodating.
However, make sure that the limited storage space that a crawl space will provide you would be enough for your needs before you choose it over a basement.
The climate is another important aspect to keep in mind. A crawl space is prone to moisture, which leads to mold growth, mildew, and other issues.
Basements, on the other hand, are more prone to flooding. So, if you live in a high-humidity area, you might want to steer clear of crawl spaces.
On the other hand, if you live in a stormy area where it rains a lot, you might want to maneuver the risk of the basement flooding by opting for a crawl space.
Another aspect to keep in mind is that crawl spaces are easier to access in case you want to run some repairs or maintenance. They’re also the ideal choice if your house stands on uneven terrain or is in an area with high water tables.
On the other hand, basements provide an incredible share of additional living space and storage. They can also provide you with protection in severe weather, such as a hurricane or a tornado.
However, they’re more expensive to build and more problematic to maintain.
Basements are prone to some issues like moisture, leaks, mold, and flooding. If any of these happen, they put the basement’s safety and functionality at risk.
Fret not, however, with proper and regular maintenance, you can prevent these issues and keep your basement in good condition. So, how can you maintain your basement?
Waterproofing is one of the most critical aspects of basement maintenance. Water can enter your basement through various sources, including poorly sealed windows, cracks in the foundation, or inefficient drainage systems.
To avoid that, you should opt for a sump pump, which removes excess water from the basement and prevents flooding.
Alternatively, you can apply waterproof coating to the basement walls and floors. This includes paints, membranes, and sealants.
Insulating your basement keeps it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Insulation helps you make the space more comfortable as well as reduce energy bills.
You can use spray foam, foam board, or fiberglass for insulation.
However, make sure to include the joists—where the walls meet the ceiling. It’s easy to overlook these areas, but they cause a significant amount of energy loss.
Foam boards are water-resistant and limit moisture to prevent any growth of mildew. The rigid material also creates an air barrier. Not to mention, foam board insulation doesn’t require regular maintenance like cellulose or fiberglass would.
However, the installation has to be intricate. Otherwise, if you leave the joints unsealed or if the boards aren’t cut properly, foam boards won’t prevent airflow.
Fiberglass is an affordable insulation option compared to others. Add to that, you can do it as a DIY project to further reduce the costs.
Nevertheless, fiberglass can collect condensation, which might lead to mold issues.
Since spray foam insulation doesn’t hold any water, it eliminates the growth of mildew or mold. Also, spray foam seals the air outside, reducing drafts around the floorboards.
Yet, spray foam insulation is an expensive option and requires the proper installation to prevent any air leakage.
To maintain the quality of air in your basement, you should provide it with proper ventilation.
Otherwise, moisture, mold, and other pollutants can build up and pose a threat to your health as well as the structural integrity of the basement.
A dehumidifier helps a lot when it comes to keeping the area well-ventilated and removing excess moisture.
Moreover, installing windows to allow some fresh air to circulate inside the area is a huge plus.
Alternatively, you can use vents. Keep in mind, however, that you have to make sure these ventilation openings are always clean and free from debris.
Since crawl spaces lie beneath the house, they can quickly collect moisture. Consequently, this can lead to mold growth, wood rot, and structural damage. So, here are some tips to keep your crawl space fresh.
There are many ways that you can control moisture buildup in your crawl space, including:
- Making sure there’s proper grading around the foundation to prevent water from pooling near the house.
- Installing a vapor barrier over the soil to prevent moisture from evaporating into the crawl space.
- Applying encapsulation to reduce damage from moisture and eliminate pests.
- Sealing any cracks or gaps in the foundation walls to prevent water intrusion.
- Installing a crawl space dehumidifier to control humidity levels.
When it comes to crawl spaces, insulation helps control the temperature and reduce energy costs.
You can opt for vented or unvented insulation. The former relies on insulating the floor joists, while the latter relies on insulating the walls and floor.
The type of insulation should depend on the local building codes and the type of climate you live in.
Vented insulation makes the most sense if you live in an area that’s susceptible to floods or coastal zones that are prone to hurricanes.
On the other hand, unless the zone where you live is at a high risk of hurricane flooding, unvented insulation works best for most crawl spaces.
Ventilating the crawl space is essential to keep it healthy and prevent moisture buildup. You can either rely on natural or mechanical ventilation.
Natural ventilation depends on vents and openings in the crawl space that allow airflow. On the other hand, mechanical ventilation relies on using fans and vents to circulate the air in the crawl space.
Ultimately, the decision between a crawl space and a basement depends on your individual needs as well as the circumstances.
On the one hand, crawl spaces are less expensive and easier to access. On the other hand, basements are a better option for those looking for extra living space and protection from extreme weather conditions.
Consider the pros and cons well before making your decision and happy home shopping!
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.