What’s Under There? The Pros and Cons of Building on a Slab

By John Voket

In a recent report, we met Louisville area REALTOR® Samantha George, and dug into her practical list of things potential buyers should take into consideration when house hunting. George says being proactive now can help save you lots of time and money in the long run.

One of the important considerations George says prospective buyers need to think about is whether their home of preference has a basement, crawlspace, or slab, and what to expect with each.

According to Andrew M. Dennis at Donan Solutions, a 3rd generation engineering firm that began in 1947 in Madisonville, KY, the design and construction of either a concrete slab or conventional crawlspace foundation should be tailored to the geography and climatic conditions that it is expected to perform under.  

Its long-term performance is greatly affected by the critical aspects of the presence of proper lot grading, adequate site surface water drainage, and a proper landscaping plan. Dennis says concrete slabs and crawlspace foundations present about the same number of advantages and disadvantages.

Dennis' says the advantages of concrete slabs include building on grade over undisturbed soil, if conditions allow, which means the required labor, excavation, and forming costs can be held to a minimum.

A slab is also the more preferred choice in regards to pests and other vermin being prevented from getting under the house.  

A leaking toilet or shower pan will not rot a concrete slab floor, and a slab can also help insulate a house, saving money on heating bills.

And houses built atop slabs are usually closer to grade and require only one or two steps at the exit or entry for those with disabilities or who are in a wheelchair.

Dennis says, however, that a slab limits access to any of the heating, ventilating, or air conditioning (HVAC) systems or ductwork typically installed beneath the floors of a house on a crawlspace. The need to repair any utilities in the slab, such as plumbing or electrical, typically requires slab removal, which is expensive.

Poor construction or finishing techniques can create uneven spots and uneven floors. Also, water or moisture can rise through any crack in the slab damaging floors finishes.

Ultimately, concrete slab foundations can be considered cheap and negatively impact a house’s resale value.

In our next segment, we'll hear about the pros and cons of conventional crawlspaces.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

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