Oklahoma is located right in the heart of the country, an area commonly known as “Tornado Alley.” Tornados are frequent throughout the state, yet most homes in Oklahoma don’t have basements.

Oklahoma often makes national headlines for having some of the most devastating storms and tornadoes. If basements are a primary source of shelter from tornadoes, and Oklahoma has active tornado seasons, it seems like home would be built to have basements, right? Read on to find out why the majority of homes in Oklahoma don’t have basements.

Why Are There No Basements in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma can be found in the South Central area of the United States, bordered by Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas, and Texas. Parts of Oklahoma are included in what is colloquially known as Tornado Alley. Every year, severe weather occurs in these parts.

While it may seem odd that many houses in Oklahoma don’t have basements to provide refuge during tornado season, there are many reasons why they are not a viable solution in the area, from the soil texture to the expenses involved and the building codes.

House hunting for a place with a basement in Oklahoma could be a painstaking and time-consuming process. You may have to make some decisions on what property to look for with the knowledge that you will most likely not have access to a basement during an Oklahoma stint.

The Soil Is Too Moist

The soil texture in Oklahoma is predominantly a type of red clay that absorbs moisture. Loam can also be found in some areas of the state. This soil texture also dries out in the summer, which makes it more unstable.

This type of soil puts basement walls at risk of cracking more easily than they would when built around other textures. While this problem is not impossible to get around, there have to be experts on hand to build a sturdy basement in Oklahoma that will not be affected by the soil texture.

Building a Basement Is Expensive

As indicated before, building a basement in Oklahoma requires proper expertise and training, as well as high-grade materials. This can drive the costs up significantly. The low demand for basements in the state means that many builders don’t have the know-how for them, and those who do will tend to charge a premium.

Building a basement in Oklahoma, especially one that is designed to withstand tornadoes, will usually cost a lot of money. This is one of the main reasons behind the rarity of basements in Oklahoma, as house owners are not ready to invest in adding them.

The Water Table Is High

The high water table in the Oklahoma soil makes any underground structure prone to leaks and floods. Basements, in particular, have a high risk of suffering from the high water table, and building a completely waterproof structure in these conditions will add to the price.

The high water table adds to the huge moisture level in the soil and adds to the issues with walls contracting or expanding. The risk of leaks is quite high, as is the risk of damage to the structure.

This high level adds to the expense and to the risk, which is why builders and homeowners in Oklahoma don’t tend to include basements in houses. Newer materials and techniques have been changing this, but there continues to be a lack of basements across the region.

Building Codes Are Different from Northern States

Building codes across the United States require the foundation of a home to be under the frost line. In Oklahoma, the climate is rarely as cold as it is in the states up north, which means that the foundation will usually not be far underground.

In northern states, where winters are far colder, the frost line will be lower, which means that buildings will already start with a significant underground angle, unlike in Oklahoma. This difference in building codes makes basements less common in Oklahoma.

It Can Affect Property Value

This may come as a surprise, but adding a basement to an Oklahoma property can have a negative impact on property value and its sale appeal. Prospective homeowners living in Oklahoma are aware of the potential risks involved with having a basement in that soil, which means they are less likely to invest in a home with one.

This wariness of basements contributes to the low demand and high price point. While this may seem out of the ordinary to those moving to Oklahoma from other states further north, it is far more common to have no basement in this area.

Those searching for an Oklahoma home will rarely find a property with an already built basement, but if it is an indispensable requirement, they may find a bargain on the market thanks to the locals not investing in such a thing.


Oklahoma has no basements due to the nature of its soil composition. Building underground in Oklahoma comes with significant expenses that most homeowners and locals are unwilling to invest in. Building codes and the high water table add to this uncommon situation in Oklahoma.