If you have viewed Georgia home listings on Zillow, the basement would be a common missing feature. You may find a few in Georgia (particularly in Northern Georgia), but not many. And there is a reason for this.
Generally, Georgia homes do not have basements included. Georgia’s soil type, climate, and water table level are not conducive to a basement or makes a strong need for one. With warm temperatures and clay soils, Georgia isn’t the ideal state to have a basement.
It is legal to have a basement in Georgia, but it is very uncommon for various environmental reasons. To better understand why it might not be a good idea to have a basement in Georgia, continue reading the items listed below.
One of the most well-known soils in Georgia is red clay. Clay soils absorb a lot of water, and because of this, it expands. If we take into consideration the rainfall levels in Georgia, this can help put things into perspective more. On average, the United States gets 38 inches of rain per year. Atlanta, Georgia, gets about 52 inches.
So let’s say you have a foundation placed 6 ft (60 inches) into the ground. During a storm or a rainy season, there could possibly be potential leaks in the basement. In addition, when the clay soil expands, it could potentially put hazardous pressure on the basement walls.
When too much pressure is put on something, what happens to it? It tilts. It can warp, and even worse, collapse.
Georgia’s Frost Depth Affects Basements
Homebuilders have to adhere to building codes and guidelines. It can vary state by state, but these states typically have to consider the frost lines. In the frost months of Georgia, the groundwater will freeze about five inches deep. Below is a comparison of Georgia’s frost line with a state that has prevalent basements.
In Georgia, the foundation of homes does not need to be a couple of feet deep. This can cut costs in Georgia if you don’t need to purchase extra concrete for the home’s foundation. In Northern states like Iowa, home builders have a need for starting the foundation several feet into the ground. So in places like Iowa, you will see home foundations built deeper into the ground and homeowners utilizing this depth with basements.
Georgia’s Climate Affects Basements
It can be easy to confuse weather and climate. Weather is the day-to-day changes in the atmosphere. Climate refers to weather that occurs in an area for an extended period. So, when we look at Georgia, it has a normally humid subtropical climate that wouldn’t be conducive to a basement. With these kinds of climates, there are risks of moisture build up and mold. And additionally, these kinds of climates tend to have lower frost lines.
Using Iowa for comparison, their climate can be categorized as a humid continental climate. In Iowa, there are hot Summers, and the Winters can be severely cold. The temperatures can even go below freezing.
With a climate like the one in Iowa, there can be a correlation to a larger frost depth since the temperatures during the winter can dip below 32 Fahrenheit. Although some areas of Georgia can get this cold during the winter, it is not cold long enough to damage the home’s structure with continuous pressure. The overall climate doesn’t necessitate a deeper foundation in Georgia like it would in Iowa.
How Water Table Affects Basements
Above, we discussed how Georgia generally has clay soil and how this soil easily absorbs water. Well, what happens when the soil can’t absorb water fast enough? With Georgia being one of the rainiest states in the United States, flooding can be a major problem with underground basements.
When the soil becomes too saturated, and it can’t absorb the water fast enough, not only will this put hydrostatic pressure on the walls of the basement but flooding can occur when the water table rises.
Having to deal with leaks, water damage, mold, and humidity would be a nightmare.
Some Homes in Georgia With Basements
Despite the listed cons above, you can still find homes in Georgia with basements. Maybe, you are considering building a home or turning a crawlspace into a basement? Maybe, you are considering purchasing a home in Georgia with a basement? All isn’t lost. You can still find homes with unfinished or finished basements.
But it is highly recommended that you contact a professional to inspect and conduct a risk analysis of the area. Although environmental factors do not make having a basement conducive in Georgia, it doesn’t mean that it is not possible. You would need to know what kind of threats are possible and work with a professional to prevent those from happening.
For example, in Northern Georgia, you find cabins in the mountains with basements. These basements are typically daylight basements that allow light to come in from large windows and a portion of the basement is above ground, so the slope created can prevent flooding.
The major takeaway is that basements are uncommon in Southern states like Georgia primarily due to environmental factors. A basement could be added to a home in Georgia but there are many risks of damage, because of water pressure.
Although basements are uncommon in Georgia, they are still possible. You must be aware of those environmental factors and work with an experienced professional to combat any issues.