Many homes in California do not come with already built and finished basements for a variety of reasons. Most people believe that it is because of safety issues since the area is known for having fault lines that cause earthquakes. This leaves many people wondering if you can actually build underground in California.

You can build underground in California. Building underground in California is legal as long as you have followed all of the procedures with the various departments. If you plan to build underground on your property, check with the local government to ensure that you comply, so you are not subject to a hefty fine.

Learning more about building underground in California will depend on what you are looking to build and where. Keep reading to discover the reasons you may want to consider building underground and why underground basements are not the norm.

Why Would You Want to Build Underground in California?

Home or landowners typically have various reasons for designing their homes the way they want them. While many go with the traditional home, others choose to do something a little different based on their personal needs. 

While not commonplace in California, there are people that choose to build a basement either for the extra space or for the storage aspect. Whatever the reason, building underground in California is something that many people have done over the years.

Do Most Homes Have Basements in California?

Basements are common in many areas of the US, often used for safety and shelter from dangerous weather, as additional storage, or for utilities.

Interestingly enough, most homes in California do not have basements unless they have been added on in recent years. This is because when many existing homes were built, the goal was to get as many homes up and ready as soon as possible.

If you are a transplant to the state of California, then you may be surprised by the number of homes that have basements added on. It’s hard to imagine building underground after a house has already been built, but it does happen. And the added benefit of extra storage space is well worth it.

Common Reasons Many Homes Do Not Have Basements

Over the years, many people have speculated that homes in California do not have basements because of the safety issues associated with fault lines and earthquakes. This, however, is a myth that experts have debunked many years ago.

Here are some of the most common reasons many homes in California do not have basements:

  • Basements are pricey. To build a basement onto an already existing or new home typically adds at least $40,000 to the already expensive price tag. Because a finished basement has certain requirements and requires permits in some cases, the price can be phenomenal.
  • Quick residences are needed. After the boom in the housing need after World War II, builders were focused on getting as many houses built as quickly as possible. Because of this, there was not much time to plan and execute basements.
  • Specific codes and permits are needed. Although the myth about basements not being built because of earthquakes, there is some truth to it. This is why there are ordinances within the state that builders must abide by when adding on a basement. 
  • Insulation issues. Since the weather in California is different in various parts of the state, it is difficult to plan for the right type of insulation. There are also certain regulations that are in place to ensure that insulation is installed correctly.
  • Tradition. Since the housing boom after WWII, it has become something of a tradition to not have a basement in houses. This gave the state something unique that many other states did not have. The traditionalist has attempted to keep this alive by continuing to build houses without basements.

Can You Build Underground in California?

When it comes to building underground in California, there have been many different schools of thought. Even though many believe that building underground is dangerous because of the fault lines and earthquakes, this is not entirely true.

The bottom line is that you can build underground in California, just like you can in any other state. The biggest difference is that there are specific regulations that are entailed to ensure that it is done correctly and safely.

Since many of the homes in the state were built without basements, many residents have chosen to go through the process of adding them. In addition, those who are not concerned with the tradition of no basements are building newer homes with basements added in. When newer homes are built with a basement, they can offer more than just storage. A game room, extra bedroom, or even movie room is a perfect fit for underground spaces.

The ordinances within the state require builders to follow certain guidelines when constructing underground. This is to ensure the safety of everyone involved, from the builders to the individuals that will someday reside in the home.

Final Thoughts

Overall, building underground in California can be done as long as you are willing to follow certain guidelines. These guidelines were created by the state government as a way to ensure that construction companies and homeowners stay safe.

While many people believe that building underground is a bad idea due to the threat of earthquakes, this has been proven to not be true. However, the threat of earthquakes and other issues are the reason that certain guidelines exist.