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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Millville, Worcester Co, Massachusetts, USA
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    59

    Default A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I am not trying to be a smart alec, and my heart really goes out to anyone who has to live in an area prone to tornado's.

    But here is my question.

    Why are houses in those parts built mostly on slabs?, here in NewEngland almost every house has a cellar, and the few that do not were built in area's of high water tables. My brother in law lives in North Carolina and tells me that they will only build a house with a cellar if it's finished and its floor sits at ground level? His idea of tornado safety is the closet under the staircase. My uncle house in Ohio is on a slab, my cousin in Florida house is on a slab?

    It seems to me that in the cellar of a house would be the only safe place to be if you had a tornado warning.

    I am just curious, I have never made it south of Pennsylvania or west or Indiana.

    Are the houses built that way due to a high water table, snakes, insects, etc?

    Steve_G

  2. #2

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    9 times out of 10 it's probably cost. Most folks would rather have a gourmet kitchen than a basement, safe room, or storm shelter. I've seen one big tornado in my life from a few safe miles away. That alone was enough to make me never want to live anywhere they are anything more than a very rare occurrence.

    And actually the cellar/basement isn't always safe either.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    ElDorado,Arkansas,USA
    Posts
    284

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    A slab is just a preference.Some like slabs ans some dont.Here now people are starting to build safe rooms.Thick concrete walls and roof with steel doors.They are used for storms,gun safes and valuables storage.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clay Count, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    819

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I can only speak about the southern Missouri area and what I know about the soil along with the few houses I've built here in west central Missouri. Parts of Jasper County (Joplin) Lawrence County and points east are known as the Ozark Plateau. Go further south and you hit the Ozark Mountains which were very grand in their day. Erosion has knocked them down and left an area with top soil (LOL) comprised of mostly tiny pieces of mountain rock. There are areas with good ground and there are houses with basements. Over time it was not popular to have basements. Having put in a couple of gardens in the area I can tell ya it's no fun picking through the rocks either.

    Here in the part of Missouri where I live a reasonably sized machine can dig a basement for a foundation in 6 hours. I do own some land in the Ozark Prairie area. Six grave lots for me and my family. Want to be with the folks buried there for six generations. And ya, a back hoe can dig that okay.

    That's one of the reasons for having or not having a basement (soil).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ozarks
    Try living life with the attitude it's not about what you want to do but what you should do!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clay Count, Missouri, USA
    Posts
    819

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    It's not about price. Basements are cheap compared to living space upstairs. My family in Missouri settled Virgina and Tennessee before Missouri. You have basements there Stephen?

    What is so cool about the southern Missouri area is everyone is family. They help one another. If you are from out of town and upset one of them you just upset a 1000. Over time you upset enough people then you are an outcast. You will see what I'm talking about as the folks in Joplin progress through their terrible event.

    Might as well throw Florida in the mix. Friends there say the tornadoes that follow the hurricanes are real bad. Stuff happens.
    Last edited by MDS; 05-27-2011 at 06:36 PM.
    Try living life with the attitude it's not about what you want to do but what you should do!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    OKC, OK USA
    Posts
    2,869

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Very few basements in Oklahoma (lots of storm cellars though) mainly due to the clay soil and high water table.....very hard to build one and keep it dry.
    Mike Forbes
    Red Dirt Apiaries

  7. #7

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Quote Originally Posted by MDS View Post
    It's not about price. Basements are cheap compared to living space upstairs. My family in Missouri settled Virgina and Tennessee before Missouri. You have basements there Stephen?
    Sure do. And nice kitchens.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Palm Bay, FL, USA
    Posts
    2,297

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    In FL our water table is usually 2-3 ft down, sometimes a shovel full down. A basement would be a swimming hole. In S. FL there is solid coral (limestone) rock down 12-24 inches.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Poplar Bluff, Missouri, U.S.A.
    Posts
    396

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    well in this part of Missouri its either swampland .....a basement would actually float out of the ground or be full of water during floods....or it in the rocky to solid bed rock area very little area in between but in the area where basements are possible there are many.
    I worked doing concrete for many years and lol basements suck when your the one building them

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Delaware County, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    65

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I think it's a combination of things. I know here in Ohio, they build plenty of 'starter home' type small houses on slabs. That's because some people can't afford the extra cost of a full basement.

    Also I know of people who were not able to build basements on their land. I guess it depends on what the glaciers left behind in some cases. It's practically nothing but rock in some places.

    To me it just seems like an example of the declining standard of living in this country, after 40 years of shipping jobs overseas.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    gordo, al
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    For starters we have no frost line to deal with if the ground freezes here in winter it last a few day at most. So builing code allows for building on a slab without a deep foundation. So therefor its cheaper and quicker to build on a slab. Lots of ppl down here have storm cellers built in their yard. Those that don't are now definately looking for ways to incorporate one into their landscape.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,104

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I built a lot of houses in Nebraska. I never build one that didn't have a basement. I also never lived in one in Nebraska that didn't have a basement.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Tulsa, OK
    Posts
    3,451

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Just to recap what others have said, it's a matter of location (bad soil, moisture) and cost, plus lots of folks either have a basement, safe room or storm cellar. I live in what is essentially a reclaimed swamp. If I had a basement, I could keep some of those blind cave fish in it.

    Also, to keep things in perspective, even though tornadoes happen more frequently in "Tornado Alley," it is still very unlikely that any given place is going to be hit by a tornado in any given year. I've live in Oklahoma my whole life, and I've never seen a Tornado and never had one on the ground near where I was at. There's been some tornadic clouds come through that caused me to get in the closet/bathroom, but nothing ever was on the ground, and that's only happened about 3-4 times.

    I'd add that, for whatever reason, a good section of Tulsa, due to the lay of the land, seems to get shielded from Tornados. They approach from the SW, jump over town, and then come back to the ground east of town.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Limstone county, Alabama
    Posts
    97

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    We live in North Alabama, and our first house had a basement. But when we had our second house built the high water table on the property made a basement impractical. We chose to have a safe room built into the house. It is basically a steel reinforced concrete bunker that is designed to withstand an EF5 tornado. My parents purchased a house that did not have a basement, and so they had a storm shelter similar to ours installed in their garage.

    As others have pointed out the geography/geology of some locations makes basements impractical. Some folks just can't afford them.
    "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls, and looks like work" -- Thomas A. Edison

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Millville, Worcester Co, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    59

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Well folks, I thank everyone for the information.
    Living here in Massachusetts as I said, a cellar is most common. My own home has so much ledge just 1-3 ft underground, that it was just shear luck where the cellar was dug or they had to blast to get the cellar in. I hope w/in the next few years to visit the south and west and just figured that this would be the best way to answer a question which was long bugging me.

    Steve_G

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Lowell, Arkansas
    Posts
    39

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Up North a basement is pretty much required due to the cold temps and long winters. Down here in the South, you can pour a slab and bury water lines shallow with very little worry of pipes freezing. Here in Arkansas water lines are buried 16-24 inchs. How deep are they buried in Maine? I would imagine 6-8 feet.

    Another thing is the need for a mechanical area under the home for heating and plumbing needs. Most utility companies up North are responsible for the utility line to the home. Every water meter I've ever seen up there is located in the basement, to protect from freezing. Here the meters are in the yard and the homeowner is responsible for the service from the meter to the home.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Concord, CA
    Posts
    4,136

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I'm in the housing construction business. Almost all the new homes are built on slab because of the cost. The builder makes a lot more profit, compared to conventional floor joist construction.
    The older homes in our area are almost all conventional floor.
    Dan

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Farmington, New Mexico
    Posts
    6,568

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    I just looked at our MLS here. Of 665 houses listed, 12 have a basement and those are almost all in newer houses of 3,500sf or more. Our stock is mostly single-story Ranch or Santa Fe style on slab or joists.
    Nobody ruins my day without my permission, and I refuse to grant it...

  19. #19
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Hays, Kansas, USA
    Posts
    1,080

    Default Re: A house question for my friends in the tornado belt?

    Around here, 100% of new single family detached homes are built with basements, while rentals are of a mix - some basement, some crawl space- can't think of any on slabs and a co-worker or I do energy code testing/ratings on all new construction in the local market, so we see what's new out there. As mentioned in other posts, in some areas the decision is based upon many factors: soil condition (rock, high water table, etc), economics, etc. A walkout basement in our area commands a premium and it's about impossible to sell a home without a basement. Our soil generally permits digging and we don't know what high water tables are around here. Only multi family units & commercial properties are built slab on grade around here. In some areas, it's just not conducive to building below grade. Some areas are not so lucky and cannot build anything below grade other than frost depth footings.

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