Florida Basements — An Oxymoron???
I have recently moved from Pennsylvania to Florida and have noticed something about the houses here. There are no basements or attics. If you are lucky, you will see an occasional crawl space. When I ask people why there are no basements, I always get the same answer — It’s the water table, It’s the water table!!! Now if my proposed homesite is 60 feet above sea level and is not in a hurricane evacuation zone, should I not be able to have a house built with a basement, provided the correct technique is used? If we can put a man on the moon, why can’t anyone build a basement in Florida (unless the technique might be cost prohibitive)?
He, wouldn’t this make a great feature story in Fine Home building?
Aside from water tables. Another factor in the abundance or lack or basements is the frost depth. In Fla. , with litte or no freezing, I think a footer depth of only 12" or less is required.....if even that. Someone from Fla. will set me straight. But here in Pa., ya gotta go down about 3ft. to get below the frost line. So the extra depth for a basement isn't that much more of an expense. Now in Fla., all the digging for a basement is gonna be extra. If ground water isn't a problem, and something can be done about termites(again, not my area) cost will probably be the determining factor. Anything can be done or fixed by throwing enough money at it! Jeff
*JRoy, I'm not a geologist but I think we often confuse sea level with the water table, especially here in Florida. I live near the coast and yes they seem to go hand in hand. But, I think the water table for Gainsville is just as shallow as it is here. This has less to do with the elevation above sea level as it has to do with the location of Gainsville itself with the surrounding terrain. Gainsville sits in a natural depression. Our limestone base has a great influence with local water tables, hence in dry times, sink holes. The St. Pete Time had an article several weeks ago about someone north east of Tampa building a house with a basement, but then when the last time the Pittsburgh Press had an article about someone building a home with a basement? I did work on two homes in Key West that had basement cut right into the coral rock. Again that was a rarity. Footers vary with locations around the state. In the Keys it's 3' into cap rock. Here in Manatee County 16" into undisturbed soil.
*Hey Shakey,Not to be contradictory at all, but I thought the only house in Key West with a basement was the Hemingway house? Maybe old news?Wasting away in the north as usual,MD
*Mad Dog:Can you imagine cutting through coral rock? The Hemingway house has a pool as well cut into that stuff. Wheew, what work that would be. If memory serves me, basements in that area in the old days were used to store rainwater that would come off the roofs, as there wasn't an abundant source of fresh water until a pipeline was routed from the upper Keys or thearabouts.
*Mad Dog, One of the basements is actually behind the house exposed to the elements. The original building that was above it,I believe was the Kennedy bottling plant, no relation to the clan from Mass. The other basement was under an old two story building down on Emma & Petronia, just off the US Naval Station. The old contractor I work for at the time claim it once was a "house of illrepute" where in his youth, he was 70+ then, he used to roll drunken sailors. It had a door in the cellar that lead to the water, under the navy base, a couple blocks away. I guess it was very popular place during prohibition. It's now affordable housing with no secret passageway to the beach.
*Ever see a swimming pool or septic tank float out of the ground? Like basements in Detroit it is a non-news event in Florida. Our house in Miami had a yard well for the pool and grass. It was 12' deep and never went dry. There are a couple of hills in Florida and if you are lucky you may be able to buy a lot on one and dig in. Otherwise, go with the usual and customary building practice for the area, slab on grade.
*Steve,I appreciate your input. I have lived in Miami for several years and am familiar with its flatness. In the Clear water, Florida area the terrain is actually quite hilly. It has something to do with glaciers and the Ice Age (ten million years before I was born). Your neighbor three blocks away might have an elevation twenty feet lower than yours. I am intending to build a house on a piece of property which is quite high by Florida standards (62 feet above sea level) and it actually at about the top of this particular Florida "hill." I know there are ways to build a basement, because the hospital in which I work has all its operating rooms in their basement, below the surface of the surrounding ground. This hospital is only 100 yards from the Gulf of Mexico. Supposedly they have some sort of fancy drainage/pump system to stop the basement from filling up with water. I know it would probably be a pain in the butt to build a house here with a basement, but do you know of any way to master this task, without it being cost prohibitive?Sincerely,J. Roy