One of the first decisions you have to make when you decide to build a home is concerning the foundation; whether you want to build your home on a slab or crawlspace. First, lets break it down into what this actually means and what the differences are.
A slab home is built on literally, one solid concrete slab. Your interior flooring is adhered to the poured slab. Your walls are attached and built up on the slab. There's two types, but the one we see most commonly is a block and fill slab foundation where we lay block up to give the home elevation, then back fill with gravel and pour the concrete on top. The other type is a slab on grade where a dirt pad is leveled and prepared and the slab is formed up and poured on grade directly on the ground.
In a crawlspace home, you have block or poured concrete walls and piers that support a wooden subfloor. So underneath the subfloor is open space and then the raw ground. Your walls and flooring sit on top of the floor joists. In most cases, any home can be built on either a slab or crawlspace. Due to elevation, some building lots are more suited for a crawlspace home.
Now, it seems like people are really divided and opinionated about slab vs. crawlspace, but I'm about to talk about my take on each. Depending on what you want, there are pros and cons to each.
First a slab home. A concrete slab home can be more cost effective because you can save on the wooden components of the subfloor. However, depending on the elevation that's required, it can also be costly to get a slab on the correct grade. So cost savings is only potentially a pro. Slab homes are great for anyone looking for a handicap accessible home or a home with limited steps. Slab homes sit lower to the ground and that makes access much easier. Most people feel like slab homes are lower maintenance. If you were to have a major water leak at some point, it wouldn't mess up the concrete slab underneath like it could wooden subfloor. You also don't have a crawlspace area to worry about, and that gives some people peace of mind. Another pro that's becoming more popular is the ability to finish the concrete slab and use it as the flooring of your home. A few things people should remember is that the concrete can be hard to walk on. Some people say it makes their feet and joints sore when they are on it too long. Also, unless it's heated, your floors will get cold in the winter. As concrete dries and cures, you can have cracks that occur. Depending on how bad and where it happens, it can damage your flooring. It also limits your ability to use nail down hardwood flooring. New glues have been developed to allow customers to use these floors, however, using this method can be expensive. To me, one of the biggest cons is the inability to access your plumbing. Drain lines have to be placed in the slab, and any renovation can be difficult.
In a crawlspace home, you do have the additional cost of wood components and then encapsulation (if you want to do it right). You don't have any limitations on hardwood flooring options. It's a softer surface to walk on and gives you a nice soft thud when you walk on your floors (people actually do say they like the sound it makes walking on crawspace floors). Crawlspaces give you the ability to raise the elevation of your house. This gives you some storage underneath and more importantly, access to all your mechanicals. I am a huge fan of locating HVAC equipment, duct work, and even hot water heaters in our encapsulated crawlspaces! This takes efficiency to the next level!
People worry about the issues with crawlspaces, mold and moisture, but we feel like our system of foundation and crawlspace installation solves these problems. You can read more about the encapsulation process under our DETAILS page.
I personally have always lived in homes with a crawlspace. IF AND ONLY IF they are built correctly, I tend to favor a crawlspace. It typically comes down to a personal preference when trying to decide which foundation is best.
If you have any questions about the pros and cons of these, please send me a message and I will be glad to answer!