Why Don’t Houses in the South Have Basements?

It all has to do with location, location, location!

If you live in the Midwest, then I bet you have a basement. Ours is filled with old baseball equipment, office space and a second freezer to store frozen vegetables (and frozen pizzas). The basement is also a great place to put a rec room, organizing space, TV or a bar. It’s a useful space, that’s for sure.

So why don’t houses in the South have basements? It all comes down to location.

Why Do People Have Basements?

While basements today have been transformed into entertainment areas, they were originally created for storage purposes. People would store water, wine and even food down there. Because basements are usually built into the ground, the area is damp and humid (or at least it used to be.) Everything stored there needed to be kept in glass jars like this. Luckily with new technology, that’s mostly a thing of the past.

This is why old houses have a random toilet in the basement.

Why Houses in the South Have No Basements

Damp Soil

Places with a lot of wetlands or swampland, like Louisiana and Florida, have too much water in the soil to build below ground. The water table, an underground boundary between the soil surface and groundwater, is usually less than a meter underground in these Southern states. It doesn’t make sense to build a basement that’s prone to flooding!

Frost Lines

The frost line marks the depth at which the ground freezes in winter. Building foundations need to be below the frost line in order to avoid freezing pipes. The frost line in northern states tends to be several feet below ground, so basements are a helpful addition. In the South, the frost line is closer to the surface, so building deeper isn’t necessary.

Limestone Bedrock

Many Southern states (like Tennessee) have a shallow layer of soil atop a limestone bedrock. While it is a softer solid rock, limestone is still difficult to dig into. The extra work and extra expense don’t seem worth it to most Southern homeowners.

Find more Southern home features that are worth a second look, including hospitality doors. Plus, find out why some homes in the South keep a joggling board on their front porch.

Melany Love
Having always wanted a career in writing, Melany couldn't have found a better place than Taste of Home to begin. When she's not scribbling in her notebook or working at her computer, she can be found experimenting with new recipes or relaxing with a book and her cats.