After I made my research regarding tiny house disadvantages, I have noticed that 65% of tiny house owners are having storage space problems. One solution is having a basement under the tiny house. But is it possible to have a basement in tiny houses?
As a general rule, if the tiny house is not a mobile one, it is possible for it to have a basement. The tiny house would have to be built over a basement foundation in the ground. While tiny houses built over basement foundations are uncommon, they certainly can be found.
There are multiple benefits of having a basement in a tiny house. However, we don’t see many tiny houses with basements. Because there are some disadvantages as well. I will go through all the details below, but for you to have a quick overview, here is the tiny house basements’ advantages / disadvantages table:
|Basement Advantages||Basement Disadvantages|
|Increased property value||Not enough natural light|
|Easier to get loans (for tiny houses)||Humidity and moisture problem|
|More storage space||Increased risk of flooding|
|Less maintenance (comparing to THOWs)||Radon gas problem|
|Seasonal temperature comfort||Pests problem|
|Easier utility maintenance||Accessability problem|
|Additional bedroom / living space|
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are The Benefits Of Having A Basement In A Tiny House?
- 2 Is There Any Disadvantages Of Having Basement?
- 3 Why most tiny houses don’t have basements?
- 4 Example Tiny House Basements
- 5 An Incredible Basement
- 6 Tiny House Basement Alternatives
What Are The Benefits Of Having A Basement In A Tiny House?
No matter what kind of house you have, either a tiny house or a regular one, if you have a chance to have a basement, go for it. Having a basement has multiple benefits:
Increased Property Value
More space means more value for your house. Even a small, or unfinished basement will increase your tiny house value. In the meantime (until you decide to sell your tiny house), you will enjoy the extra space.
Easier To Get Loans
Comparing to THOWs, and for some cases even comparing to tiny houses on foundations; getting a loan (or mortgage) is much easier if you have a basement in your tiny house. Banks consider tiny houses with basements (with all proper approvals and papers), a more permanent structure and they tend to approve the loan applications.
More Storage Space
Many people are opting in for the tiny house idea for downsizing reasons. However, still, having some extra storage capacity will definitely help.
As you may have read in my other post (30 Tiny House Disadvantages), the main problem that tiny house owners are complaining about is ‘limited storage space’. According to my research, 65% of tiny house owners have limited storage space problems.
So, having a basement can be a solution.
Less Maintenance (Comparing To THOWs)
Having a basement means, your tiny house will stay at the same location forever. No traveling means, less wear and tear because of highway travel. As a result, you will not need as much maintenance as THOWs.
Seasonal Temperature Comfort
Whoever lives in a tiny house knows that the tiny houses become really hot very quickly during summer days. Basements are cooler, comparing to upper levels. Having a basement will give you a chance to run away (!) from heat.
Easier Utility Maintenance
When your tiny house is built on a slab, you’ll have no other option but to encase your plumbing in the concrete floor. You’ll also have to put your air ducts, wiring, and other utilities up in the attic or outside of your tiny house.
The basement, however, is a much better, more efficient space for those utilities. It’s ideal for your water heater, furnace, and other house pieces of equipment too — not only because it is more climate-controlled, but it also offers much easier access for maintenance and repairs.
Additional Bedroom / Living Space For Guests
As we all know, having visitors in a tiny house is problematic. Every tiny house owner is trying to find solutions for this problem. Having a basement will definitely one of the most effective solutions. You can use this additional space as a guest room or living space for your guests.
Note: Using the basement as a bedroom requires some specific arrangements from the building code’s point of view. Check with your local authorities when you are applying for a basement construction permit. You may not be able to use this space as a bedroom.
Provides Emergency Shelter
Whether you’re facing the threat of a hurricane, tornado, or other calamities, you will have peace of mind knowing that you can easily shelter in place.
Is There Any Disadvantages Of Having Basement?
If something has advantages, most probably that thing has some disadvantages as well, right? Here is the list of basement disadvantages:
Not Enough Natural Light
Lighting will always be a bit of a hassle for basements. Windows may be out of the question, which means you will definitely need to have extra light fixtures. And also, better to design the basement accordingly; light wall colors and light color furniture may help.
Humidity and Moisture Problem
Basements are prone to humidity. With limited access to the outdoors through windows and doors, it’s easy for basements to become damp. This can leave your basement area with an unpleasant smell. Additionally, this can cause problems for people with asthma or create conditions for mold growth.
You will need to have very good basement insulation, or a decent dehumidifier to avoid humidity complications.
The good news is, even a small dehumidifier will do the job. I have a small one in my basement, and I keep it on all the time. I dump the water every morning and keep it running. Definitely, it helps to remove the heavy humidity smell.
When you buy a home with a basement, be prepared to address basement moisture issues from day one. The ventilation system of the basement must be carefully calculated and designed for a better and healthy basement.
Increased Risk Of Flooding
Basements are at greater risk of flooding, especially during a storm. There’s potential for flooding without a sump pump.
Also, the flooding risk can be eliminated by ensuring a natural path for drainage from the footings (which means additional cost).
Radon Gas Problem
There’s a higher likelihood of a radon issue in the basements. But it can be avoided/prevented by using radon-resistant techniques and installing an active radon mitigation system.
As a precaution, it would be a good idea to have radon tests in your basements regularly.
Basements Attract Pests
Basements can be dark and damp places, as a result, they are more likely to attract pests.
Undesirable critters like rodents and bugs tend to find their way into basements more easily than main-level floors since they can simply crawl in from underground.
You can mitigate that risk by sealing up holes and put out traps. But still, you may need to prepare for the possibility that you’ll wind up with an extra roommate or two once in a while.
If you decide to have a basement in your tiny house, then be sure to look for signs of infestations regularly. Early detection will help your wallet.
If your tiny house and basement are not built on a slope, you will need to use stairs to go to the basement. The stairs may be narrow, and may not be easy to use for everyone.
Why most tiny houses don’t have basements?
One of the main reasons for tiny houses not having a basement is cost.
Basements require digging at least eight feet underground and adding a concrete slab at the bottom. It is more expensive than crawlspaces and aboveground slab foundations.
Slabs and crawl spaces are generally less expensive than full basements to build, especially when a great deal of rock is removed. It is almost impossible to install a basement in some locations without the large expense of removing the solid rock.
Just to give you an idea about the cost of building a basement, I compiled this itemized to-do list in the correct order (to get the cost estimations, I have called 5 different basement building companies from NY – NJ areas):
|Things need to be done||Minimum Cost||Maximum Cost|
|Permits (3 or 4, depending on the basement)||$500||$1,500|
|Finishing the floor and walls||$1,000||$3,500|
If we go back to why people opt for a tiny life, we remember the 2 main reasons: Downsizing and Debt-free life.
This much cost to create a basement doesn’t make sense if you are trying to cut down the costs and if you are trying to eliminate your loans.
So; the cost is one of the most important reasons for not having basements in tiny houses.
Basements Are Not Easy To Build
Building a basement is not simple. Basements are more than just a hole in the ground, a basement foundation requires precision. To prevent your home’s heat from escaping and to keep out any small critters, it will need to be adequately sealed and mimic the shape of your home.
You wouldn’t want to hire just any company when adding a basement to your home. Sometimes it can be hard to find basement contractors in your area who are well-qualified and available.
All tiny house owners know that permits are problematic for tiny houses. The rules and regulations are different for each local government, and moreover, for some cases, there are no clear rules at all. Which makes the tiny homeowners’ situation harder.
Adding a basement into the equation increases the number of permits. For most of the cases (depending upon the complexity of the project), there are 4 extra permits for building a basement:
- A building permit is required for construction of architectural and structural elements.
- An electrical permit is required for all electrical installations.
- A mechanical permit is required for installations of all elements and appliances associated with heating and air conditioning systems.
- A plumbing permit is required for installation of all elements and appliances associated with plumbing and gas piping systems.
Example Tiny House Basements
I have found just 2 example pictures for you. As you can see below, both of them are built on a slope. Honestly, this is the most common built style of tiny house basements.
An Incredible Basement
Have you ever wondered how big a basement can be? Here is an example for you to check:
Tiny House Basement Alternatives
I never needed a basement when I was living in a tiny house. But if you need some additional space, but, because of the reasons that I have listed above, you cannot have your tiny house basement, here are 3 alternative solutions for you:
Additional Room / House
If the land is yours, you can easily build an additional room to be used as a hobby room, storage room, or guest room. Comparing to building a basement, an additional ‘above ground’ room will cost you much less and will take much quicker to build.
But be careful, you may end up having a regular size house in your yard 😉
You can be really creative if you decide to have an additional room / tiny house at the same location. Here are some ideas:
A crawl space involves having your actual tiny house sit off the ground, with the foundation partially exposed so that there is literally only room to crawl around underneath the house.
This solution is a much cheaper option comparing to having a basement and it still brings some of the benefits of a basement. You get some extra storage (but not as much as a basement), and some access to utilities (but not as much as a basement).
From my personal experience, the top disadvantage of having a crawl space is ‘rodents and critters’. They are usually attracted to crawl spaces as they will prefer this ‘indoor’ space away from the rain. This means dealing with their waste, along with the risk that they chew through utilities that are in the crawl space.
So, if you are at the beginning of your tiny house design phase, I suggest you consider having a crawl space with both advantages and disadvantages.