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Walkout Basement Trench Footing or Buried Wall?


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Jerry's Forum Posts: 29
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By Jerry in Lee's Summit, MO on 12/19/2006


Wanted to get advice/opinions from those of you with walkout basements.  I will be building a reverse 1 1/2 story here in the midwest (36-in frost depth).  The foundation contractors have suggested 2 different ways to handle the walkout area:

- Pour a 36-in trench footing and cap off with a 12-in curb wall.

or

- Pour 4-ft buried wall on a standard footing which is stepped down below frost line.

I like the idea of the basement slab sitting on a continuous ledge with the trench footing, but then the outside isn't as 'clean' at grade level like the buried wall would be.  Let me know what you all think.

Thanks, Jerry


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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 12/20/2006


Jerry,

I considered both options and went with option B.  The reason I did this was to thermally isolate the inside slab from any exposure outside.  Concrete is not a very good insulator and the primary loss of heat through the concrete slab is outward and through the perimeter.  With option A, even if you pour your slab over rigid foam insulation, you still have this primary channel of heat loss.  With option B you basically have a thermally isolated floating slab within your building envelop, and you have completely eliminated the primary heat loss mechanism.

Having lived in this same environment as you with both types of construction, option B is far superior for interior comfort.  I didn’t even insulate underneath the slab, but since my construction is ICF my slab has perimeter insulation between the slab and the foundation wall, and this is far more comfortable (barefoot is no problem in winter) than my previous house constructed with option A and rigid foam insulation underneath the slab.  In that house, it was always uncomfortable on the lower level, you basically needed wool socks and shoes to keep it even remotely tolerable regardless of air temperature.  Keep your feet warm, and your head stays happy.  And as a bonus, perimeter insulation is much cheaper than underslab insulation (just look at the difference between your edge linear feet vs. your underslab square footage).  Get too much north of here and I would probably insulate under the slab as well, but in our environment proper construction (option B) eliminates this need. 

When I was getting bids, I found that both options were the same cost.  Option A uses much more conrete, option B takes more labor, and the cost offset between the two was basically a wash.  However concrete costs are higher than when I poured, so perhaps the cost differences are relevant today.  Option B saved me money because I removed the underslab insulation requirement, based on information from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory information (I don't have any direct links, but google would probably turn them up for you quickly).  In my mind, better construction techniques AND cost savings is always a good thing.


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By Jerry in Lee's Summit, MO on 12/20/2006


Ken,

Thanks for the feedback, the thermal issue is a big one since I also want to do in slab radiant heat.  I do plan to insulate under and around the perimeter of the slab because of this.


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