Sunday, February 1, 2015

Concrete Slab or Crawl Space?

Concrete Floor?....Wood Floor?....(Does it really matter?)

 Many times people plan to build a new home and don't give much thought to their floor. The truth is..it really does matter. Before we get to that, let's start by thinking about how each method is performed.

 The concrete slab method starts with pouring a footing, followed by laying foundation blocks. The top course of blocks is typically done using "L-Blocks". In between these blocks, fill dirt is hauled in and used to fill the complete cavity. After that, a vapor barrier is applied, reinforcement steel (or "re-mesh") is laid down and finally.....the concrete is poured. The wood floor method starts the same way except, instead of hauling in fill dirt, a floor is framed using wood beams, floor joists and a couple layers of plywood. Although both methods can provide a good, sturdy floor for your new home, a couple of things should be considered:


First of all, just as any wise builder should look at every part of the construction process, economics must be considered. The terrain you are building on, and in particular the slope of the ground where your house stands, must be considered. If you are building on relatively level ground, pouring a concrete slab could be the cheaper alternative. However, if the ground is sloping, it may be better to frame a wood floor instead of hauling in all the extra fill dirt. As you can see, the ground you start with can affect the cost of the options your considering.


Next, let's think about the plumbing. If you have a water leak (and everyone does at some point) and you have a wood floor, you run the risk of a damaged floor and extra repair costs. The flip side to that is that by having a crawl space your plumbing is easier to run during construction and also during repair situations. But what if you have a concrete slab? In this case, the plumber has to set all water lines and drains perfectly before concrete is poured. If things are off when it's poured, they won't line up with walls and could cause extra costs. This is usually not a problem for quality plumbers, though. In the event of a leak in the water line under the slab, you have two choices:  Cut out concrete to repair the plumbing and then report (Expensive! ).  The next option is to run new water lines through the attic. Now you would have to worry about making sure they insulated very well and not freezing in the cold attic, not to mention the damage to ceilings that a leak would then cause.


Lastly, you should consider comfort and preference. Some people prefer to walk on a concrete floor versus a wood floor,  and vice versa. That may sound silly but it's true. I personally like walking around on a wood floor better but, at the same time, I know folks who prefer the opposite.


I understand if you think I'm talking about extreme and/or rare scenarios to consider during your decision process. But what I'm encouraging you to do is consider ALL scenarios! Whether it's upfront costs, future problems, or just plain preference,  a wise builder should always consider everything. After all, your home could be the biggest investment you ever make. Hopefully this was helpful. Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts. Till next time,

CK