Using the square footage of your basement may be the cheapest usable square footage in your home. OK, what does that mean to you? Simple, if you want to save money, and I mean a lot, use basement square footage as part of your home … not just what supports it. Think about how much it costs to build your basement, the only functions of which are to hold up the rest of the house … and store your furnace, hot water tank, and all the things you can’t get rid of. Also, think about how big it is. If you are designing a ranch, it is as big as the rest of your house. In other words, you’re living (upstairs) on top of another whole house (basement) … but you’re not making the most of what it has to offer. Why?
I’ll tell you why. It does not feel as comfortable as the rest of the house. Your basement is usually cold, dark, damp, and smelly. The only people who live there are spiders, children when they play or teenagers when they want to rebel and don’t want to live with the rest of the family. They think that makes them independent now, or at least they are until it’s time to eat and do laundry.
It does not have to be this way. By using energy efficient systems like ICF, PWF, concrete post basements, light gauge steel framing, and more, you can build a basement that feels just as good, if not better, than the floors above it. and save you money as well. If you’re building a foundation (basement) anyway, why not do it energy-efficient and remove some or all of the second story? The additional cost to upgrade your basement is much less than the savings from an entire floor. I have designed homes where this thought process has reduced the total cost per square foot by as much as 50%. That is not a typo.
One of my favorite examples involved a single woman who was to be the project manager in her own home. The design was a 1400 square foot, 2 bedroom ranch on a lake that had a partial basement with PWF construction. In this case, what I mean by that is that the slope didn’t really steep enough for a real strike, but since she was only building one floor, I was able to raise that first floor high enough to bring her about 8 feet to the earring. .. hence a complete strike. On the street side, you simply incline the slope to the porch and you are all set. Now his cost (this was around 1995) to build the whole house was around $ 115 / square foot. This included everything except the basement finish. If this is where you stopped, you would have had a 1400-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home with an unfinished basement.
Now, this is where the fun begins. He finished part of his basement, or roughly 1000 square feet (the rest went for the oven, etc.), giving him 2400 square feet of usable / living space. When you added the cost of finishing the basement to the cost of the upstairs, the cost per square foot dropped to $ 70 / square foot. This is the best way I know of to make a home more profitable to build … and when you build your home with energy efficiency in mind, you win on all fronts.
So what to do with the money saved? Well, you can upgrade other areas of the house … like the kitchen or master bathroom, or add a fireplace or hardwood floors. You can always just not spend it or invest it as well. The options are yours, but now you will have options that you would not have had before. You see, energy efficiency can be very profitable, with the right design decisions.