Moving to a new place usually comes with lots of new experiences. One of the unique experiences you’d get in Canada would be discovering that several houses in the country have a basement. So, why do homes in Canada have a basement?
Canadian houses initially have basements due to climate which makes it necessary to have the footer below the frost line. But the basement has more utility. It offers great space, provides protection against natural disasters and the temperature there makes it a good place to stay during the summer.
Nowadays, Canadians now use the basement space for real estate purposes by creating a self-contained room for letting or building iceberg mansions. Here, we discuss the various reasons for adding a basement.
Reasons for Adding Basements to Canadian Houses
Here are the major reasons why houses in Canada have basements:
1. Frost line
Foundation footers and water and sewer pipes have to be below the frost line to work effectively in the winter. Without that, there’s the likelihood of freezing during the coldest time of the year. The frost line is usually between 4 – 8 feet deep in cold countries like Canada. The foundation footer will also be below the frost line to prevent movement due to the ground freezing and thawing. Thus, a lot of digging and excavation happens when building a house. Construction already requires builders to dig deep for every outside wall and load-bearing wall inside the house. So, most builders dig the space between and build a basement in place.
The basement also provides ample space for multiple purposes, freeing up space in the main house. For example, the basement is an excellent place to store the heating equipment needed to keep the home warm during the winter. You can also have plumbing, wiring, and other electrical work that can take up valuable space here. Beyond that, many Canadians use the basement as extra room space, adding spare bathroom, bedroom, entertainment space, laundry, store. Deep freezer, etc. It’s all about how big the basement is. Big enough, you can make turn it into any purpose.
3. Cool Place to Stay in the Summer
The earth is great for insulation which means the temperature in the basement is more stable than half you’ll get in other parts of the house. Generally, environmental conditions significantly influence the temperature inside the home. But that of the basement is more stable. This means it’ll be cooler in Summer and warmer during the winter than every other part of the home. Houses in colder areas like Canada are also built vertically, with heat sources at the lowest level. So, a basement allows the heat to rise without forcing air.
4. More Protection Against Natural Disasters
A basement can also protect against natural disasters such as tornadoes. Annually, Canada sees about 80 tornadoes. Most of them range between F0 – F2 in intensity, which means they won’t cause any severe damage to the house. But they’re about 5% with up to F3 intensity and higher. These can significantly damage the house. So the basement provides a safe option for people during a severe tornado. Areas in Canada that generally experience tornados are the Canadian prairies, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and British Columbia.
Another natural disaster that basements could protect against is Hailstorms. These storms usually cause significant damage to homes and property, sometimes causing over a billion dollars worth of damage at times. They are prevalent in Alberta, with Calgary being the capital of damaging hailstorms. A basement can provide a safe space during these natural disasters.
How to Use a basement
Although the initial reason for building a basement is to make the house structurally sound, the basement has come to mean more over time. You can use your basement for several purposes as you deem fit. In recent times, Canadians are using basements now for other reasons. These include:
1. Rental Income
With the cost of houses in Canada going through the roof, paying a mortgage isn’t as easy as it once was. This has led many homeowners to convert basement space into additional rooms to be let out for rental income. The basement is usually the best option for space for a rental room. You can easily add laundry, bathroom, and kitchen to the room down there. This makes it possible for the tenant to have their self-contained space. Of course, building or converting the basement into a self-contained unit that you can lease out will cost you some money. But if you’re able to build it, you can be sure to find those who’re willing to pay for it, especially in major cities like Toronto and Vancouver.
2. Recreation Room
The idea of what a recreation room should look like has changed over time. Gone are the days of ping pong tables and dartboards on the wall. Homeowners now want the best and most luxurious space in the basement, and many are building that. Some people have now converted their basements into recreational areas with almost everything you can think of. This is why iceberg basements are becoming more popular in Canada. Iceberg basements are massive underground mansions that make houses much bigger than the law generally allows.
In Canada today, many wealthy residents are building this kind of basement and stocking it with all forms of recreation facilities. It’s no longer surprising to find a home’s basketball court, golf simulator, karaoke bar, gym, garage, steam room, and more in the multilevel basement. There are currently no rules against such construction in Canada, but one can come up in the future. Although it’s not everyone that can afford the luxury of a multilevel iceberg basement, many still convert regular basements into well-equipped rec rooms.
The original reason Canadian houses have basements is the climate conditions here. There’s a need to dig below the foundation’s frost line, which inspired adding a basement. But people are using the basement for several other reasons nowadays.