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Why don’t more Okla. homes have basements?

We’ve heard Mike Morgan tell people in the path of a tornado to get below ground.

For many families that is not even an option.

While some homes have a storm shelter, few homes have basements.

Mike Hancock with Basement Contractors specializes in building basements.

He’s built numerous basements in our state; many are considered fully-functioning rooms in a home.

Hancock and structural engineers said Oklahoma’s shallow freeze line, the level at which a foundation has to be poured, is the main reason homes here don’t have basements.

Bob Zahl, with Zahl-Ford Structural Investigators and Consultants, said, “The freeze line is about 18 inches. You go up north and it’s like five or six feet.”

Hancock said, “In Wichita, its 36 inches so if you’re going to do that, they’ll go ahead and go another two or three feet and put a basement in those areas.”

MORE: Debunking Okla. basement myths

Zahl said often times basements are built incorrectly, which can lead to major issues like  buckling walls or water seepage.

Another reason homes don’t have them is the cost.

Hancock said a basement costs about $20 to $40 a square foot.

However, he said if you design a basement to be a livable part of your home rather than an unfinished addition to your home, they are affordable.

Hancock said, “In our region, we consider this is my house on the main level and then we put a basement addition to that.”

He said often people will build a house with all of the square footage above ground and then add a basement to that home.

He said adding a basement adds to the square footage, therefore, adding to the homes overall cost.

Hancock said while digging deep enough for a basement is not really necessary in Oklahoma, it’s an option we should all consider to keep our families safe.

He said, “That’s the safest place you can be, below ground.”

Engineers said a properly-built basement will have heavily reinforced walls, a polymer water barrier between the wall and the ground and a drainage system to remove excess water from the soil.

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