Which North Carolina Cities Have the Most Basements?

Want to know which North Carolina cities have a higher concentration of basements? This real estate report breaks down trends in basement and foundation design.

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Across North Carolina, homes with basements aren’t evenly distributed. They’re more likely to be in some cities than others. However, this isn’t just a design preference. Building a home with a basement is an engineering decision based on structural factors such as soil conditions, the frost line, and flood risks. 

Below, we’ll explain how basements in homes are tied to geography, and we’ll break down which North Carolina city has the highest percentage of basements. 

How Many North Carolina Homes Have Basements?

As regional experts in basement waterproofing, our team at Tar Heel Basement Systems knows about local construction trends, but we wanted to get some hard numbers about basement geography.

To find out which North Carolina cities have the most basements, we looked at real estate transactions and compared homes with basements to those with other foundation types. Using Zillow’s data on recently sold single-family homes, the below figures show the rate of homes with finished or unfinished basements in each county. 

The results reveal that the Winston-Salem area has the highest percentage of homes with basements, of the regions we analyzed. With about 36 percent of homes having basements, that’s more than double the next closest city of Asheville.

Comparatively, basements are in less than one percent of homes in the cities of Greenville and Jacksonville on the eastern shores of North Carolina. Central cities like Raleigh and Chapel Hill fall in the middle of the pack with between six and seven percent of homes having basements. 

North Carolina County and City Percent of Homes with Basements
Forsyth County (Winston-Salem)36%
Buncombe County (Asheville)15%
Guilford County (Greensboro/ High Point)13%
Orange County (Chapel Hill)7%
Wake County (Raleigh)6%
Wake County (Cary)6%
Cabarrus County (Concord)5%
New Hanover County (Wilmington)4%
Durham County (Durham)3%
Mecklenburg County (Charlotte)3%
Cumberland County (Fayetteville)2%
Gaston County (Gastonia)2%
Pitt County (Greenville)0.36%
Onslow County (Jacksonville)0.33%

Why Are Basements More Common In Some Areas?

Homes with easements are generally more expensive to build. Rather than pouring concrete for a slab foundation, basements require excavation before construction can begin. This is more labor-intensive, takes more time, and costs more. However, there are structural reasons for building a basement or not building a basement. 

For example, along the coast of North Carolina, the risk of flooding makes basements not a good choice for a home foundation. Especially in marshy areas, the high water table could be just a foot or two below the surface of the soil, and building a basement generally requires digging down at least eight feet. It’s not only groundwater that’s a concern. Hurricane storm surges and overflowing rivers have more homeowners looking at using their foundation to mitigate flood damage. Rather than digging down to build a basement, foundation piers are being used to support raised foundations. 

The other key factor in basement design is the frost line. In states with cold winters, basements are used to anchor the home below the frost line. However, in warmer states like North Carolina, the mild climate doesn’t typically require basements. For example in Mecklenburg County, the frost line is just six inches below the surface of the soil, and footings typically must reach four inches below that to be 10 inches deep. In comparison, northeastern states can have a frost line that’s five feet below the surface of the soil, requiring a deeper foundation that’s conducive to building a basement. 

Water, freezing temperatures, and shifting soil can impact all types of foundations. If there are problems belowground, you could start seeing wall cracks, uneven floors, stuck windows, or nail pops. These signs of foundation damage could mean your home isn’t anchored deeply enough or that water is causing destabilization.

Basements, crawl spaces, and foundations can be so important to the home’s structure that damage can cause the house to lose 30 percent of its market value. If you’re concerned about your basement or foundation, sign up for a free inspection from the experts at Tar Heel Basement Systems.

What’s the Future of Basement Design?

The structural decisions about basements and foundation types are only one part of the picture. Basements provide usable square footage that has become even more valuable during the pandemic. A 2020 report from Homes.com said that basements are a trending feature among current homebuyers. The extra space is being used for home offices, at-home gyms, fan caves, storage, and more. 

As these trends continue to develop, the 2021 home renovation boom is likely to include a large number of basement renovations. Rather than trying to compete in a tight real estate landscape, more homeowners are looking at how a finished basement can help their current home to meet their space needs. Plus, as Motley Fool explains, “A finished basement can increase your property’s value by 70 percent.”

Before you start your basement renovation by adding drywall, the most successful remodeling projects do some prep work to improve and protect your investment. Basement waterproofing can help you avoid water damage to your new floors and furnishings. Plus, basement wall systems can include a vapor barrier that seals out water and transforms a damp or mildewy basement into a room that feels like the rest of the house. 

Find out how basement waterproofing or foundation repair can transform your home with a free inspection from Tar Heel Basement Systems.