Wednesday, April 19, 2017

House on a Slab

Every home I have lived in has had a basement. When we move to the west, we will be in a house built on a slab. That's how homes are constructed there. They don't have basements.

I was surprised at how a house on a slab lives so differently from one with a foundation. I just spent several days at my son's new place in Denver, and I was struck by how the house and the yard flow seamlessly, all at one level.

Here I have steps and landings and interim points to get to the outside.

From the kitchen I go through a door to the porch. Then another door and a step down to the outside deck landing. Then four steps down to the patio. Then the yard and gardens are beyond the walled patio.

It's lovely, but it makes my house feel disconnected from the outside. At my son's house you walk out the door to a stone step and you're in the yard.

Even the feeling from inside is different. At his house you look out the glass back door and the garden is right there. It feels like one space, in and out.

Here there is a fortress feeling. I'm up high, perched above the outdoor living areas.

Hiding the foundation is always something you have to think about with a basement, since the house sits above the ground level by quite a bit. It took me a lot of planting, some decorative brickwork, and even a low stone wall to effectively hide the concrete foundation and black waterproofing strip around our house.

As lovely as this planting is along the side of our house, it gives a feeling of walling off the home from the outside.

My other son's new house in California, built on a slab, has the same in-and-out flow to his back patio as the Denver house, all at one level. And when I spent several days at my nephew's in California last summer it was the same way, you just walk outside. No steps, no landings, no porch areas to go through to get outside.

It seems like a minor design difference, but when you live with the garden right at your door and when it is so easy to walk right out into it, it feels remarkably unified.

I'll like living in a home on a slab, level with the outdoors, where the garden is a cohesive part of the house itself, and not an element constructed below and away from it.

But wait, without a basement where am I going to store all my stuff?


  1. Hmmm...i will never think of my slab houses quite the same way again. Suggest radiant heat in SF, one down side of a slab is they can get quite chilly during winter months and heating vents are rarely at floor level.

    1. Good suggestion -- and we did see a lot of homes in SF with radiant heat in the floor. That will go on my checklist of what I want there!