What is a single level house?
A single level house is just what it sounds like: it is a house built on one level. It is often referred to as a “courtyard house” or “slab house”. Not to be confused with a crawlspace type foundation that is commonly used with mobile and modular homes. They are finished and look the same as any house.
What are some of the benefits of a single level home?
Single story homes do not have steps on the inside and rarely have steps on the outside. People with physical disabilities are obvious candidates for a single level home. Seniors or those looking to build for retirement can also benefit from a single level home. Anyone can appreciate not having to climb stairs after a hard day at work. Not having the extremely dangerous risk of someone falling down the stairs is an invaluable benefit.
Eliminating wet, damp, moldy, basement or cellar space that is constantly at risk of flooding is another great benefit! Single level homes do not require a sump pump or any type of mechanical drainage system for maintenance.
Crawl spaces and docks are notorious for harboring rodents, bugs, insects, snakes, and other reptiles. With a properly built single level home, keeping Mother Nature’s little critters out of your new structure is easily manageable. Stairs consume valuable square footage, as well as being expensive and complex to build.
A single level house is an excellent match for a hydronic floor heating system. With proper planning, the slab can function as a “mass thermal storage system” that will store heat in the winter and provide natural cooling in the summer. This storage system is highly energy efficient and typically qualifies for price reduction incentives from energy providers such as power companies.
How are single level homes different from traditional homes?
Single story homes are commonly built with a ‘Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF)’ or ‘monolithic foundation’. This means that the concrete foundation and slab of the house are built as a unit, rather than the traditional basis.
In addition, an FPSF has insulation both horizontally and vertically at the perimeter of the foundation. The size of the insulation is determined by a graph according to the frost depth of each individual building area. Tea International Residential Building Code 2009 references this in section R-403.3 of the codebook. As with any foundation system, it is extremely important to use quality construction materials and practices.
Understanding the characteristics of the soil and the environment is also vital. “Clay” or “waterlogged” soils are undesirable soils when building with an FPSF. Soil that has natural drainage properties, such as sand or gravel, is more desirable. Waterlogged soils tend to freeze and expand causing obvious problems with concrete and other building materials. A construction site with waterlogged soils can be simply and cheaply rectified with a more desirable soil such as “fill sand”. One of the main benefits of an FPSF is the reduced cost compared to a traditional foundation, without compromising the integrity or longevity of the structure.
What about the floods?
Proper planning regarding the height of the slab according to the high water table in the construction area is a sure way to keep a single-level house safe from flooding. Using a good water runoff plan is also critical. Keeping the slab higher than the ground and making the ground slope away from the house is vital. The use of “flashing” where the slab meets concrete walkways, decks, etc. is extremely important. Common sense will go a long way when planning and building a structure of any kind.
Worried about tornadoes and high winds?
With the weather we experience in the Midwest, the idea of living in a house without a basement can be intimidating, if not terrifying, for some people. There are several different types of storm shelters that will work for a single level home. A well-designed, above-ground, built-in storm shelter will protect you and your family, and alleviate some of the fear that comes from tornadoes and high winds that are known to have devastating results. There is also the option of a storm shelter below ground level. These can be as simple as a mini basement that can double as a spare room.
Make your next home a single level home!
Single level homes are becoming very popular in the housing industry. “Why?” You may ask, there are so many reasons! The benefits are plentiful and the costs are affordable. The sky is the limit when it comes to layouts, floor plans, and options. They are innovative yet easy to operate and maintain. The conservative construction practices used are aligned with green building. They truly are the home of the future.