Which Foundation Is Better for Building a Home: Slab or Crawl Space?

Marwa Hasan
Written by Marwa Hasan
Reviewed by John Bryant
Updated December 1, 2022
Brand new two-story suburban house in sunny summer afternoon with orange garage door
Photo: IP Galanternik D.U./E+/Getty Images

Slab and crawl spaces are the most popular foundation choices, but each one has key features that can make all the difference in the construction of your home

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Spending all your time deciding between a contemporary or cottage-style home? Before building your dream home, it’s also important to choose the right foundation type. 

There are many types of foundations. While homeowners who live in moist areas often pick slab foundations, crawl spaces are better for homes built on shifting soil. Be sure to understand the features, pros, and cons of these two popular foundation types so you can make the best decision when you have a new home built.

What’s the Difference Between a Slab Foundation and a Crawl Space Foundation?

A slab foundation is a raised slab that the house is built on top of. In comparison, a crawl space foundation has exterior concrete walls (and sometimes interior support walls) that elevate the house 18 inches or more above grade, creating an accessible area beneath the house used for plumbing, wiring, or storage.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Slab Foundation vs. a Crawl Space Foundation?

Slab vs crawl space comparison for foundation options, with slabs costing less with lower maintenance

There are some advantages and disadvantages to each type of foundation. Here’s a detailed list of pros and cons to help you decide which foundation is best for your home.

Pros of a Slab Foundation

  • Better for moist climates as it prevents mold growth in the home

  • Less subjectable to insects and pests 

  • More affordable

  • Faster to construct

  • Sturdy and strong since slabs are 24 inches thick

  • Requires less maintenance

  • More energy efficient since it insulates the flooring of your house by preventing cold air from flowing underneath, unlike crawl space foundations

  • Durable—it can last for 50 years or more

  • Comfortable to walk on

Cons of a Slab Foundation

  • Cracks easily with shifting soil

  • Floods more easily

  • Tree roots can damage it. Homeowners are advised not to plant trees too close to the foundation—no less than 50 feet away

  • Repairs can be more expensive

  • No basement storage

  • Plumbing fixtures and electrical wiring are embedded in the concrete, and they’re not flexible if you want to do any future renovations

Pros of a Crawl Space Foundation

  • Works well on sloped sites

  • Preferable in areas prone to earthquakes

  • Better with shifting soil

  • Recommended for dry climates

  • More suitable for flood-prone areas

  • Easy access for plumbing, electric, and HVAC maintenance 

  • Easy access for termite inspection 

  • Can be used as a storage area

  • Flexible remodeling options 

  • Durable if well executed

  • Raises the home aesthetics and the value of the house

Cons of a Crawl Space Foundation

  • More expensive than a slab foundation

  • Construction takes longer than a slab foundation

  • Crawl space foundations should be encapsulated to reduce accumulated moisture 

  • Cold is transferred through the floor joists and subflooring to the living areas above and sometimes can freeze pipes if not well insulated

  • Requires more TLC to prevent mold, rodents, and insect infestations 

  • Likely to require structural repairs

  • Less energy efficient

  • Floors are not strong enough for heavy pieces of furniture

What Is the Difference in Cost Between a Slab Foundation and a Crawl Space Foundation?

view of brick and brown colored single story home with attached garage and gravel
Photo: grandriver/iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

A concrete foundation will cost between $4 to $14 per square foot with an average of $5,200 to $13,000. Crawl space foundations can cost $5 to $16 per square foot or $7,000 to $21,000 on average. This makes the cost of a crawl space foundation double the cost of a slab foundation for the same home. 

Which Is Better: Slab Foundation or Crawl Space Foundation?

As much as it can be tempting to go with the most affordable option, there are many factors that could determine the best foundation for your home.

Sloped or Low-Grade Lot

A crawl space foundation is a better choice for both sloped or low-grade lots since there is limited digging for walls. Plus, the foundation can be designed to level the home’s flooring. However, in the case of slab foundations, they fit flat lots.

Wet Conditions

For a damp climate, a concrete slab foundation is better, but if your house rests on a flood-prone area or sees a lot of rain, a crawl space is ideal. A crawl space foundation that is well-protected is less likely to get flooded, unlike a slab foundation, which can transfer water through the slab.

Freezing Conditions

When groundwater freezes the soil, it can expand and thaw, causing the foundation to crack or shift. This is why a crawl space foundation is more suitable to stabilize and drain excess groundwater in the foundation if you live in freezing conditions.

If you're considering building a home, you should always consult a local foundation contractor to determine the best and safest foundation for your home.

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