What is a single level home?
A single level home is just as it sounds: It is a home–built on one level. Often referred to as a “patio home” or “slab home.” Not to be confused with a crawl space type foundation commonly used with mobile and modular homes. They are finished and appear the same as any home.
What are some of the benefits of a single level home?
Single level homes have no steps inside and rarely have steps on the outside. People with physical disabilities are obvious candidates for a single level home. Elderly folks or those looking to build for retirement also can benefit from a single level home. Just about anybody can appreciate not having stairs to climb after a hard day’s work. Not having the extremely dangerous hazard of someone falling down a set of stairs is a priceless benefit.
Eliminating the wet, damp, moldy, basement or crawl space that is constantly under the risk of flooding is another huge benefit! Single level homes do not require a sump pump or any type of mechanical drainage system to maintain.
Crawl spaces and basements are notorious for housing rodents, critters, insects, snakes and other reptiles. With a properly built single level home, keeping Mother Nature’s little creatures out of your new structure is easily manageable. Stairways consume valuable square footage as well as being expensive and complex to build.
A single level home is an excellent match for a hydronic, in-floor heat system. With proper planning the slab can operate as a “mass thermal storage system” that will store heat in the winter and provide natural cooling in the summer. This storage system is very energy-efficient and typically qualifies for price reduction incentives by energy providers such as electric companies.
How are single level homes built different from traditional homes?
Single level homes are commonly built with a Frost Protected Shallow Foundation (F.P.S.F.)” or “Monolithic Foundation,” This means that the concrete footings and the slab of the home are constructed as one unit, rather than the traditional footing.
In addition an F.P.S.F. has insulation both horizontally and vertically on the perimeter of the foundation. The size of the insulation is determined by a chart according to frost depth of each individual construction area. The 2009 International Residential Building Code references this in section R-403.3 in the code book. As with any foundation system it is extremely important to use quality building practices and materials.
Understanding the characteristics of the soil and environment is vital as well. “Clay” or “water saturated” soils are undesirable soils when building with an F.P.S.F. A soil that has natural drainage properties such as sand or pea gravel is more desirable. Water saturated soils tend to freeze and expand causing obvious problems with concrete and other building materials. A building site with water saturated soils can be rectified simply and affordably with a more desirable soil such as “fill sand”. One of the major benefits of an F.P.S.F. is the reduced cost compared to a traditional foundation, without compromising the integrity or longevity of the structure.
What about flooding?
Proper planning regarding the slab height according to the high water table in the building area is a sure way to keep a single level home safe from flooding. The use of a good water runoff plan is critical as well. Keeping the slab up higher than the ground and sloping the earth away from the house is vital. The use of “flashing” where the slab meets concrete walks, 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 home without a basement can be intimidating if not scary for some folks. 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 have been known to have devastating results. There is also an option of a below grade storm shelter. These can be as simple as a mini basement which 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 designs, floor plans and options. They are innovative yet simple to operate and maintain. The conservative building practices used are in alignment with green building. They really are the home of the future.