Tom Werling, President and Founder of North Texas Basements, Inc., recently became certified as a Residential Concrete Foundation Technician through the American Concrete Institute. The American Concrete Institute is the nation’s leading authority in concrete technology and application. It is recognized as the source for code writing for concrete. Certification is awarded based on knowledge of the concrete code and application on topics from soils through concrete enforcement, drainage, backfill and safety. With only 51 certified residential concrete technicians in the US and one of 7 in the south, Tom Werling is an innovator in basement drainage and residential insulation techniques. As an expert in basement construction, Tom is frequently called upon to provide information and expertise to homeowners, builders, architects and engineers regarding basement structure challenges and solutions.
Along with being a current member of the American Concrete Institute, Concrete Foundation Association, Greater Ft. Worth Builders Association, Texas Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders, Tom has offered seminars and presentations on the integral components of foundations based on national standards and codes, the importance of correct drainage techniques and the vital differences between cantilever walls vs. basement walls. Tom is committed to eliminating foundation failures and to providing all options for none-fail foundation construction in North Texas.
North Texas homes can have homes at an affordable price, despite conventional wisdom that the soil moves too much and it is cheaper to build up.
Before Michael Blank turned 18, his family had lived in 13 different houses in Massachusetts, Illinois, and California. Many of those houses had basements. So when he moved to Texas, he wondered why most homes were built on slab foundations with no basements. So when Michael and his wife bought a lot on a golf course overlooking Eagle Mountain Lake, they wanted a basement, which their builder had never built. He called their dream of having a basement "outside of the box."
That is before they met Tom Werling with North Texas Basements. Having built houses in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Texas, Werling knew a lot about constructing basements. He found that many of his Texas clients wanted basements, but had been told the soil shifted too much. "We have to be smarter than dirt," Werling says. Working with the Blanks and the builder, Werling proposed a 3,300 sq-ft basement with 8 1/2 ft. ceilings. After seeing a basement was possible, the couple redesigned the house and moved two bedrooms and baths into the basement, which was designed to feature a walk-out area large enough to accommodate a 3-car garage. The basement also had a large recreation room, storage room, utility areas, and a wine cellar. "We are very happy with it," Blank says.
To most homebuilders, basements are not practical in Texas. Werling has proven the conventional thinking wrong. "It is not rocket science to build a basement," he says. At 12 feet below the surface the sun, wind, and rain have much less effect on the soil. That makes a basement with thick walls stronger and more stable, Werling says.
Growing up in Indiana, Phil Crone loved having a bedroom in the basement. “It was dark. It was cold. I didn’t know the difference noon and 6 a.m.,” he said. “It was wonderful.” So when Crone, who now heads the Dallas Builders Association, moved down to Texas, he started asking why there are so few basements. After all, meteorologists say basements are one of the best places to take shelter during a tornado.
Folks told him it has a lot do with the soil: It’s expansive. “When it gets wet, it swells up; when it dries up in the summer, it shrinks,” he said. “Those are a lot of forces, and a lot of engineering that has to happen” to build a basement.
Geography is at play, too. Up north, builders build down deeper to get the foundation below the freeze line. Since they’re already down there, it’s fairly inexpensive to make a basement and add square footage that way.
Ben Bigelow, a Texas A&M construction sciences professor, says in Texas, it’s just cheaper to build up than down. “Homebuyers, they want to know what their price per square foot is,” he said. “Are they getting a good deal? Are they getting as much house for their money as possible?”
Bigelow says there’s a cultural element too, and the logic is a bit circular. “Basements have never really been prevalent in Texas, and so people don’t build them,” Bigelow said. “You go to other places where basements are prevalent and it’s absolutely expected.”
“Now that we’ve got more people relocating to the area, we get more people that ask for them,” Fort Worth builder Lynn Motheral said.
North Texas Basements says that there are a few common myths people have about basements some supposedly specific to the North Texas region.
First, there is a belief that people living in the North Texas area don’t need a basement since Texas doesn't have a frost line. This is false. In fact, freezing ground is simply one of several reasons for soil movement including rain, wind, and drought. While southern states do not have frost lines, they most definitely have “drought lines” for which basements are needed. Due to their depth, basements are the only foundation resistant to soil movement.
In addition to a strong foundation, basements provide additional usable space, storm protection, natural source of cool air, and a beautiful solution to hillside lots.
The misconception that Texas soils are not conducive to basements is absolutely false! While states in the north build homes with basements to combat the movement of soil due to frost, Texas can use this same solution to combat the soil movement issues caused by sun, wind, rain, and most importantly, drought.
It's a proven fact that slabs are shallow foundations that are vulnerable to movement. We hear about potential vertical rise (PVR), but that is only relevant for shallow slabs. Movement in Texas is caused by the severe drying and then the rapid expansion of the earth when it gets wet. Hence, the term we have coined as a "drought line." A deeper foundation--basement-- prevents the damage that is so common throughout the state as a result of this drastic movement of soil.
Why don't most builders in Texas, build basements? The answer is liability. Our soils in Texas are expansive and create problems not found in the northern states where basements are a common item. Colorado and Texas--what do they have in common?
WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER?
SEE MASTER BUILDER VIDEOS BELOW
Master Builder Show with guest, Tom Werling
Jim Gibson, President Gibson Home Builders,
Master Builder Show
Tom Werling, CEO and President,
North Texas Basements, Inc.
Want to know how soil movement affects your foundation? What type of foundation is less susceptible to movement? Want to know the answers and much more? Listen to Jim Gibson and Tom Werling discuss these topics, as well as discuss the pros and cons of building a basement in Texas.