Dark, Dank, and Gross: Why Do Some Houses Have Michigan Basements?
You may have been in a Michigan Basement at some point in your life and not even realized it. What exactly is a Michigan Basement and why do some houses have them?
What is a Michigan Basement?
A Michigan Basement is an unfinished, often dark and damp basement that usually has stone walls and very low headroom. Sometimes the floor is dirt or it may be cement. Oftentimes Michigan Basements started out as crawlspaces that were dug out in order to create more storage space.
It's barely a step up from a crawlspace.
Why Do Some Homes Have Michigan Basements?
Sometime after the 1920s, it became popular to modify existing crawlspaces by digging out a space in the center of the crawlspace, several feet from the walls, in order to maintain the integrity of the foundation. That extra space would then be used to store possessions and food for winter. Some folks chose to refer to the storage space as a 'root cellar.'
The state of Michigan defines Michigan Basement in its glossary as "A former crawl space which has been dug out, generally to a depth of 5 to 7 feet to allow a basement. The excavation begins approximately 2 feet in from the inside of the existing foundation walls in order to preserve the soundness of the existing foundation walls and footings."
Fun Facts About Basements
Michigan Basements do exist outside of Michigan but are not always referred to by the term. The same style of basement or cellar is popular along the east coast of the US, oftentimes termed a "Long Island Basement."
There are only seven states where basements are common. Michigan is not on that list, as all seven states are considered part of 'Tornado Alley,' an area of the US prone to tornadoes.
Fewer than 50% of homes in Michigan have basements. Dry Michigan crunched the data in order to find which counties in Michigan have the most homes with basements and found that Oakland County has the highest concentration of homes with underground space at 50%. Muskegon County has the fewest, at only 5%.
Here are the Top 10 counties in Michigan where you'll find the most basements.
- Oakland County - 50%
- Ingham County - 37%
- Wayne County - 33%
- Macomb County - 33%
- Macomb County - 33%
- Genesee County - 28%
- Washtenaw County - 27%
- St. Clair County - 17%
- Grand Traverse County - 16%
- Midland County - 15%