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Wood Basements vs Concrete Basements

Jenn Duxbury

Wood Basements vs Concrete Basements

You may not realize, but there is more than one option for construction materials when it comes to your basement! Most common is the concrete basement, but there are also wood basement options. These are commonly referred to as PWF basements, which stands for Preserved Wood Foundation, or Permanent Wood Foundation. There are pros and cons to both building styles, which we will discuss further below. 

Why Do I Need a Basement?

Whether or not you need a basement is partially based on the climate of your location, and also partially based on your individual need as a homeowner. Basements can be a valuable way to add extra square footage and not to affect the footprint of the home. They can be used as extra living space, for storage, or for recreation. 

However, before any of this, the true, primary function of a basement is to provide a solid foundation for the structure of the house being built. For instance, in areas where frost is a common occurrence, the foundation wall will sit on a footing– which is typically made of concrete– that is below the frost line. The moisture expands when it freezes, and then compresses as it thaws. This is known as a frost heave. If the footing is built above the frost line, the home will constantly move as the seasons go by– of course, this is not what you would want as the homeowner! This is why it is so important to have a basement, especially in cold climates. 

Additionally, a basement provides an easy and convenient way to bring utilities into the home and protect them from the elements as well. As the water line comes into the basement below the frost line and the sewer discharge exits below the frost line, this will help to keep your utilities running smoothly.

Types of Foundation

As mentioned above, there are two main foundation builds– wood and concrete. There are other types of materials that are gaining popularity as well, such as precast panels, steel studs, and Insulated Concrete Form (or ICF, for short). Some of the more traditional options are concrete block, concrete, and wood. While concrete has long been considered to be the best option for a basement, PWF can be comparable and even better in certain aspects!

Advantages of Wood Basements

Wood basements have many advantages over concrete basement options. These include the time it takes to build them, cost, and more. Read on to find out more!

Quicker to Build

One of the biggest advantages of wood basements is that they are less time-intensive and are a lot quicker to build. When it comes to poured concrete, there are many additional steps that can be avoided if you are building a wooden basement instead. This will then translate into lower manpower costs. Once the footing is poured for a concrete basement, contractors will then form the walls, place the rebar, pour concrete, and strip the forms. Then, you will still need to wait for the concrete to cure properly before the basement can be backfilled or built. Many of these steps can be avoided with a wooden basement.


Concrete is not a warm building material by any means. One of the great benefits of wooden basements is that they are warmer than concrete basements. Concrete walls have thinner interior frost walls, which allow for insulation. The typical concrete wall will only have a 2×4 interior frost wall, while wooden walls generally have 2×6 or 2×8 exterior stud walls, which will allow for more insulation to keep the basement warmer. 

Easier to Modify

Wooden basements are also easier to modify than their concrete counterparts. For instance, if you want to add a window in your concrete basement, that is a lot harder to do than with a wooden basement, due to the permanence and hardness of the material. This would require specialized equipment and manpower in order to cut the doorways or windows that you would like to add to the basement space. When it comes to wood, though, it would usually be a simple fix of doing some framing modifications. 


We all know that basements can be damp, moist spaces. Wood basements stay drier because the treated wood does not absorb moisture like concrete does– instead, it wicks it away. Concrete, however, contains moisture as part of its makeup. It also absorbs moisture from its surroundings fairly easily. If there are heavy rains, wood is the material that will dry quicker as well. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are wood basements OK?

Yes, you can build a wood basement and it should do the job– wood basements are quicker to construct and also cheaper to construct than concrete basement options. However, in the long run, they are the less durable option and will not last as long. 

How long do wood basements last?

The durability and life span of a wood basement can depend on certain characteristics, such as the amount of moisture in the basement itself or the quality of the wood. Generally, a wooden basement can last up to 100 years under the right conditions! That being said, this number can fluctuate a lot based on some of the factors mentioned above. 

What are some disadvantages to a wood foundation?

One of the big disadvantages to a wooden foundation is that they do not last as long as a concrete foundation or basement options. The type of wood product that is used to construct a wood foundation can also be toxic, which is another con to this type of construction.

Can you build a basement out of wood?

Yes, you can build a basement out of wood! Typically, the best way to do this is to use a concrete slab as a base and a waterproof layer between the owed and the ground outside, which will prevent ground moisture from affecting the wood beneath the flooring– it will also help to extend the lifespan of the basement’s walls. 

About Erin Carpenter

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