Slab Vs. Crawl Space: Which Is Better For Barndominiums?

Updated on:

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to build a slab or crawl space for your barndominium. Each option has its own set of pros and cons that must be considered. But which is better for barndominiums – slab or crawl space?

A slab foundation is better for barndominiums because it is cheaper and easier to build and provides more earthquake stability. However, a crawl space foundation may be better in areas with high water tables or if the barndominium will be located in a floodplain.

In this article, I’ll look at slab or crawl space foundations in barndominiums and their pros and cons to help determine which one is the better choice for barndominiums. Here’s a look at the two options to help you decide which is best for your needs.

What Are Slab Barndominiums?

A barndominium is a type of residential building that combines the barn and condo styles. The term “barndominium” is a combination of the words “barn” and “condominium.” It first became popular in Texas but has since caught on in other parts of the United States as well.

There are mainly five types of foundations used to build a house, but the two most widely recommended foundation types are concrete slab and crawl space.

Slabs are the most popular type of foundation for barndominiums. They’re easy to construct and provide a stable, level base for your home. The most common way to install a slab is to build a wooden frame and then pour concrete on top of it.

A concrete slab foundation is built using a single layer of concrete that is typically 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters) thick. It is the most common foundation type for homes in the southern United States because it is less expensive than a crawl space foundation and easier to build on sloping sites.

Concrete slab foundations are durable and can last many years with proper maintenance. They also resist termites and other pests that can damage wood foundations.

If you want to learn more about concrete foundations, read my in-depth article about pouring barndominium slabs. I cover the step-by-step process and answer a few common questions.

The Advantages of Slab Barndominiums

There are a few key advantages to building a slab barndominium instead of one with a crawl space.

  • Slab barndominiums are more durable, strong, and sturdy. They’re less likely to experience foundation problems over time and can last for about 4-5 decades.
  • They are less expensive than other types of foundations and easier to build. That’s because the home is built around a concrete slab, which is poured after the foundation has been laid, and the cost typically ranges between $7,000-12,000.
  • As there is no crawl space, there is less opportunity for moisture and pests to get into your home. The concrete slab creates a barrier that pests cannot get through.
  • Slab construction can provide better energy efficiency than homes with a crawl space. This is because the concrete slabs have less air leakage and help keep the temperature inside the house more consistent.
  • Ideal for people living in warmer climates like the southern states. One reason is that slab barndominiums help keep homes cooler in hot weather.

The Disadvantages of Slab Barndominiums

Slab barndominiums may be easier and cheaper to build, but there are some definite downsides to this type of construction:

  • Accessing plumbing or electrical systems can be quite challenging if any repairs are needed. The entire house may need to be gutted to make repairs, which can be very costly.
  • Slab barndominiums are more susceptible to flooding and water damage. They are also more difficult to repair if there are ever any structural issues.
  • Slab homes can be more challenging to sell because they are less common than traditional homes. Some buyers may be put off by the lack of privacy or the thought of dealing with potential foundation issues.

Understanding Crawl Space Barndominiums

Crawl spaces are another popular option for barndominium foundations. These are a type of home that is built on a crawl space foundation. They are usually built in rural areas where the ground is unsuitable for a traditional foundation. It’s ideal for areas with soil shifting and dry climate conditions.

Barndominiums built on a crawl space foundation can be designed with living quarters on one or multiple levels. They can also be easily expanded if your needs change over time. They provide good ventilation and access to plumbing and electrical systems, making them ideal for homes in areas with high humidity or termite activity.

However, crawl spaces can also be more difficult to build and maintain. These types of barndominiums cost more to build than a traditional home, but they offer many benefits.

The Advantages of Crawl Space Barndominiums

There are many benefits of a crawl space barndominium over a traditional slab foundation home.

  • Crawl space barndominiums typically have fewer foundation problems. They are not as susceptible to settling and cracking as slab homes because it is constructed with a wood frame. The frame supports the concrete foundation walls and floors of the house.
  • The crawl space provides added structural support to the building. The space distributes weight across a wider area. This is especially beneficial in areas prone to earthquakes and shifting soil.
  • Crawl spaces in a barndominium are easier to access for repairs and maintenance. If you need to get to your plumbing or electrical systems, it will be much simpler to do so from a crawl space than from a slab foundation.
  • A crawl space barndominium provides better energy efficiency. The crawl space offers additional insulation. Many crawl space insulating products are specially designed to fit between the joists and in other tight areas.

The Disadvantages of Crawl Space Barndominiums

Potential homeowners should be aware of a few downsides to crawl space barndominiums.

  • It can be more difficult to heat and cool evenly. If the space is not adequately insulated, you may spend more on energy bills.
  • Crawl spaces are often damp and humid, leading to mold and mildew growth. This can be a health hazard, particularly for people with allergies or respiratory conditions. Hence, proper crawl space encapsulation might cost you a fortune.
  • If there’s heavy rain, the space can fill with water. This makes the barndominium more susceptible to flooding and causing damage to the structure. Pests such as snakes and rodents can also access the space more easily.
  • Crawl spaces take more time to be built. They are not cheaper than slab homes. It can cost you up to $15,000-25,000.
  • Crawl spaces are usually dark and cramped. Crawl spaces are typically only about two feet high, so you will not be able to store very much in them or use them as an extra living space.

Final Thoughts

There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to build a barndominium with a slab or a crawl space foundation. These include the climate, soil type, proximity to water, initial budget, maintenance cost, and your personal preference.

While both slab and crawl space have their advantages, it is clear that slab is the better choice for barndominiums. With its many benefits, including being easier to maintain and providing a more stable foundation, the slab is a preferable option.

If you’re considering a barndominium, carefully weigh all the pros and cons before making your decision.