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Southampton concrete slab floors: What’s to know

by Steve McKee on March 13, 2005

Most Southampton homes are built on concrete slabs, meaning that the floor of the bottom story was not framed from wood (with a “crawl space” below) but was instead created by pouring a thick slab of concrete directly on the ground upon which wood framed walls were then built. Exceptions to this exist, especially if your Southampton home rests on a hillside (the house itself, not just your yard areas away from the house.)

Subdivisions often are constructed on concrete slabs because doing so saves money for the developer. That said, it’s actually a fine way of doing things, resulting in strong homes. Indeed, Southampton houses have what engineers call a “matt” concrete slab floor. It’s extra thick and strong. Southampton slabs are 8” thick and reinforced with 2 layers of steel reinforcing bar. Most slabs are only half of that!

This extra strength can, in many cases, allow for second story additions to one story homes with no need for the extra foundation work which is often the case when an extra story is added to a single story house. This is a huge, folks. It’s what makes second story additions much more feasible in Southampton than they would otherwise be.

To pull off this neat trick it takes some clever design in which the new second floor loads are dispersed over wide areas of the slab below, not concentrated in certain spots, as is often the strategy in more typical construction.

Clues as to whether a house has a concrete slab floor or not:
1. Slab houses have a floor height usually within 6 or 10 inches of grade. In other words, there will probably be just one step (a short one at that) from ground level to floor level.
2. There are none of those screened vents alongside the base of the house.
3. Slab houses have no floor hatch anywhere (such as in a closet or alongside the outside of the house.)
3. Once inside, stomp your foot on the floor. If there’s any give at all, it’s a raised wood floor. If the sound of your bump is completely absorbed by the floor, you’re on a slab.

It is said that slab floors are tougher to live on if you’ve got old bones in your body. A hardwood floor designed to “float” on a thin foam pad can help this a little. And of course a carpet with pad can soften it up some.

From a remodeling point of view, the only negative about a concrete slab is this:
It’s tougher to relocate plumbing fixtures. The darn slab is in the way! A crawl space under a wood floor lets you access the plumbing so much easier. True, with a wood floor the plumber may have to crawl into a tight space to work, but at least there’s no need to get out the concrete saws and jack hammers which is the case with the slab floor. It ain’t a pretty sight either, seeing what was a functioning bathroom get demolished down to ground level and below just to get at the sewer lines for the upstairs addition

So while a kitchen remodel is being designed in a Southampton home (on a flat lot) there will be sentences uttered that sound something like this:

“With the wall gone and then putting an island over here, the sink could possible go over on that side, but it’s going to require opening up the slab all the way over there in order to hook up the waste line.”

So we get creative in our kitchen remodel design. We still open up the kitchen space and create an island, but we cleverly position the new island so the new sink is real close to where the old sink was. Or maybe the new sink is placed out in the added-on part of the kitchen so we only need to dig up yard to reach the sewer line instead of having to dig up house.

So it’s not an insurmountable problem. And you can always just bite the bullet and put the sink wherever you want and let the builder deal with it. (What’s a little concrete dust drifting through your house anyway? That’s why we hang plastic barriers, isn’t it?)

Something else to take note of, slab floor owners can know for sure that their floor will never have dry rot issues the way wood floors can. So, remodelers, whatever type of floor you have, start your design with eyes open, and know that there’s always a solution.

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