does a basement count as a story
Kristina Davis

Does a basement count as a story? Are you wondering the same?

Whether you are a buyer or a seller, knowing what constitutes a story can be helpful while navigating the often-confusing real estate market.

You can find basements of varying sizes and conditions throughout the United States.

But the question is, “do basements count as a story?”

In most cases, a basement does not count as a story, and you should not include the basement if you are trying to figure out how many stories a building has. 

Does A Basement Count As A Story Or Not?

basement count as story

Finding the answer to this question can sometimes be quite confusing. However, in so many cases, the condition of your basement will go a long way toward determining if it counts as a story or not.

A basement is usually not included as a story or floor.

Appraisers in some regions may consider a basement that is more than half above ground to be a full story.

Similarly, a home with a walkout basement built into a hillside may also have a basement level count as a story.

It means you first need to consider the condition of the basement and how it is designed. 

What Is Considered A Basement Anyway?

To put it simply, a basement or cellar is any level of a building located below ground level.

It is possible to choose from a number of different basement styles.

types of basements

While most of these are fairly self-explanatory, it is important to know exactly what you get if this is your first basement. 

For instance:

  • Partial Basement: It does not extend to the entire blueprint of your property.
  • Full Basement: It is exactly the same in size as the main floor of your property.
  • Walkout Basement: It lets you walk out a door to the lower level.
  • Storm Shelter: It usually goes underneath the garage slab.

Depending on what type of basement you have and how furnished it is, it may or may not be counted as a story.

Fact: Basements have always been common but the trend is fading, as fewer than 24% of homes built in 2018 had basements. 

An Important Consideration

In Britain, the ground floor is the floor directly below the street. Above it is the first level, and below it is the basement.

But in the United States, the ground floor is typically referred to as the first floor. To reach the second floor, just ascend one flight of stairs. 

stairs to basement

And quite like Britain, the term “basement” is used to describe the level below ground. 

Is A Basement Considered A Story?

When determining a home’s market value, real estate appraisers rarely count a basement as a floor. Although this is generally true, there are a few notable exceptions.

Some appraisers may classify a basement that is more than half exposed and has its own entrance as a story. This is especially true if the home is constructed on the slope of a hill.

This, however, is quite unusual.

Furthermore, a basement greater than fifty percent above ground or curb level may also be deemed a story in some regions. 

Fact: Almost no real estate agent or assessor will consider it to be a full story if it is not finished and used as living space. 

How Do You Know Your Basement Count As A Story?

how to know

Even though it seems very straightforward, this topic generates heated disagreement among those with contrasting opinions.

But before arriving at a snappy verdict, it is necessary to examine and assess a number of crucial factors.

The real estate agents listing the homes get to decide if the basement counts as another story.

So, you may consider asking a real estate agent about it to confirm the worth of your property. An important consideration is where your house is situated. 

Is it on a slope with the cellar side clearly visible?  If yes, you may count it as a story. 

For your basement to count as a floor, you must finish it to a habitable condition. Your basement is not a “story” if it is not habitable. 

What Constitutes A Two-Story House? 

house with two stories

A two-story residence is one that has two stories above ground.

Suppose you have a ranch house with a basement. Should you consider it a two-story building? No is the answer!

It is mainly because the basement is underground.

To be considered a full floor, a room must have a minimum of eight-foot ceilings and wall heights.

Should You Count A Walkout Basement As A Story?

When you construct your house on the slope of a hill, it is possible to access the basement through exterior stairs or an elevator. 

This is what they call a walkout basement. Common features of walkouts include a separate entrance and large windows.

walkout basement stairs

When this happens, one side of the basement is above ground while the other is buried. Also, it has large windows and a separate entrance. 

This often confuses homeowners because they think they should consider it as an additional story.

Even though some real estate agents and appraisers treat walkout basements as additional stories, this is unusual.

If you want your basement to count as a floor, it needs to be finished or at least functional as a separate living area. 

Why Is It Important To Know If Your Basement Counts As A Story?

One of the most valued parts of a house is the basement.

That is why they should always be included in your house description when putting it on the market for sale.

However, this might lead to a flurry of arguments between buyers and sellers about the cellar.

And the most important factor to consider is whether the basement is below or above ground, as its location affects the property’s market value.

No matter how you categorize it, the basement of your house is usable space.

However, it may affect your home’s resale price and tax assessment, which is why you need to know if you should count it as an additional story. 

Does Your Basement Always Count Towards Total Square Footage?

house plan for basement

The square footage and story count can increase a home’s value, and the basement is no exception.

Listings of houses usually specify which rooms are complete and which ones still need work.

But, spaces that are underground or above ground may be counted differently depending on their location.

As a result, the square footage of a house will nearly never reflect the existence of an unfinished basement.

However, this may not be the case with a walk-out basement that has been finished.

Fact: Always remember that the standards for calculating a home's square footage can differ from one real estate market to another.

When Can You Count A Basement As A Story?

when to count basement as story

The best idea is to talk to a real-estate agent and confirm what they think based on the laws in your local area. 

Still, there are certain situations when your basement may be counted as a story. For instance: 

Is It Halfway Above Ground?

Despite the name, not all basements are dug entirely underground. Only a few feet of soil are required to construct certain basements.

There may be others that are not even underground.

As a general rule, a basement less than 50ft below ground level is considered one of the building’s stories. 

Even though it is above ground, real estate agents rarely count an unfinished basement as a full story. 

Is It A Walk-Out Basement?

walkout basement in house

A walk-out basement is the most typical variety of partially above-ground basement.

These types of basements are quite common in homes constructed on the side of a hill.

Although most of the basement is underneath, at least one wall (perhaps the entrance) is above ground, which is why it may sometimes be added to the building’s stories. 

Is It Livable?

If your basement is livable, there is a chance it may be considered an additional story.

A basement that lacks proper cooling, heating, plumbing, or electrical systems may be finished but may not be habitable.

There are regulations in place that specify a minimum height for basement ceilings above which they cannot be considered habitable.

liveble basement

An egress to the outside must be provided in the basement as well.

If the basement is to be used as living space, especially a bedroom, then egresses are essential, and that is when it may be counted towards your house’s stories

Fact: Remember that just because a basement has been finished does not mean it is habitable. 


Does a basement count as a story? It looks simple but the answer can be confusing, and often depends on your particular real estate market. 

The exact location of your basement has a role to play, and so is the percentage of the house being underground.

A good way to confirm the status of your basement is to work with a professional accessor.

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