Sometimes people will use the terms basement and cellar interchangeably, but this is not correct.
A basement and a cellar are not the same things.
Knowing the difference between a basement and a cellar is important, especially if you are looking at purchasing a home.
Knowing the features of the home and how they are going to help you when you live there will undoubtedly lead to a better financial decision.
Let’s look at all of the differences between a basement and a cellar.
What Is the Difference Between a Basement and a Cellar?
A basement is an entire ground floor below a home or building while a cellar is a partially or completely underground room for storage.
The basement can be partially or completely underground, and so can the cellar.
Some people think that the difference between these two has to do with how far underground it is, but it is more about what they are intended for and how they are built.
You will notice that a basement is usually going to be much larger than a cellar.
Let’s look a bit deeper into the differences between the cellar and the basement.
Differences Between a Cellar and a Basement
The basement is typically going to be much larger than a cellar.
You can think about the basement as being like a complete floor of living space under the main floor of a house.
With a room like this, you can imagine it will essentially be the same amount of space as the downstairs floorplan of your home.
Of course, there can be extensions that don’t have a basement under them, but you can imagine the basement’s size is quite large.
With a cellar, it is going to be more like a single room.
Many homes will have a dry cellar that will be used to hold wine or food throughout the winter.
Cellars can also be used if there were a storm and people needed somewhere to stay safe until the storm passed by.
You may have heard of the term storm cellar before.
A storm cellar would have emergency supplies in it should there be a tornado or disaster where people need to stay safe underground.
Storm cellars are usually built with a strong door.
2. Living Space
The basement is a great area to have extra living space in the home.
With a basement, people are often able to add a workout room, a playroom, an office, or even a guest suite.
Basements offer lots of extra living space and can often make all members of the family happy when they have all the room they need to do what they want.
Basements are also a good choice for those who have a lot of things they need to store.
You can put up shelving or storage units inside a basement to keep things organized and clean.
On the other hand, cells are not really a place that you are going to want to hang out.
Again, think of these more for emergency type situations or a way to store some things.
Don’t plan on making a craft corner for yourself or your new playroom for the kids in a cellar because it won’t work out quite well.
Sometimes cellars are not entirely below the ground, and that will affect their height as well.
A cellar is going to be a bit further underground than a basement, but they also have lower ceiling heights.
A basement ceiling height typically tends to be about seven to eight feet high.
In fact, if you think you have a basement with very low five-foot ceilings, chances are you have had a cellar the whole time.
You can often tell if you have a basement or a cellar simply based on the height of the ceiling.
Most of the time, you will have access to your basement from somewhere in your home.
The door will lead you down a flight of stairs and into the basement area.
Getting into a cellar is not usually going to be so simple.
The cellar door is almost always located outside the home.
This is not to say that a basement can’t have access both from the outside and from the inside of the home.
Many people will have two access doors to a basement, and that is quite common.
Try to consider if you only have one total access to your basement.
If you do and the heights of the basement are very low, it could be a cellar.
A basement is supposed to have some type of a window.
These windows are built for safety so that a person can exit the basement should they need to in an emergency.
Although these windows may not look like full-size standard windows, they still allow for an escape if necessary.
Windows will not be part of a cellar.
Cellars don’t have windows, as that is not part of their general design.
They are built to be fully enclosed spaces.
6. Additional Square Footage
Although the square footage of a basement is not usually counted when a house is measured, it is still considered.
When someone looks at purchasing a 1200-square-foot home with a full basement, they will know that they get lots of additional space below the main floor.
However, those purchasing a 1200-square-foot home with a cellar are likely not going to consider this as being extra square footage.
Keep in mind that the square footage you see on a home advertised for sale will likely not include that of the basement or the cellar.
How to Take Care of a Cellar
A cellar can be rarer than a basement.
Many people don’t have a cellar, and therefore, when they purchase a home with a cellar, it can be tricky to understand how to care for it.
You can do some things to make sure your cellar still does a great job of storing and keeping you prepared for a storm.
Taking better care of your cellar will make it much more useful long term.
Keeping a cellar dry can be difficult and will take you a bit of time to figure out how to balance it.
You may need to use a dehumidifier to keep the moisture levels in check.
If your cellar is far away from your house and out in your yard, this could be a bit difficult to do.
There are some products you can use to help get rid of moisture in the enclosure, and they don’t need to be plugged in like a dehumidifier does.
A cellar is potentially going to be a bit damp; however, if you can keep mold from growing, it is going to make it a much more useful cellar.
2. Periodic Cleaning
Choose a day at least once per year when you are going to clean your entire cellar.
You can take everything off the shelves, dust it, clean it, figure out what you even have in there.
Keeping a list of what is in your cellar is a smart idea.
You can update supplies when needed and check for expiration dates to ensure that anything you are keeping in there for a storm is still going to be useful should you need it.
When you clean out your cellar, try to take a good look at the condition and make sure there are no issues with the structure.
Then you will want to vacuum the exterior around the cellar.
You can do this with a shop vac, but it will help to make sure that the door of the cellar stays in good shape.
While you are cleaning around the cellar, take a look at the condition of the door and make sure that it shuts properly.
You will always want the seal to stay in good condition so that you are the only one who can get in and out of the cellar.
Animals or unwanted visitors in your cellar are undoubtedly a problem.
Use this cleaning time to do a careful inspection of the cellar and then tend to any issues that may have come up.
You may wonder what gutters have to do with cellars, but they actually can go hand in hand.
If your cellar is located next to the side of your home, chances are the gutters could be running of into or around your cellar.
Gutters are a great way to get water away from your house and off your roof, but you don’t want to fill your cellar with water.
Always check that there is no water entering the cellar from an outside source.
It is hard enough to keep moisture levels down in a cellar, so the last thing you need to do is to fill it up yourself with your gutters.
If you notice that your cellar has leaks or there is moisture damage, you may need to call in a professional.
Professionals are trained to find these issues and get you a solution quickly.
Sometimes the tools to find the leak and issue are going to be beyond the level of typical homeowner’s DIY projects.
Which is Better: A Cellar or a Basement?
Since cellars and basements are used for different things, it can be hard to say that one is better than another.
If you live in an area with frequent storms, you may have no choice but to have a cellar.
However, if the safety factor doesn’t come into play, most people are going to choose a basement.
A basement has much more room to add living space to your home.
People with young children or those with hobbies that take up space will love the basement for all it can add to the home.
Many people find that they spend quite a bit of time in their basement because of the fact that it has lots of room and the temperature usually remains quite cool as well.
If you are purchasing a home with a large, finished basement, chances are you are going to greatly enjoy the extra living space that it provides.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the difference between a basement and a cellar.
Although both of these areas can be useful, they certainly serve different purposes.
Keep in mind that some areas of the country will not have basements simply because the ground is not conducive to having a basement.
Between soil conditions and flooding, there is only availability for a crawl space.
If you are looking at homes and notice that there is no basement or cellar, this is not rare.
Consider yourself lucky to have these great extra areas for storage.