Every now and then a search for a cost-cutting idea in the home building industry focuses once more on eliminating the basement. Enticed by lower cost, a fireplace, and a neatly arranged patio, the buyer is expected to overlook the fact that almost half the potential enclosed living space is missing.

Geographic location introduces wide differences in costs, but the average cost to the home buyer of above grade living space is about 15 times more expensive per square foot than the cost of a basement area.

Since the basement can double the living space available, it opens up many opportunities. Storage, of course, comes to mind first. Perhaps the best example of a basement's effect on the quality of our lives comes with the experience of any family moving from a home with a full basement to one without. To many it means that the garage will never know the fulfillment of sheltering an automobile. Cartons remain in the garage because there is no place to put their contents. In the basementless house we learn to do without items we once enjoyed. The pool table and the ping pong table rest against a garage wall and we harbor a fond hope that some day we'll find a use for them again.