Updated: May 1
If this is the first time in a while that you’ve visited the Ifix Blog, (And who can blame you; we are still removing the spider-webs around here) you might be interested in reading this small post right here: https://www.ifixconstruction.com/post/ifix-rebooted-and-the-lingering-question-if-hollywood-has-a-monopoly-on-that-word
With that out of the way, the first task at hand was coming up with a suitable subject to start (or more like jumpstart) this rebooted blog. So like Fräulein Maria once said: ‘♫Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start, when you read you begin with A-B-C, when you build you begin with Foun-Da-Tion ♫’ Ok, maybe not the last verse, but you get the drift.
What better way to start a blog of a foundation repair company than talking about, drum roll please: Foundation. In this entry we will not only explain what a foundation is and its overall importance, but also detail the different types, or more like the most common types, of foundation for residential use.
So what is the foundation of a building and what is it’s purpose? The foundation is the portion of a structure that lies in direct contact with the earth, transferring its load onto it. This supports and anchors the structure, providing stability. And without it your house would sink into the ground just like your average unsuspecting adventurer would sink into a pit of quicksands. But a foundation not only bears the load of the building; it also distributes said load in a uniform manner as to avoid unequal settlement. A foundation also anchors it against natural forces and isolates it from the ground moisture, not to mention that it keeps those pesky little underground critters away from your home.
Foundations can be classified into Shallow Foundation and Deep Foundation. As the name suggest a shallow foundation transfers the load to a stratum in a shallow depth while the deep foundation transfers the load to a deeper depth. Basically, the taller the building, the deeper the foundation.
Moreover, foundations have to be adapted in direct response to the types of land where the building is to be erected. And while there are quite a few different types of foundations, in this blogpost we will be talking only about the three types of foundation that are used for residential buildings.
We will start with Basement Foundations. Certainly the most popular type of foundation. Now, that doesn’t mean it is the most wildly used, but after all everybody knows basements, right? Basement foundations begin with a hole of at least eight feet deep. Why is this the standard? Well basically this ensures you can accommodate underground living space, which more often than not will match all of the structure’s ground level. Man caves, home theaters and entertainment rooms are the stuff of dreams for most homeowners, are they not? Or at the very least some extra space for laundry rooms, general storage and other chores or hobbies that can be accommodated without taking up much needed space on the ground or second levels.
For basement foundations structural foundation walls have to be placed on concrete footings, running the perimeter of the basement. These have to be at least 1 foot below undisturbed soil. Beams, erect foundation walls and cement slab inside the walls come next.
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest benefits of a basement foundation is the added space which could even double the square footage of the structure, but it also provides ventilation underneath the house which naturally acts as a cooling mechanism during hot weather. One of the biggest drawbacks however is that it is indeed the costliest of the foundation options and with it may come higher maintenance costs along with possible issues related to moisture, mold and even flooding.
In second place come Pier and Beam Foundations. This type of foundation is considered a shallow foundation and is an alternative to basement or slab foundation. Basically it props a home up above the ground, leaving a crawl space underneath that is usually around 24’’ off the ground. This of course provides certain benefits as these homes are less prone to flooding while also providing easier access to plumbing and electrical lines in case repairs need to be made.
But how exactly do Pier and Beam foundations work? For starters when building a foundation of this type a structural engineer must oversee the building process as a soil analysis is needed to determine that the structure is being built in the right conditions. And the foundation in itself consists of brick, stone or concrete piers and wooden beams that support the weight of the home: this means holes are dug or drilled for concrete piers at strategic points around the perimeter and throughout the center of the building. These will then support a beam grid which will support the rest of the structure.
Now, when we started to define Pier and Beam foundations we mentioned a couple of the pros that this foundation offers, but among these there are a few others. We mentioned that these homes were less prone to flooding, but they also have better protection against moisture. And while the use of wood might attract termites, the crawlspace makes them easier to be detected and dealt with. And finally, another huge advantage of this foundation is that individual piers can be replaced or repaired without affecting the rest of the foundation; a process much more difficult when dealing with a damaged slab.
However if there is something we learned from Master Yoda is that the Dark Side of the Force and the Light Side are two sides of the same coin. So for every Pro there is a Con, and in the case of Pier and Beam foundations these are some of the drawbacks that you might have to deal with:
First, the possible infestations, given that the crawlspace might provide a cozy living space for insects and vermin. You can always use lattice or hardware cloth over the openings to dissuade larger pests. Another drawback is squeaking and creaking floorboards. These of course can be dealt with by positioning shims between the floor joist and floorboards.
Another thing that has to be taken into account when building a Pier and Beam foundation is that the ground surrounding the foundation has to slop down, otherwise you might encounter a case of dampness, for which a French drain or swale might be necessary to stop this from happening.
Finally, these houses tend to be cooler during the winter, due to the air exchange that occurs in the crawlspace, which in turn might lead to increased energy bills to keep the home warmer.
And last, but not least, we have the Slab on Grade Foundation. This is a type of shallow foundation and basically consists of a flat concrete slab that is poured in one single piece and rests directly on the ground below it, meaning no crawl spaces. This foundation is anchored via underground concrete columns called footings. It usually consists of a 4’’ to 6’’ layer of concrete across the entire area of the foundation with thickened footings of around 18’’ to 2 feet deep which outline the perimeter of the foundation.
The main advantage of this foundation is that it is less expensive and quicker to construct. Specifically the cost cutting comes from not having crawl spaces and basements to budget for, which in turn lessens the excavation and labor costs.
Other positives are that there is less risk of damage from flooding or the leaking of gas from basements or crawl spaces. It also offers protection from pests given that there are no open spaces underneath the house. Not to mention that slabs can be pre-treated with insecticides to make sure they do not nest underneath.
On the downside, some of the problems that you might face if your foundation is slab on grade are the following:
First are sewer and drainage pipes-related problems as you would have to cut into the slab to access these pipes and repair them.
Then comes soil settlement; if the slab is not poured at the proper depth then it may be too thin and susceptible to cracking and soil movement. Cracking can also come about if the concrete is not cured properly.
Moisture might be another problem that you might face. Given that the foundation rests directly on the soil below it moisture might become an issue due to the fact that concrete is a porous material. If the slab and the soil below are not properly separated, moisture can move up the slab and into the living area
Resting directly over the soil can expose your home to possible flooding. That is why a proper grade is essential for homes built with this type of foundations.
When the Slab on Grade Foundation is not thick enough it might also incur in heat loss. These means that heating units may have to be installed; not only will this take up living space, but will also be a cause of higher bills. And speaking of this, it has to be said that without basements or crawlspaces, cooling units, when needed, will have to be installed on the ground floor, further reducing the living space.
As a homeowner you need to know which type of foundation you have on your house. With this article you now know the main characteristics of the three main types of foundations for residential use and you can use this information to help you identify what problems your house might face and act in time to prevent further damage. And remember, if you notice any sort of damage, or you are in doubt, do not hesitate to contact us. Here at iFix we are at your complete disposal, ready to offer you the very best in costumer service.
An alternate title for this post was:
- Hello There!
- GENERAL FOUNDATION!