Beneath your home you have a foundation, and the purpose of this foundation is to provide your home with support for its entire weight. The foundation is designed to prevent the home structure from settling, slipping or sliding away from the initial position where it is built. There are three different types of foundations that you can utilize when you are designing and building a home. The first is the basement foundation, the second is the crawl space foundation and the third is the concrete slab foundation. Depending on what type of foundation you end up choosing, you may build foundation walls, footings, and reinforced concrete slabs. In some situations, all three are utilized in some combination to create the finished foundation.
Ingredients in a Foundation
- Footings: The foundation’s footings are made using concrete. These are bases that are designed to support foundation walls and columns depending on what type of foundation you are building. The minimum standards for footings typically call for them to be as deep as the supported wall is thick. The width for the footing is typically going to be twice the width for the wall that the footing is supporting. In most areas, building codes require that footings are installed under the frost line, which can range from 18 inches to 48 inches at a minimum depending on what region of the country you are in. The footings generally have to be built separately, but in some circumstances you can pour your footings at the same time that you are pouring concrete slabs as well.
- Foundation Walls: A foundation wall is responsible for connecting footings to the house structure’s primary floor. You can either create these foundation walls using concrete blocks or you can pour concrete instead. If you are making a poured concrete foundation, then you are going to need to have forms built that are braced properly and level so that the concrete can be held in place until the point where it has cured. This type of project typically requires an expensive crew in order to ensure that it is performed in a timely manner. Once the pouring begins, it has to be completed. With this type of foundation, mistakes can be expensive and difficult to correct. Concrete blocks tend to be significantly easier to use in comparison to poured concrete, and they also do not require the use of forms. You are able to work at any pace that you like, meaning that you can work on your own and can stop and start whenever you like. When a mistake is made, it is typically much easier to correct and does not involve much additional cost.
Types of Foundations to Choose From
- Basement foundations: As the name suggests, these foundations involve a structure beneath the actual home. Many people finish their basements, which means that you can create additional living space out of your home’s foundation to increase the living space available in the building.
- Crawl space foundations: These foundations are raised above the ground, but only by a few feet. This makes it possible to crawl under the home to take care of plumbing, electrical and other mechanical concerns.
- Concrete slab foundations: These foundations are poured directly onto the ground, meaning that there is no space between the house, the foundation and the ground. This is the simplest and most cost effective type of foundation, but it is only generally beneficial in the right circumstances and is not always the best type of foundation.
Considerations in Choosing a Foundation
- Weather and climate considerations are one of the first things that you need to look at. Basement foundations, also known as T-shaped foundations, are most commonly found in the northern regions of the country because freezing is a serious concern. With this type of foundation, the footings are poured separately before you begin to construct the walls out of concrete. The concrete floor is poured next, between each of the walls, in order for the structure to be completed. Basements are generally approximately 7 feet and 10 inches tall. If you plan on finishing the basement, make sure that you consider insulation because a rigid foam board or radiant barrier should be installed prior to pouring your slab.
- Crawl space foundations also require that you consider weather and climate conditions. In situations where the ground has a lot of clay content, this type of foundation is going to be ideal. The primary methods for building this type of foundation are similar to building a basement foundation, but in this situation you are typically going to leave the floor. The crawl space is designed to have only a minimum amount of headroom available. Some crawl space foundations only offer 24 inches to 36 inches of room, which is why they are known as “crawl spaces”. Unlike with concrete slab foundations, this space between the house and the ground makes it possible for you to maintain building systems such as wiring, heating and plumbing because the ductwork can fit nicely under the home and can be accessed easily as necessary later.
- Concrete slab foundations, also known as slab on grade foundations are quite popular for a number of reasons. The important thing to consider, however, is that there are many situations where this is not the right type of foundation. For example, in areas where frost is a significant problem or high winds, you are going to want a sturdier foundation than what a concrete slab can provide. On the other hand, if you are looking for a simple, straight forward and cost effective foundation style, then the poured concrete foundation style is going to be well worthwhile. This foundation style is especially popular in the south because weather is less of a consideration and so a more cost effective option is always ideal. With this type of foundation, you should simultaneously pour your footing and your concrete slab by pouring directly over gravel. You can insert wire mesh into your concrete in order to add bonus reinforcement. Concrete slab foundations tend to range between 8 inches and 10 inches in terms of thickness.
Choosing the Right Foundation
Obviously there are a few things that you are going to want to consider when choosing the right foundation for your home building project. Three basic considerations are going to go a long way in ensuring that you are satisfied with your decision for many years. The primary three considerations that need to be made when choosing a foundation style are:
- The cost of the foundation project.
- Weather and climate of the area where you are building.
- Building styles and traditions in the area where you are building.
Make sure that you consider all three of these things when choosing the right foundation to meet your needs. Do not opt for the most cost effective option just because you’re going the cheap and easy route, unless you have also considered weather and climate and other building conditions first. Incorrectly choosing a foundation style can put the structural integrity of your home at risk, or can cost more than you need to spend. Put a little time and effort into choosing the best possible foundation style for your home and you will certainly benefit in the future. Making the right decision about your foundation will go a long way in ensuring that your home is structurally sound and in good shape for many, many years to come.