If you’re planning to build, buy, or remodel a home, there are several key features and systems you should understand before breaking ground, making an offer, or beginning the home inspection process. Arguably, the element most critical to a building’s overall lifespan and stability is its foundation. Knowing the most common types of foundations can help you make informed decisions about your home and its maintenance.
Basically, these simple foundations involve concrete surfaces created directly on the ground, except in cases of commercial properties or new built homes, which could have an elevated slab foundation. These foundations are popular in areas where the ground does not freeze, since repeated freezing and thawing can degrade and crack the concrete.
Concrete slab foundations are affordable, but they can pose their own set of issues. For example, water and sewage pipes are typically covered by concrete when the slab is poured. The result is that the slab may have to be broken to make repairs to those pipes.
The crawlspace is a common foundation that raises the home a few feet over the ground. Crawlspaces are popular because they are less expensive than full basements. Ventilation is necessary, and owners should take steps to reduce issues with moisture, condensation, and mold.
Footing and Stem Wall Construction
Footings are dug into the ground, anywhere from 18 inches to 48 inches deep. Stem walls built into these footings help support the building. Sometimes, a slab or a crawl space ends up built over a footing and stem wall system, which is common in areas with low to moderate frost and freezing temperatures.
Concrete Piers and Grade Beams
This system is best for houses built over clay soil, but it’s most popular for commercial and industrial buildings. The piers are installed by digging down far into the soil. These piers and the beams laid over them support the weight of the building.
Full Basement Foundations
Of all the foundation options, the full basement is probably the most popular, as well as the most expensive. Typically, basement structures are built from either concrete blocks or poured concrete. These surfaces require waterproofing to reduce risks of moisture and mold.
Full basements provide living, storage, or work spaces while also supporting the weight of the structure built over them. In some cases, basements may have a walk-out on one side or even windows that allow some natural light into the space.