Types of Home Foundations
What type of home foundation is best? There is no one-size-fits-all answer. There are several types of residential foundations, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. However, the best type of home foundation is dependent upon several different factors. The foundation provides support for the structure and is essential for stabilizing and avoiding uneven settling, so where you build can affect the overall performance of the foundation. There are several environmental factors that can affect the foundation’s ability to provide proper support.
A critical first step is to make sure that the structure has a level base to build upon. The foundation anchors the home and stabilizes the home to prevent movement. The foundation distributes the weight of the structure to prevent uneven settling. Understanding the functions and purpose of the foundation is essential for selecting the proper type of foundation for your home.
There are several factors to consider to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of the foundation.
- Soil composition – The soil must support the load of the structure without uneven settling.
- Water table – The water table may be too high for some types of foundations and can lead to moisture or water issues.
- Geography- The physical features of the environment affect your foundation.
- Climate – The performance of the foundation varies in different climates.
- Cost – Each foundation has a different price point with basements typically being more expensive.
Consider all of these factors when choosing a foundation for your home. A foundation that is not suitable for specific environmental conditions can have negative consequences on the structure’s integrity.
Four Common Residential Foundations
There are four common residential foundations: basement, crawl space, pier foundation and concrete slab. Let’s take a look at some of the basic advantages and disadvantages of each.
A basement foundation is typically found in the colder climates in the Northeast and Midwest. The need to place footings below frost depth makes a basement more attractive in these colder environments. This type of foundation is not suitable for flood zones or areas with high water tables. Furthermore, soil levels that have a rocky soil may be difficult and cost prohibitive to excavate for a basement.
A basement foundation has many advantages when built in the right conditions. Firstly, it increases your living space. Secondly, it also provides extra storage space. Additionally, it can provide for shelter in some natural disaster events such as tornadoes.
However, basements have a few disadvantages. This type of foundation tends to be more costly than other types of home foundations. This is likely due to the extensive excavating required, materials, and labor to build such a foundation. Furthermore, basements can be prone to moisture and water issues.
A crawl space foundation has an unfinished space between the ground and the living space. This design allows for a buffer between the ground and the living space. This type of foundation is typically found in warmer climates.
Crawl spaces generally house mechanical components and plumbing. This provides easy access for repairs to leaks or electrical problems. Furthermore, there is easier access to inspect for termites and other potential issues that may arise within the home.
This type of home foundation is typically less expensive to build than a basement. In areas with high water tables, the crawl space may be a better option than a basement that may be more susceptible to water issues. However, the crawl space is not without its own issues. A crawl space can also have moisture issues and requires regular maintenance.
Open Pier Foundation
An open pier foundation is often found in coastal areas or other flood-prone regions. It is similar to a crawl space because the living space has a buffer between it and the ground. However, open piers are not enclosed. This provides protection from minor flooding.
Pier foundations sometimes have their plumbing and mechanical run through the area between the house and the ground. Much like the crawl space, this provides easy access for repairs. However, the open space underneath may attract unwanted pests looking for shelter. Additionally, the curb appeal is less desirable with the open space.
The open piers allow for air and water to move freely throughout. This might be beneficial from a moisture perspective if the foundation remains warm enough to avoid condensation of surfaces in the summer. However, this is not beneficial from an energy efficiency standpoint. In the winter, cooler air easily enters the space underneath and affects the temperature within the home. However, many of these homes exist in the south where extreme cold temperatures are not as large of an issue.
A concrete slab foundation is generally less expensive to construct than the other types of foundations. The actual living space is built onto the foundation so there is no space between the foundation and structure. Therefore , this type of foundtions requires relatively little maintenance and creates few mold and mildew issues. However, there are some disadvantages to consider with a concrete slab foundation. Plumbing is typically underneath or in the actual concrete making repairs or reconfigurations difficult and potentially costly.
The concrete slab is not typically used in cold climates due to potential freezing of the ground which can damage the foundation. Additionally, in areas with frequent flooding, this foundation would not be conducive.
What Foundation is Best?
Ultimately, the best type of home foundation is the one that meets all of your structure’s environmental and budget needs. All foundations have their advantages and disadvantages. The “best” for you depends on many factors including the geographic location, climate, water table and soil composition in the area where you are building your home. The purpose of the foundation is to stabilize and support the home, and each foundation accomplishes this best when built in an area where it is advantageous for that specific foundation.