Not sure of what type of foundation you might already have? Are you looking to build a new home and needing to know the options that you might have for a foundation? Understanding the three types of residential foundations used by builders will help arm you with the knowledge needed to make the best decision for your foundation now and for the future.
- Slab – Poured concrete is the most utilized type of foundation used today when the frost line is not very deep, and the water table level is higher. The construction of a slab includes topsoil removal, possibly added gravel, rebar, wire mesh, utility system piping, footers and then a layer of concrete. One of the drawbacks to having this type of foundation is that once the utilities are in the concrete and you have a problem that goes into the foundation then you will have to cut into it. Slabs can become compromised if there are drastic weather changes, such as flooding and drought. The lesser cost of installation and the time that it takes to complete is much less than the other two foundations and requires less maintenance making it the top choice for many.
- Post and beam - This type of foundation is one of the oldest, and was used until the 60’s. You can see the use of the pier and beams (made from wood) in older homes, but they are still used today depending on the type of soil or area that the foundation is required to sit on. This type of foundation is where the treated floor of the structure is held and raised by a sequence of blocks (piers/posts), connected by load-bearing beams and joists. The height of this is usually no less than eighteen inches from the ground. By elevating the stature of the home, it creates a crawl space to reach the utility lines for easier maintenance. When dealing with the post and beam structure you must make sure to protect your pipes from freezing or getting damaged, protect the wiring, and keep bugs and animals from harming the foundation.
- Basement – This foundation is used mostly in areas where the foundation needs to be below the frost line to give the house a good base and is the most costly of the three. Basements take the longest to make because of the hole that has to be dug out. The hole must be at least at a depth of eight foot or more, then the footers and slab are added. Once the concrete slab is complete, concrete poured walls will be the next step in the process. But if you are the owner or buyer of an older home with a basement, you might have cinder block walls which are more apt to have a foundation failure due to the pressure on aging blocks. It should be noted that finding this type of foundation in Houston is extremely rare.
The use of each foundation depends significantly on the location and type of soil the building will set on first and foremost, and the kind of home to be constructed. Homes that are built in Houston and the surrounding areas are most likely built upon a concrete slab or the post and beam foundation.
Things to Look Out For
Now that you are familiar with the three basic types of foundations used for residential construction, you will need to know what you should be on the lookout for when it comes to problems with each kind of structural support.
- Concrete Slab – Lateral cracking at a 45-degree angle or horizontal cracking, misplacement or separation of the exterior block, brick or sided walls, windows or doors that are not aligned correctly, or have noticeable gaps, cracks that are ¼ of an inch wide or broader, slab disintegration.
- Post and Beam – A significant issue is a disintegration from pests that feed off of wood. Many of the same signs are present that are described above, but you can also notice more common things such as sagging or leaning of the structure, misalignment of porch railings, decks, sloping floors and sagging roofs.
- Basement – If you are lucky enough to have a newer basement then the chances are that you have a poured concrete foundation vs. blocks, which can present an unstable foundation. Common problems with basements will be cracking in the block wall when pressure is built up from behind the wall from things such as water. Not only is there a possibility for fracturing to occur, but seepage as well if water is the issue.
Remember to get an expert evaluation when dealing with any foundation issues, as it is a valuable asset to taking your home’s foundation seriously.