Anyone considering having a home built, whether DIY or hiring a contractor, must understand a few important facts about the actual home building process. One of the most critical things home buildersmust consider is the foundation. There are many types of foundations; mistakes made when laying the foundation could spell serious problems later for the home.
Listed below are the various types of foundations that home builders use in the constructions of residences:
- Slab – This is the simplest type of foundation made by constructing a concrete slab a few feet into the ground over a bed of gravel, finishing at ground level. The house is built on this slab, so there is no basement or crawlspace. This is common in warmer climates or wherever there is a high water table. They are fairly easy to make but not suitable for all building projects.
- Crawl Space – This type of foundation is constructed with footers placed below the frost line, with or without an actual slab. It is used in colder climates where slabs alone will not suffice. This foundation creates a space that is large enough to be used as storage if it is sealed.
- Full Basement – In those same areas where a regular slab foundation is inappropriate, home builders prefer full basements because of the added height, and useable space they offer. Basement foundations have footers and slabs placed well below the frost line so there are full, 8-foot walls under the floor of the main level of the house. Since these spaces are usually sealed and insulated, this provides an entire extra floor of storage and/or living space if the basement is finished.
Foundations and Soil Issues
Most mass-produced homes are built using generic foundation plans, based on the type of soil that is assumed to be in the area. If there is a big difference in the type of soil where the house is constructed, there could be problems. Home builders building their own house, or supervising a contractor, should ensure the foundation is chosen and installed according to the specific soil to avoid damage due to cracking from settling, in the future.
Waterproof Sealing and Insulating
Every foundation should be well sealed on the outside of the structure to prevent moisture from entering the home, causing damage to the foundation. Even a slab should be sealed by home builders; in some areas, a layer of rigid foam may need to be set to help with the sealing and provide some insulation. Proper steps should be taken, such as applying a coat of concrete sealer on the parts of the foundation that are underground as well as installing underground drainage.
For homes with full basements, insulation is necessary for climate control and to avoid excessive utility bills. This will also help keep the basement and the entire home dry. Crawl spaces should also be insulated if they will be used for storage to prevent moisture and help with energy efficiency.
Although home builders don’t typically construct the foundation, it is important that they understand which type of foundation is most suitable for the land on which the house will be built and why. A foundation should not be built with the assumption it will be fine once it is underground. Regardless of who builds the foundation, it is a good idea to hire an inspector to look at it once it has been completed to be sure it meets all building requirements. Prevention goes a long way; foundation problems can be a nightmare, so avoid them at all costs!