Updated Dec 2, 2022
The foundation of your home is its most important structural feature. Home foundations are often talked about as being one universal type. However, homeowners should understand that there are a variety of house foundations, and they all have different functions and uses. Knowing the right type of foundation and how it will impact the livability of your home is essential. Let’s take a look at 10 types of house foundations and their uses.
If you are building a home or completing a foundation replacement or remodel, you will need to understand that there are different factors involved when choosing a foundation. These factors range from things like the size of your home and the living space you are looking for to the climate of your area.
What are your plans for the space below your house? Are you looking for something like a crawl space foundation or a full basement that allows for storage and maybe even living space? Other foundations have no space at all beneath the home.
A 1,000sq ft story home will likely have a different foundation than a 4,000 sq ft two-story home. Certain types of homes and home sizes will require unique building solutions and a stronger or more robust foundation. You can also think about things like the total height of the house for those that live in areas that are flood zones or are trying to obtain a perfect view of the mountains from their home.
Climate can impact the functionality and strength of the foundation walls. In the middle of the country, where the climate stays relatively mild, there may not be nearly as much of a consideration here to worry about. However, in the northern states where winters are cold, expect a concrete slab foundation to experience cracking over time. Conversely, in the south, termites can eat away at a wood foundation.
Although it would be great if all home building lots were flat, this is not the case. When your building lot has a lot of slopes involved, there are some types of foundations that just won’t work. Between the soil conditions and the grade foundation, topography will play into this.
Some homes have very sandy and dry soil, while others are almost built in mud. When foundations are built, the testing of the soil is very important foundation experts know that the moisture levels in the soil need to remain low enough to offer support and compaction. A perc test will be done on your soil to see if the foundation can stay dry.
There are ten main types of home foundations. Of course, individual companies will create these foundations using their own process and techniques, but the types remain relatively the same. Remember that in your area, there may be creating foundation types that are no longer available or won’t be structurally sound for the environment in which you live.
What It’s Best For: Creating Extra Living Space In The Home
The full basement foundation is certainly one of the most expensive types of foundations that you can invest in. The pricing is considerably higher for basement foundations as you are adding in a considerable amount of both storage space and living space.
With a basement foundation, it is also the deepest of any of the other foundation types that you will find on this list. Many slab foundations are just at ground level and require less digging and grading. The basement foundation is typically at least seven feet below grade level.
Since the majority of the basement foundation is entirely under the ground, you will need to consider the soil and waterproofing factors to ensure the basement stays dry and comfortable. Although the basement foundation is a major investment, in many areas of the country, this is still the foundation of choice.
What It’s Best For: Warmer Climates and Homeowners On A Budget
The concrete slab foundation is a relatively simple foundation. This is a large poured area of concrete that is between four to eight inches thick. The thickness of the slab depends on the location and the size of the home being put on the slab.
One of the things that homeowners like best about the poured concrete slab is that it is lower in price than other home foundations. If you live in an area where there are cold winters, expect that your foundation repair will be endless. The concrete freezes and thaws and cracks and creates a mess for the homeowners.
Easy access to the bottom of the home is a bit of a problem with the poured concrete slab. You may see this type of foundation used less frequently overall, but it can be popular for small homes on a strict budget.
What It’s Best For: Variety of Climates, Easy Access To Plumbing and Electrical
A crawl space foundation will be a few feet deep, not allowing for a full basement space or very much storage. However, the nice thing about crawl spaces is that they do allow for better access to some of the home’s pipes and electrical features, making repairs easier than a standard concrete slab foundation.
The crawl space is not heated, but it will allow for airflow to ensure that there is no moisture buildup in the area. Crawlspaces can work just fine if the ground freezes. Homeowners with a crawl space need to look out for animal infestation under the home.
Paying close attention to the crawl space is important to ensure the longevity of this home foundation.
What It’s Best For: Ability To Move The House Later On, Creation of Crawl Space
The pier and beam foundation consists of beams or piers that help support the weight of the home. The piers are typically made of a brick or stone material, while the beams are often wood. The pier and beam foundations generally are about two feet off the ground, making it easier to install plumbing and electrical lines.
One of the major positives of a pier and beam foundation is the cost to repair. With the access to the beams and the pieces being a bit easier than other foundations, expect lower repair costs. The pier and beam foundation is also a smart choice for those looking to eventually move home.
As with any slightly raised homes, it’s important to look for problems with pests and insects that could come up under the home.
What It’s Best For: Energy Efficiency, Ease of Installation
As building materials have progressed and building codes have become stricter, both renovations and new home builds have moved away from the wood foundation. Wood foundations use pressure-treated wood that sits on a concrete slab. The pressure-treated wood will help prevent things like mildew and insects, but it is certainly not entirely immune as other materials can be.
One of the positives of a wood foundation is that it can be energy efficient. For smaller square footage where keeping electrical costs lower is a significant concern, the wood foundation can sometimes be the best choice.
Of course, the water table is a major concern with this type of home foundation. In addition, while workers are building the home, the treated wood is toxic and can cause issues for some. Surprisingly to many, the wood foundation is also a bit more expensive than something like concrete blocks or concrete footings.
What It’s Best For: Provided A Unique and Charming Look in the Early 20th Century
Pricing: Typically Not Used Anymore, Repair costs range from $3,500-$10,000
Years ago, the stone foundation was one of the most popular types you could find. The idea behind stone foundations was not just that they looked great at the ground level but that the stones would last a long time and bind together to create stability.
The problem with this home design is that the mortar is not entirely waterproof. Therefore waterproofing or a vapor barrier is necessary to keep groundwater from running through into the home.
If the house is not built perfectly level or there are any shifts, the foundation will start to crack and need repair. Today the stone foundation is not used nearly as much because of the long-term costs to maintain and repair.
What It’s Best For: Stability and Longevity, Cold or Warm Climates
A concrete masonry unit or CMU is different from poured concrete in that they are not going to be poured on the job site and are instead brought in and used to build up the foundation. The CMU has quite a bit of compression strength and is known to hold up well in a variety of climates and conditions.
Some homeowners find that labor costs are lower per square foot with a CMU construction because the foundation does not require concrete to be poured on site. Just like we saw with the stone foundation, water becomes an issue with the mortar, and a moisture barrier will need to be in place for this CMU construction to come together correctly.
To increase stability in a CMU foundation, you will see steel rods inserted between sections. In addition, a pattern of overlapping is used to improve the durability of the Concrete Masonry Units.
What It’s Best For: Strength and Ensuring No Delays In Construction
Pricing: Around $3,000 for a 100 sq. ft. panel installed
Sometimes building conditions are difficult and require a certain type of foundation to help move through the construction process. With a precast concrete panel, there is no need to delay construction for things like freezing or wet weather. With the concrete panels already being produced before coming to the job, there are no holdups waiting for concrete to set.
One of the things that set the precast concrete panel apart is that it has concrete studs for load-bearing support as well as a concrete footing. The overall strength of these panels is quite impressive.
Some of the downsides include moisture problems, as well as any inconsistency in wall height during the build process.
What It’s Best For: Quick Construction and Strength
For quick construction and a fairly water-tight solution, the pre-poured concrete foundation is a great choice. These come together rather quickly and can make for a more streamlined overall construction process. The pre-poured concrete walls are strong, but over time if the foundation was not done correctly, there could be issues with cracks and settling.
One of the major reasons that homeowners stay away from pre-poured concrete foundations is energy efficiency. Although you will have extra space in your home for things like a water heater and other features, it’s very hard to keep this space heated in the winter.
The rebar or steel rods installed in the pre-poured concrete foundation help ensure that the concrete piers are stable and that there are no weak spots that could cause issues long term.
What It’s Best For: Fire, Earthquake, and Energy Efficiency
Pricing: Starts around $7 per square foot
As you likely noticed, many of the foundation types we have discussed have had energy efficiency issues. The below-grade ICF walls bring about more energy efficiency, and they still offer the strength and durability you find in concrete walls.
The ICF foundations have about 6 to 8 inches of reinforced concrete, in addition to the dry stacking blocks and the bracing. The below-grade ICF walls do need waterproofing and drainage pipes to ensure that water and moisture are not trapped. Homeowners enjoy that these homes with below-grade ICF walls seem to have good fire prevention and earthquake stability.
The best house foundation will depend on where you live and the type of home you are building. The most popular type of home foundation is, by far, the concrete slab. This is so popular because of the pricing associated with the purchase and the fact that it is so economically friendly.
Many people like the pier foundation as it tends to have few long-term issues with water management and waterproofing. It makes sense to also consider the basement foundation because of the amount of storage space and living space that it provides. Basements can lead to issues with mold and mildew if not properly cared for, but prevention is key.
The cheapest foundation type of the slab foundation, and it is why it has become the most popular. However, you must keep in mind that in colder climates where concrete can crack, the slab foundation is not used.
The three types of slab foundations are slab on grade, t shaped or frost protected. A building professional in your area can help you decide which is best for your home.
Pier and beam foundation is raised off the ground, typically at least 24 inches. The slab foundation is poured directly at ground level, and the house is built directly on the slab.
A beach house typically needs a pier and beam foundation. The height of the home may need to be raised slightly because of the water level.
The most common type of foundation is the concrete slab. The affordable pricing and the ease of installation certainly help keep this at the top of most people’s lists.
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