The Pros and Cons of Pier and Beam Foundations

View of pier and beam foundation from below.

Prior to the 1960’s, homes used to sit in the air. In fact, back before slab technology was refined, most homes were elevated by pier and beam structures. Today, pier and beam foundations (sometimes called post and beam) aren’t so popular, but are still the norm in certain parts of the country, especially in areas that receive a lot of rain or are prone to flooding.

When designing your home, you should consider using pier and beam foundations for the advantages they have over slab. However, they also have a number of disadvantages you should consider before making a decision.

Here are the pros and cons of pier and beam foundations.

The Pros

  • Pier and beam foundations (sometimes called post and beam) elevate homes to protect them from flooding and moisture.
  • Between the home and the ground is a crawl space high enough to crawl through (hence, the name) allowing utilities including plumbing and electrical wiring/units to be installed and easily accessed if issues should occur.
  • In fact, this is probably the biggest advantage pier and beam foundations have over slab foundations. If there are any plumbing problems in the latter, for example, it could require having to break open the concrete floor to get at any damaged pipes. Generally the former has fewer foundational problems than slab structures and can be less expensive to repair.
  • There’s also an extra bit of insulation from the air under the home, saving you on energy costs. Some people prefer the feel of the wood platform over a concrete floor. While this might attract termites, they’re actually easier to detect thanks to the crawl space.

While the pros of pier and beam foundations may make it seem like a superior choice to slab foundations, there’s also a lot of cons you should consider as well.

The Cons

The biggest disadvantage of pier and beam foundations compared with slab structures is the cost. While the foundations of small sheds and buildings may be cheaper with a pier and beam structure, elevating your home is almost always more expensive than letting it sit directly on the ground.

Here are some other disadvantages to pier and beam foundations, which could be potential roadblocks when buying or selling a home:

  • sagging, creaking and bouncy floors
  • rain accumulation and moisture problems
  • poor ventilation
  • mildew, mold, and rotting wood
  • bugs and rodents in the crawl space

Poor design further adds to the list of problems, especially improper spacing between the pier and beams and shim failures on account of inferior materials. Fortunately, repairing these issues is often easier and cheaper than slab problems. In fact, if the latter’s foundation starts to crack, it might be impossible to fix it.

Are The Pros Worth The Cons?

Man inspecting foundation.

If you decide on a pier and beam foundation either out of choice or necessity, bear in mind that no structure is perfect. Fortunately, most pier and beam foundational issues are easily remedied when spotted early. However, to determine the best solution requires professionals who can guarantee quality.

With over 25,000 foundation repairs over the last 25 years, we understand pier and beam foundations. For a no charge evaluation or to learn more about pier and beam foundations, contact us.

Editor’s note: this content has been updated. It was originally published on 05/06/2015.

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