The Three Types of Home Foundation Design

Your home’s foundation serves a number of purposes. It spreads the weight of a house evenly on the soil beneath it. Without this, different parts of your home would settle into the ground unevenly causing severe structural damage. It also ties the different parts of your house together at its base so that sideways or lateral soil movement doesn’t tear the walls apart.

The three foundation designs most commonly used for homes in the United States are the basement foundation, the slab foundation, and the pier and beam foundation. The choice of foundation type is heavily influenced by local conditions such as the climate and the soil.

The Basement Foundation

The basement foundation provides an underground or semi-underground living space between the soil underneath the foundation and the first floor of the house. Basements make convenient locations for storage, utilities, and mechanical systems such as furnaces and hot water heaters. This home foundation design is most commonly found in areas with cold winters where construction codes require foundations to be built below the frost line which may be five or more feet deep. Therefore it makes sense to convert this area into a living space.

Basements are not common in Texas because the frost line is often less than a foot deep. This makes them an unnecessary expense. The lateral movement of expansive clay soil that’s common in Texas can also damage basement walls.

The Pier And Beam Foundation

With a pier and beam foundation, the house rests on grade beams that in turn are supported by piers. The piers extend into the ground where they are supported by a load bearing layer of earth. Therefore the house doesn’t rest directly on the ground but is elevated a few feet above it. This is why it is also known as a raised foundation. The area between the first floor of the house and the ground is typically enclosed and forms a crawl space which provides convenient access to plumbing, electrical conduits, and ducts.

This foundation type is one of the oldest used in construction and was very common right up until the 1950s and 1960s when inexpensive concrete and modern methods of concrete transport led to the concrete slab foundation’s immense popularity. The disadvantages of pier and beam foundations include susceptibility to rodent and insect infestation, freezing pipes (if not insulated), and possible water pooling which leads to rotting wood and mold growth.

The Slab Foundation

Slab foundations are common in areas with a shallow frost line depth where digging deep holes for basements makes less economic sense, and in areas that have a thin soil layer above bedrock. High quality concrete, the use of rebar reinforcement for greater strength, and fast easy construction methods have made slab foundations a very popular and economical choice. These very same construction benefits greatly facilitated the post World War II suburban boom which saw an explosive growth of tract homes.

Slab foundations are built directly on the ground and therefore lack a crawl space for convenient access, or a basement for storage and utility space. This lack of easy access to plumbing below the slab makes inspection and repair difficult. This sometimes causes “slab leaks” which occur when leaking plumbing beneath the slab causes water leakage into the soil and home. Slab leaks also cause foundation damage when the water interacts with the surrounding expansive clay soil.

Perma-Pier Foundation Repair has been in the foundation repair business for three generations. Our more than 15,000 repair projects of residential homes and commercial buildings gives us an unmatched level of expertise. We provide a lifetime warranty with our repair work. Contact us today for more information.

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