Thinking about buying or building a home? It’s a good idea for homeowners to think from the ground up!
Every home is built on a foundation, but not all foundations are alike. Before we get much further, let’s briefly outline what a foundation is.
A foundation is defined as the load-bearing part of the home, usually built below ground. It should do three basic things.
- Support the home structure above.
- Keep groundwater and moisture out.
- House important plumbing & HVAC equipment.
Now that you have a better understanding of what a foundation does, it’s important to discuss your options. The type of foundation your home will have will be a variation of one of these three common types:
- Basement Foundation: Full or Daylight
- Crawl Space Foundation: Typically 2-3ft Tall
- Slab Foundation
It’s important to look at all the factors when deciding what foundation works best for your family. In addition to your budget and how the space will be used, there are also very serious structural questions to consider.
- Regardless if you are buying or building, making sure the soil type and the foundation are compatible is very important. If the soil is unstable, taking preventative measures may be your best bet.
- If the home you are considering purchasing has an overall weight that is too much for the foundation to bear, you are asking for trouble. This situation is common when houses undergo modification, but the foundation type is not considered.
Now that these elements have been discussed, it’s time to break down the pros and cons of each type to better help you decide what foundation type best fits your family and your budget.
A basement foundation is a hollow structure sitting the deepest below ground of all the foundation types we will discuss. When the basement is built, construction workers excavate about 7-8 feet deep to begin building the walls and floor. After these structures have been built, soil is backfilled around the walls. Basements anchor the property to the ground while extending the foundation below the frost line.
Although basements may be the most expensive to build or buy, they offer the most advantages as well.
For a very long time, basement walls were constructed out of concrete blocks. Over time, these blocks tended to fail and leak with time. Since roughly the 1960s in America, basements can now be built using poured concrete walls. This construction helps ensure structural integrity and limits, although it does not eliminate moisture permeation.
A full basement typically follows the floor space above, meaning the square footage of your basement will roughly match the footprint of your first floor. This space can be conditioned, meaning it has heating and cooling like the rest of your house or not.
Basements are most common on the east coast and in the Midwest. Basements in the south often struggle because of the soft, damp, often clay soil and humid weather.
Even within basement foundations, you have choices. Full basements are completely underground and can only be accessed through the main level of the home. These are typically the best choice when a lot is fairly even. Daylight, or walkout basements mean just that. Often one wall is a full-size window or exterior door leading to the outside. Natural light often makes the space feel less “basement-like.” A daylight basement is the best choice if your home is on a slope or a hill.
- Easy Access to Utilities and HVAC
- Storage Options
- Additional, Cheap Square Footage
- Living Space
- Safety During Inclement Weather
- Can Increase Home Value
- Most Expensive Foundation Type
- Water & Flooding Potential
- Increased Maintenance
- Not A Good Fit in All Areas
- Risk Of Radon Problems
Crawl Space Foundation
Much as the name implies, a crawl space foundation elevates the home’s structure above ground enough to be able to crawl through it. Similar to a slab, a footing is poured, and blocks are laid to create the foundation and support the foundation walls.
This fairly inexpensive foundation provides some storage space but is also highly prone to water damage and moisture control issues.
It’s typical to see the home’s HVAC and plumbing in the crawl space, which makes it accessible for repair, but not as convenient as a basement. Expect higher repair costs when technicians crawl to do repairs rather than stand.
Crawl Space Pros
- Able To Access Plumbing & HVAC
- Some, But Limited Storage
- Less Expensive Than Basement
Crawl Space Cons
- Often Wet & Moldy
- Difficult To Get Into/Move Around
- Not Conditioned
Concrete Slab Foundation
Concrete slab foundations, or slab on grade, are the cheapest and easiest foundation type. Because of this, they are also one of the most popular foundation types.
Construction includes the area being leveled before concrete footers can be poured below grade. Two layers of concrete blocks are added, and pipes are installed. Rock filler is installed, and finally, 4-7 inches of concrete is poured on top bringing it to ground level.
Concrete slab foundations are a good option in warm, damp, or dry climates where frost depth isn’t a concern or in areas where the water table is always high and a basement isn’t advised. Slab foundations aren’t an option for areas with a hill or severely sloped lot.
Concrete Slab Pros
- Most Affordably Priced
- Quick Installation
- Impervious to Termite Infestations
- Low To the Ground for Those with Stair Issues
Concrete Slab Cons
- Plumbing, HVAC Is Buried: Difficult & Costly to Repair
- No Additional Living or Storage Space
- Shifting Soil Can Cause Cracking
- Lower Resale Value
As you can see, there are disadvantages and advantages to every foundation type mentioned. Although the type of soil and the topography elements need to be considered, the final decision comes down to preference and budget and is an important decision all homeowners must make.
The friendly staff at Groundworks can help provide additional details for your future home’s foundation. Contact us to speak to a knowledgeable staff member.