Foundation Plans: How to Choose for New Home
This is for informational purposes - always check with your permitted authority or regulatory body first.
All homes start with a foundation. This is the basis of the structure and what everything else relies on. So, if there is a problem with the foundation, it also impacts the rest of the house.
This is why picking the right foundation is so important. Doing so is essential for the future of the house. This article will overview the different types of foundation plans so that you can make the right decision.
The most basic foundation for a home is a concrete slab. A concrete slab is essentially a four to six-inch bed of concrete. This is then bolstered by other supports depending on the shape of the foundation and what it is supporting.
These are inexpensive, easy to build, and require less work. Because of this, they are the most popular foundation option. However, they work particularly well in a few specific situations.
Concrete slabs work better in warmer areas. This is because changes in temperature have the potential to damage concrete, causing it to shift or even crack. However, in warmer areas, these temperature swings are not an issue.
Concrete slabs also work better on flat land. They need this flat land to form a solid foundation. In general, they do not work as well on hills.
While concrete slabs are a great option in many places, they still have some drawbacks. The biggest of these is that they make anything underneath hard to access. This may make it harder to get to any pipes or electrical systems underneath.
In addition to this, concrete slabs are prone to damage from moisture and water in general. Because of this, steps need to be taken if these will be a problem.
Crawl Space Foundation
A crawl space foundation is created from footings and walls that are installed directly into the ground. These form a small crawl space between the house and the ground.
This small space is the biggest advantage of a crawl space foundation. It is a place where the home’s owners can easily access the home’s systems. While a concrete slab foundation buries these systems, a crawl space foundation keeps them accessible. Because of this added utility, many homeowners are now turning toward crawl space foundations.
Crawl space foundations are also a great choice for homes that need to be slightly elevated. This works on a home built on an unlevel surface. It also works in homes that often deal with floods, as the crawl space raises the home above flood level.
The biggest downside to a crawl space foundation is that they require a little more care and maintenance than other options. An unattended crawl space can be the site of any number of problems. In some cases, water damage can go unnoticed until it becomes a major problem, or animals may use the space to make nests. The crawl space needs to be checked and maintained periodically to prevent these problems from arising.
Many older homes used vented crawlspaces. Unfortunately, these are prone to becoming moldy, damp, and pest-infested.
In order to combat these traditional problems, new homes with crawlspaces should have a foundation closer to mini-basements. This includes adding air conditioning and foam-insulated walls to keep mechanical equipment running efficiently. To prevent mold, the ground should include a vapor barrier but should not be insulated.
Basements are our final common foundation option. These are very common in the Northeast and Midwest because the soil makes them easier to build. In cold climates, you may need to dig below the frost level to install footings. In many cases, it’s not much more to just build a full basement.
Basement foundations include a number of benefits. For many homeowners, this includes bringing additional space into their homes. Then, you can use it for an office, a family room, or even a guest suite. Because of this, a finished basement usually adds value to a home.
In addition, basements make it much easier to install and maintain mechanical equipment such as air conditioners, heaters, and electrical equipment.
It is important to properly prepare a basement just like you would any other living space. Doing so will help you prevent it from becoming cold and damp. Air-tight foam insulation should be installed on the walls. This helps prevent cold surfaces in the basement from coming in contact with the moist, warm interior air. If this isn’t done, you’ll end up dealing with condensation on these surfaces.
Unlike crawlspaces, you do want to insulate the flooring of a basement. Using rigid insulation with a polyethylene vapor barrier will help prevent moisture damage and make the space more comfortable.
You do have options when it comes to how the basement will be built. Stacked concrete blocks, poured concrete, and insulated concrete panels are all worthwhile options. The important thing is to keep them dry. You can do this by making sure your lot has the proper drainage and grading. Water should always drain away from the perimeter of the building and its foundation.
If your property has shallow bedrock or boulders or a high water table, you may want to choose a foundation other than a basement. These circumstances make building and maintaining the space much easier and more affordable.
How to Choose a Foundation for Your New Home
Each foundation option has its own benefits and downsides. Which one you choose for your home will be a matter of weighing these.
First, you should consider the lot you’re working with. Geologic features such as bedrock and the water table can rule out certain options. Basements simply aren’t an option in some areas.
Related: Basement Remodeling 101 Guide
In addition, think about the maintenance of your home and how the foundation will affect that. For example, concrete slabs require very little maintenance. However, crawlspaces and basements can make the maintenance of mechanical equipment easier.
Finally, space is another key concern. If you’re looking for extra space, a basement is a great option to add both space and value to your home.
What Are Your Foundation Plans?
Concrete slabs, crawlspaces, and basements are all solid options for a home’s foundation. Make sure to consider your lot, home maintenance, and need for space. Working with a professional will make it easier for your vision and plans to come to life!
- Ryan Crownholm