Slabs and Piers: Common Types of Foundations and Their Pros & Cons
Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans because it was built on a poor foundation? Getting the foundation of your home wrong may not become a world-famous mistake, but it can still be a serious problem!
You don’t have to be an expert to understand the four types of foundations, and to decide which one will work for you. Read this article to learn everything you need to know to make sure your house is built according to your needs.
Types of Foundations
We’re going to look at four house foundation types, along with the pros and cons of each of them. In just a few minutes, you’ll practically be an expert on home foundations!
Pier and Beam
A pier and beam foundation works by laying the beams of your home’s flooring across several piers, which are like short pillars.
The pillars that your house will rest on are typically made of cinderblocks.
The piers themselves rest on wide concrete pads which are known as concrete footings. The pads are under the ground, and the piers protrude from the earth, which creates a crawlspace between your foundation and your home’s floor.
The crawlspace created by the pier and beam foundation makes accessing your plumbing or electrical systems a cinch. That makes for easier installation as well as for easier repairs. If the foundation itself needs repairing, it’s also easier to access.
With a pier and beam foundation, you probably won’t have to worry as much about repairs. Pier and beam repairs are significantly cheaper than slab repairs.
Because there are several separate concrete pads that ultimately support the house, there’s a certain amount of flexibility to the foundation. In case of earthquakes or shifting ground, the pier and beam foundation can adjust itself.
As a result, damage from such ground shifts is likely to be smaller for pier and beam foundations, and what damage does occur can be fixed relatively simply.
As your floor rests mostly on air rather than on a solid concrete foundation, you may enjoy a tiny amount of bounce and absorption as you walk through the house, decreasing the stress on your joints.
The strength of the pier and beam is also its weakness. The crawlspace under the house creates a wonderful environment for pests and moisture problems.
The space between your floor and the ground also allows cold air to flow freely through it, potentially giving you cold floors.
Slab foundations are made by placing a layer of concrete across crushed gravel. The gravel beneath the concrete allows water to sink down rather than gather around your foundation.
Looking at slab foundation pros and cons, you can see that its suitability depends on the climate of your area.
While the pier and beam foundation is affordable, the slab foundation is even more so. On top of that, the lack of space between the home and the ground means that you can enjoy better insulation in the home.
Better insulation means you get to stay warmer while spending less on energy bills. Lower energy consumption is also a great plus for the environment.
As the slab foundation keeps the house closer to the ground, it’s more easily accessible, an important feature for those in wheelchairs or who otherwise have difficulty climbing stairs.
Unlike foundations with crawlspaces, there’s no space for pests or mildew to grow on the bottom of your home.
Because slab foundations have no open space under the house, it can be much more difficult to access your electrical and plumbing systems.
Slab foundation repairs can often be much more extensive than pier and beam repairs. If a water pipe bursts, it’ll leak water directly under your foundation, weakening it and requiring professional attention.
Basement foundations start with a concrete layer placed at the bottom of a deep hole, usually about 8 feet deep. Basement walls are then laid on top of the concrete foundation using cinder blocks or other materials.
Basements are built to be waterproof and resilient. They can handle intense punishment from water, fire, and weather. As they essentially add a whole other story to your house, they provide you with lots of extra space and increase the value of your home.
Naturally, you don’t get all that extra room for free. Between the 8 foot deep hole and the foundation and walls, a basement foundation is significantly more expensive than other options.
Your energy bills are also likely to be higher with a basement since you’ll have a higher volume of air that you’ll need to heat and cool.
On top of that, if water gets into your basement through a drain or some other way, the waterproof nature of the basement can work against you, holding water in and making it difficult to remove.
A crawlspace foundation is similar to pier foundations. They elevate your house a couple of feet off the ground, providing all the pros and cons of a crawlspace between your floor and the earth.
A crawlspace foundation is cheaper than a basement. Crawlspace foundations are often used in swampy or otherwise wet areas subject to flooding. The space between your house and any sitting water can protect it from damage.
As with any foundation with a crawlspace, it’s easier to access your electrical and plumbing systems and to repair the foundation.
In case of extreme weather like earthquakes or intense winds, crawlspace foundations may be less durable as compared to a basement.
Like other foundations with a crawlspace, the crawlspace can attract pests and form an accommodating environment for mold and mildew.
Foundation Crack Repair
A crack in your foundation is a serious matter, both because it can lead to extreme home damage, and because it’s far beyond the repairability of do it yourself-ers.
Finding someone who can perform a quality repair is essential for the long term savings and safety of your home.
Build Your Home On a Solid Foundation
We hope you learned something from this explanation of types of foundations. For more information about foundations and repairing them, check out our other articles.
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