Feb. 22, 2021 | Shameer Gaidhar
From the ground up: the importance of a structurally sound foundation
The foundation of a home is the basis of the entire structure. Just like a strong foundation can make a happy relationship, a strong foundation beneath your home will keep it standing strong for many years.
Many different factors go into building a strong foundation.
Footings are a vital part of foundation construction. They are made of concrete and rebar reinforcement and exist to support the foundation and prevent settling. They're made for the foundation to rest on and are especially important in poor soil conditions. In soft or inconsistent soil, the house built on the foundation can settle unevenly without proper footings, leading to significant damage.
Speaking of soil, it can effectively make or break a construction project. Building on the wrong type of soil, or something unstable, can lead to cracked foundations. Soil rich in clay or silt will absorb water easily, causing it to expand as it becomes saturated. The expansion can put stress on the foundation and cause it to crack. Sandy soil is more predictable than clay or silt, as water passes through it rather than causing it to expand and contract. Loamy soil is stable, but it can erode easily. Testing your soil before building is crucial to ensure your foundation will withstand the elements.
Testing can also identify the level of sulfates in the soil. Sulfates can cause significant deterioration of concrete building foundations, so using resistant materials and proper methods is vital.
Three types of foundations are commonly used in residential construction: slab, crawl space and basement. T-shaped foundations are the simplest and most budget-friendly type of slab foundation.
At Millenium Plus Homes, we use T-shaped footings, as they're a traditional method that's commonly used in an area where the ground freezes. They're built using footings added below the frost line with walls added on top. The footing is wider than the wall, giving the entire structure extra support at the base.
Concrete is used for most foundations due to its strength and durability, but it needs to be handled and applied in a certain way to ensure it retains that strength. If concrete freezes before it cures, it can lose up to 50 per cent of its compressive strength. Even if it's allowed to warm again, the damage is already done. We avoid freezing concrete by never pouring when temperatures drop below -5 C or are expected to dip below that point in the next seven days. Concrete needs to be protected from freezing temperatures for three to seven days after pouring, so we will pause construction if temperature is ever an issue.
Overall, the foundation of your home is the most important part of a structurally sound building. Cracked foundations can typically be repaired, but footings that fail or are done incorrectly can cause permanent, costly damage. To fix footings, a very involved excavation is required, which can cost upwards of $50,000. Cracked foundations might not be as expensive to fix, but they can devalue your home and cause more serious issues down the road.
When you're purchasing a home, you should look for signs of damage to the foundation. Home inspections are typically only visual and will rarely find cracks hidden away beneath walls or floors, so be sure to ask or have a specialist come in to evaluate the home's foundation. Spotting foundation problems early on could save you a lot of money in the long run.
Shameer Gaidhar is president and CEO of Millenium Plus Homes
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