The foundation of your home is a core element of your home’s safety and lifespan. Foundations hold the entirety of your house’s structure together; without a solid foundation, built effectively in accordance to the ground around it, a home has a significantly higher probability of cracking walls, shifting floors, and overall damage. As a homeowner building your own custom home, you may have many questions about this essential and principle element of your house—the following points address some frequent concerns of foundation-building that should help you gain a better understanding of and confidence in your decisions.

Why Does the Soil Matter?

Different types of soil react differently to water, movement of earth’s crust, and deeply rooted plant growth; essentially, the type of soil under your foundation can impact how much it shifts. When exposed to water, clay soils fluctuate widely in their expansion while sandy soils absorb the water and remain dry; this means that clay is more likely to allow the foundation to crack and move. Sandy loam is relatively stable but also has more potential to erode than other soils do, which can be an issue if the soil under the house cannot hold the weight of it. In order to address these settings, builders may bring in sturdier soil from other places to create a layer between the original soil and the foundation, and use proven methods to compact that layer down until it is considered “reliable” for the home’s safety.

What Equipment Is Used to Lay the Foundation?

A pump truck works well for pouring concrete for foundations, especially if the ground is very muddy, if there’s a lot of dirt, or if there are obstacles that would otherwise make pouring the concrete tricky. Portable concrete mixers are helpful to have onsite for making more concrete as necessary, little by little, so that you pay for no more than you need but lay no less than is safe. A laser level may be used to verify that the entire surface is flat (after being smoothed over with a “float”) and the depth is where it should be. There are also tools to ensure the safety of the concrete’s curing, its drying, its solidity and its shape—vibrators to help settle the material, vapor buffers to keep moisture from escaping and weakening the concrete, etc.

How Does Weather Impact Laying the Foundation?

Although it seems like a narrow window, the ideal weather for laying a foundation is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and not rainy. Cold weather can be problematic. The concrete has a harder time drying in humid and cold conditions. Rain is also an obvious impediment. This being said, you can work with most types of weather if you are prepared with cover-material and can work quickly to get the foundation down.

Do I Need to Waterproof My Foundation?

Waterproofing is not absolutely necessary for the functionality of your foundation. However, it can be incredibly useful in prolonging the life of your foundation! By waterproofing, your walls are protected from water getting in and warping the material of your walls, which leads to severe damage and necessary repairs, or from rot growing and spreading through the insides of your walls. Waterproofed walls will not change the water around your foundation from existing, but it can prevent that water from impacting what lay inside your foundation, saving you from costly damages to your property.

What’s the Difference between Waterproofing and Damp Proofing?

The difference between waterproofing a foundation and damp proofing it is small, but worth noting: waterproofing prevents collective water—full, liquid water—as well as moisture in the soil from getting through your foundation. Damp proofing simply prevents the moisture from the soil from getting in! Damp proofing is a cheaper method of protection, but also does not guarantee protection for cracks and holes and therefore is not usually recommended for residential buildings.

What Does it Mean to Anchor the House?

Foundations can effectively keep your house from dangerous shifts in the ground. Anchoring your house ensures that your home is securely rooted in that foundation, by bolting the home itself into the foundation. Major natural disasters—like earthquakes, flooding, and high intensity windstorms—have proven to severely shake or sweep away a house even within a good foundation, or collapsing and cracking walls. If you live in an area in which these natural disasters are imminent, you may want to take the extra precaution to anchor your home to your foundation!

What If I Want a Basement or Crawlspace?

If you want some sort of space between the bottom of your home and the first floor (like a crawl space for storage or a full basement,) that will determine the kind of foundation you need to lay. A “slab” foundation will allow for neither, as it sits more shallowly on the ground. A basement foundation is much deeper, costlier, and invites potential issues with extreme amount of moisture; however, it also allows for a lot more space, lifts the home’s first floor a little higher, and (with the right preventative measures) can actually be safe from those cold, wet surroundings and be completely warm and dry. Crawlspaces allow a little extra space by providing a space for HVAC systems, plumbing, etc, and decreasing the likelihood of termite damage. It is not really a place for “safety” measures and still is susceptible to moisture issues. Consult with a contractor about what is the wisest option for what you want and what is safe!

How Will My Foundation Affect Landscaping?

It really won’t ! Simply plant your greenery far enough away (around 2 feet at least) from the walls of your home. Trees should be farther. Roots that go deep have the capability to burrow and damage your foundation’s walls, so just be aware of that risk and implement that into your landscaping plans.

Protect your home by creating a sound foundation for it to rest in. Once that is sure, you can feel confident in the safety of your home!

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