Foundations of Quality
The word "foundation" evokes thoughts of strength, permanence, and solidity -- the basis for everything that follows. A home's foundation is simply the most important part of its construction and overall performance, if not top of mind among homebuyers and owners.
The reason there are different types of residential foundations has to do with the soil and other conditions of the lot, regional building materials, the skills of the local labor force, and, where possible, needs and personal preference.
Almost all single-family home foundations in the U.S. are built with concrete or masonry blocks or some close variation, such as precast concrete panels or insulated concrete forms; a few are built with steel or treated wood, but those are rare occurrences and for special conditions.
Regardless, a new home has one of the following three types of foundations:
Slab. A slab foundation is a lot like it sounds: a monolithic, horizontal block of poured concrete. The slab is usually supported by relatively shallow perimeter footing that runs along its entire boundary just below the ground. The center of the slab rests on or is embedded with a steel mesh over well-compacted and level ground.
The beauty of a slab foundation is its low cost and fast construction, especially for a simple house footprint or layout. Once the footings are excavated and the formwork and reinforcing steel mesh is placed, it takes only a few men and a few hours to pour the concrete, tamp and level (or "screed") it smooth, cut control joints to accommodate surface cracks, and embed any connectors for the next phase of construction. Within a day or so, the slab is ready for the structural frame.
Crawlspace. Also called a pier-and-beam or raised-floor foundation, a crawlspace creates a shallow area between the structural frame and the ground using a short perimeter wall of poured concrete (called a "stem" wall) and strategically located short support posts (or piers) in the middle. Combined, the wall and piers hold up the structural beams and joists of the wood-framed first-floor platform upon which the rest of the home is built.
This creates a 3- to 4-foot space allowing easier access to plumbing and electrical conduits and central air ductwork serving the house. It is critical to insulate the underside of the first-floor platform (and also the inside of the stem walls, if possible) to maintain the desired comfort level of the living space above; a moisture barrier on the raw ground and vents embedded in the stem wall will help keep the crawlspace dry and free of water-related damage.
Walk-Out basement. The Walk-Out basement is a a foundation type that is being used more and more in San Antonio and throughout the Hill Country. A "walk-out basement" is usually used in a home situated on a sloped lot, so that the home is designed to follow the “lay of the land”. A part of the home is located on the higher parts of the land, and a second level “basement” is on the lower area covered by the ground which is considered the true basement area.
From the street, some walk-out basement homes appear to be one story. Others appear to be a conventional two story home from the street (with the buried, or basement, portion in the back). Occupants can walk out at that point without having to use stairs. For example, if the ground slopes downwards towards the back of the house, the basement is at or above grade (ground level) at the back of the house. Walk-out basements are complex foundation systems and should only be trusted to builders who are experienced with the unique design challenges and water management techniques required to build them.
Walk-out basements can be used for several purposes; such as living areas, garages, utility rooms, mechanical equipment rooms, outdoor living areas, and many more. Garages on both levels are sometimes possible. Walk out basements are extremely energy efficient, and as with any multi-level design, there is some cost savings to be had with Roofing and Foundation costs.
Regardless of the type, a foundation is literally the basis of a home's strength and performance, from energy efficiency to withstanding high winds. A well-engineered and well-built foundation allows the rest of the home's construction to go as smoothly and quickly as possible, and maintains its structural integrity. It may not be visible or sexy, but a strong foundation is arguably the best way to maintain housing value.
For more information about which type of foundation fits you and your property best, give us a call today!
Diamante Custom Homes
5139 N. Loop 1604 West, Suite 102
San Antonio, TX 78249
(210) 341-6430 - phone
(210) 568-4514 - fax
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