Armchair Builder

Preventing Home Foundation Problems

Have you experienced home foundation problems?  Do you have settlement cracks, bulging walls, or moisture in your basement?  I was driving down the road the other day and noticed this excavation for a new home. I decided to get out and take a look…because it’s what I do. I took a picture as I thought…this is a great learning experience for anyone thinking of building a new home or addition. Take a look at the picture and see if you can determine what is wrong with this home foundation project.

First, let’s talk about what they did correctly. After all, I don’t want to be thought of as a negative guy. The first quality initiative was to have the surveyor place a piece of rebar with an orange cap on top at the footing location showing the home foundation subcontractor exactly where the house is to go. This is great, as we don’t want to ballpark the house location on a small community lot.  If the home foundation ends up in the wrong place, in the best case scenario you will be required to get a variance from your local building and zoning department.  In the worst case, you will need to remove the home foundation and start over.

Next, we see that the excavation contractor has benched the excavation. By benching, we mean he didn’t leave an 8′ tall wall of mud at the  edge of the excavation. When the workers start erecting the home foundation wall panels, they will be down in the hole next to the edge of the excavation. This creates a trench so we want to create a bench or shelf on the sides of the hole to minimize the possibility of cave-ins.

What else in the picture do we see that was done correctly? Yes. The garage fill dirt was left high. This minimizes the amount of fill material (i.e. stone) we need to bring in to keep the garage floor from settling. Bringing in stone can be expensive as you must pay for the stone material, trucking to the site, and the cost to place the stone with a machine operator and machine ($100 an hour or more).  The total cost to fill under a new garage slab floor with stone up to the top of the home foundation can run $1500 to $2000 depending on your project location and height of the existing dirt.  We also see the backhoe operator took out the organic topsoil which will settle and left only the hard clay.

The excavation contractor has also piled the dirt from the hole in such a way as to leave access to the home foundation for concrete trucks. You want the concrete trucks to have access to all four corners of the future building to prevent from having to pay for a concrete pump truck. A pump truck (see photo below) is a machine that sucks concrete up through a hose and boom and out to where you need it. These can be very expensive (ballpark cost = $1200-$1800 per day).

Photo by Robert Carr

Ok, so the builder has done a lot of good things with this home foundation project so far. So what is wrong? If you said the water in the footing locations is a problem…you are correct!  You need to make certain all water has been removed from the footing locations prior to pouring concrete.  You can achieve this by either using a pump to remove the water or you can wait until things dry out, just make sure you remove it.  Most municipal inspectors will not approve the footing forms unless it’s dry (most municipalities require a footing inspection prior to pouring the footings).  So, this project is still on a path to a high quality home.  We just need to make sure the home foundation footing locations are clear of all water prior to pour.

Fooings for Home Foundation

A footing poured on solid virgin ground without any water present will help support the home foundation for your new project for years to come.   Nobody likes the hassle and expense associated with repairing home foundation problems…so make sure you get your home foundation right the first time.

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2 Comments for Preventing Home Foundation Problems

Foundation Types for Your New Home: Pros vs. Cons- Armchair Builder :: Blog :: Build, renovate, & repair your own home. Save money as an owner-builder. | August 23, 2012 at 7:13 am

[…] Whichever foundation you choose, be sure to put in the time to find a quality subcontractor with a strong reputation.  Using our bid sheets and bidding system will allow you to locate the companies with the best pricing for a quality foundation.  For more information about frost protection for your foundation, check out our article, Foundation Frost Protection.  Before starting your new project, you may want to have a look at our article Preventing Home Foundation Problems. […]

House Foundation Excavation: Dealing with High Water Tables- Armchair Builder :: Blog :: Build, renovate, & repair your own home. Save money as an owner-builder. | March 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

[…] Preventing Home Foundation Problems   We offer up typical foundation installation quality problems and talk about how you can avoid them in your new home or addition. […]