3 Types of House Foundations

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What You'll Need

Having a solid foundation is the start to any great house where lives are spent and memories are made. However, not all home foundations are the same. This is something that not everyone realizes, and perhaps not much thought goes into what a home’s foundation is actually made of. Below, learn more about the different types of house foundations and learn the pros and any associated cons of each.

1. Full and Daylight Basements

A basement with a window letting sunlight in.

Out of the three main house foundation types, full and daylight basements are the deepest. A “full” basement is one that is at least 7 feet with beams, girders, and other obstacles projecting no more than 6-inches below the required height. The basement size typically matches the majority of the floor space of the level above it. This type of foundation is commonly found in newer and more modern houses.

Full and daylight basements have structural walls that bear on foundation footings, which run along the perimeter of the basement. These footings typically extend below the line of which the ground freezes in winter, also known as the frost line.

The term “daylight basement” refers to a variation of a full basement. Here, the foundation is built along a slope and one or more of the foundational sides are fully embedded into the ground. As the slope descends, on applicable sides the foundation is exposed, allowing for large windows and doors to allow daylight to enter the space.

While older homes with basements of this sort commonly are made of stone walls and are typically shorter in height, more modern homes with this foundation are made of poured concrete or mortared concrete block.

The Advantages

This type of foundation has a range of benefits associated with it. First, it gives homeowners the power to convert the area to additional living space within their home. Finishing a basement can nearly double the amount of living space in some homes. This space also has the ability to be heated and cooled like the rest of the house, if the owner wishes.

The Disadvantages

While this foundation type tends to be most highly desired, there are some associated disadvantages. First, some basements are prone to flooding in the event of a heavy rain. Additionally, basements are the most expensive type of foundation.

2. Crawlspace

A man in a crawlspace looking with a flashlight and dust mask.

The next type of foundation that is commonly found in homes is one that creates a crawlspace. This is made of short foundation walls that usually stand on footings. The name of this foundation type comes from the fact that since the space is so short, you have to crawl through it rather than walk. These foundation types are typically no more than four feet tall.

Crawlspaces are usually unheated and it’s usually for them to have ventilation via small vents installed through the foundation walls. Similar to full basements, this foundation is usually made with poured concrete or mortar concrete block.

The Advantages

This type of foundation has several advantages. Although only providing limited space, it’s still good to use for extra storage. This type of foundation is also more affordable as it requires less excavation and less material to be built.

The Disadvantages

One major disadvantage of this foundation type is that it doesn’t provide any additional living space in a home, like a full or daylight basement can do.

3. Slab-on-Grade

The concrete slab foundation of a house.

The least popular type of foundation is slab-on-grade. This is a solid concrete slab that rests on top of the ground. These are commonly found and built-in climates that don’t experience ground freezing and thawing.

The idea of a slab-on-grade foundation means that these homes do not have basements. Instead, the entirety of a house rests on top of a large slab of concrete. Since the depth of a basement doesn’t exist with this foundation, it’s commonly called “shallow."

The Advantages

This type of foundation is usually less expensive than its alternatives, which is a big advantage. This type of foundation can also offer better protection against termite infestation, which is more popular in warmer climates, where this foundation tends to exist most.

The Disadvantages

There is a recognized downside of slab-on-grade foundations. It is that water supply and drainage pipes, in this model, are encased in the concrete. Should there be a problem with pipes in a home with this foundation, the concrete slab has to be cut into in order to gain access to the pipes. Additionally, this foundation type lacks storage space within a home.

All foundations should be sturdy, should act as a barrier to the outdoors, and should keep out groundwater. All of these do just that, so finding the best foundation type for you depends on the needs of your home and family.