Building a Sturdy Pier and Beam Foundation

A worker holding a post hole digger.
  • 30-50 hours
  • Advanced
  • 10,000-20,000
What You'll Need
Posthole digger
Concrete blocks
Plumb line
2x6 lumber
Eight-inch nails
Eye protection

A pier and beam foundation offers some great advantages that a full basement does not afford. It forms a crawlspace under the home that provides easy access to many of the utilities in case repairs are needed. Also, a pier and beam foundation preempts the need for heavy machinery to dig a large foundation. Large concrete slabs need the labor of outside help and contractors, while a pier and beam structure can be built by one or two people.

Step 1 - Locate Your Piers

Start by locating where your piers will go along the outside of your building. You will need a floor plan or the exact dimensions of the home to do so.

With the pier locations determined, begin at a corner and use the post digger to dig 18x24-inch holes spaced every 36 inches.

Step 2 - Pile Blocks for Solid Foundation

The piers for your foundation are cinder blocks. Place them on their sides into the holes you dug, one on top of the other until they are at least 24 inches aboveground. Continue this all the way around, making constant adjustments to ensure that they are level. You do not need any concrete or mortar as the weight of your home on top of them will keep them in place.

Use the level and plumb line to make sure the entire pier system is level and perfectly vertical.

Step 3 - Backfill Holes

Once the system is in place, begin to carefully backfill the holes. Stamp the ground solid around the piers.

Step 4 - Interior Piers

Now that the perimeter piers are done, you can work on the interior piers along the center of the floor plan. These can be spaced every 48 inches. Follow the same procedures as before and stack the concrete blocks until they are level with the exterior blocks.

Step 5 - Add Beams and Joists

Once the piers are done, you can lay the 2x6-inch lumber in a frame, on end, to create your joist system. They will span across the floor plan of your home, as well as frame the edges. Each joist should be set at 24-inch intervals. Nail the lumber pieces together when you’ve laid out your frame using eight-inch nails.

Once you place your home onto the pier and beam foundation it will settle a little and you can make certain adjustments. For the most part, following this simple process will give you a very sturdy foundation that will last many years.