How to Build the Best Foundation for Your Property Concerns

A concrete slab foundation with houses in the background.

The foundation is easily the most important part of the home. Although you typically cannot see the foundation after the home is built, it holds everything together above ground. But it also insulates the house from inclement weather, absorbs shifts in the ground, and helps keep moisture at bay. With so much riding on the foundation, it's important that it's built with durability in mind. Here is a quick guide on how to build the best foundation for your property.

Determine Foundation Type

The foundation will support the weight of the entire house and should be precisely mapped out to the dimensions of the home. These measurements should be mapped before you start digging the foundation. The depth and type of the foundation will depend on several different actors, including the overall weight of the house, the condition of the soil, and the depth of the water table. After these considerations have been made, you can determine if you want a full basement, crawl space, or slab as the foundation. The site inspector will generally decide how deep to dig the foundation.

Dig the Foundation

The first step in building a good foundation is to dig it out based on the building plans. You can either rent machinery and dig out the trenches yourself or hire a contractor for this part. Either way, an inspector will let you know how deep you need to dig for a proper foundation. After the ground for the foundation has been dug, check the surface until everything is perfectly level.

Set Footings

Someone smoothing concrete between foundation footings.

After the foundation trenches are dug, you can set the footings. The footings are the framework for the base of the foundation. They are made out of wood and laid out with two feet of clearance on both sides. Once you've double-checked the measurements, fill the footings with concrete, and wait for them to dry. Drains are usually built around the footings to help move water away from the frames.

Building Vertical Walls

Cinder blocks forming the foundation and walls of a house.

Once the concrete in the footings has dried, you can remove the wood frames. You can then build vertical walls that rest on top of the footings to finish the foundation walls. These wall frames are usually built using concrete cinder blocks. Once these are in place and reinforced, you can pour in the rest of the concrete for the foundation. After the concrete has dried, remove the frames and drill holes for drain and water lines.

Building a Slab Foundation

A man working on metal framing for a concrete slab foundation.

The process for building a slab foundation is a little different than other varieties. With slab foundations, you need to bring in plumbers and electricians before you pour concrete. The plumber will install makeshift pipes for water and waste while the electrician will run power lines. Once these are installed, you can start building the foundation.

For slabs, start by laying down foam board installation and place a gravel base on top. This will serve as a solid base for the concrete. Then, install a plastic vapor barrier to help keep out moisture. A reinforcement layer of wire mesh is then placed above the bottom layers so that it rests in the middle of the slab. With everything in place, you can start pouring the concrete for the slab.

Tips for a Better Foundation

When pouring concrete for the foundation, you want to make sure that everything is level and plumb and void of discolorations, which usually means the material is weak. As a rule of thumb, the bottom layer of the foundation should be comprised of a compacted bed of stone followed by a vapor-proof layer and quality footing. If the stone underneath the foundation has not been properly compacted, then it will likely crack over time. When pouring concrete, the entire foundation should be done in one sitting. Stopping and starting can create cold joints, which also lead to cracks down the road.