Foundations, Footers, and Slabs - DIY Series

Despite the expenses basements pose in terms of installation cost, homeowners choose to include them in their plans to allow for more space. Basements are often converted into family room, recreation areas, and other utilitarian uses within the home. In some cases, given the slope of the land, it is possible to add a walkout from the basement to the yard. These additions and renovations make the home feel larger. Basements are often considered another level or floor of the home.


A footer, as the name implies, is the concrete base supporting the structure. If this item of the construction is built to be solid, sturdy, and stable, the rest of the house will site firmly and be positioned well. Be conscious of where the frost line is located because the footing should extend below this point. A frost line is the depth at which the water in the ground freezes, and it depends on the soil content as well as elevation above the sea level. If not properly located, the footing and foundation will crack as the ground shifts. Your foundation contractor should be able to explain this, along with answering any questions you might have.
A house needs a foundation or slab to support it’s especially heavy structure. The stability and reliability depends on good site preparation. A foundation or slab also places a barrier between wood materials and the ground. If the raw lumber came into direct contact with the ground, rot and termite infestation could occur
Concrete is the most common material used for slabs and foundations. The fundamental layer of homes has been known to be made of stone, brick treated lumber and concrete blocks, though most often these materials are more common in older homes. There are three different kinds of concrete foundations: poured foundations, concrete blocks, or post and pier. Concrete blocks  are just as strong as poured concrete when they are filled with gravel and cement; however, this material is less often chosen because it is more labour-intensive. Post and pier construction lacks a foundation pad or perimeter footing. It is typically used in tropical regions and is used for the cheapest type of buildings; it has been outlawed in most jurisdictions within this country for safety reasons. A poured foundation tends to be the most popular choice among homeowners and owner-builders. 

When working with a foundation, pouring a slab is also known as pouring the concrete floor for the basement. Steel rebar is installed within the concrete to make the structure stronger. Some homeowners request adding extra rebar beyond what is recommended to ensure long-lasting stability and strength. Do not be afraid to request information about this option during the bidding process because foundation contractors are familiar with how common this practise is.

More often than not, a service professional installs the foundation for the new construction. He or she needs to come in and assess the land for proper preparation before any work can begin. This assessment includes learning the slope of the property. This type of planning allows the professional to design a foundation so water will drain away from the concrete and prevent moisture build up.

Proper drainage is crucial, particularly for those who are building on land containing a lot of water. Be present at the time of the assessment to answer any questions the foundation contractor has; this will also be a good opportunity to ask any questions you have. This way you can gain an early understanding of their work ethic.

This service professional will look at what kind of soil is present at the building site. This will determine what kind of drainage system needs to be installed, as well as how much pipe drainage needs to be installed. For example, if the lot is comprised mostly of sand, it will require a different drainage system than one that contains considerable amounts of clay. Water moves slower through clay than it does through sand, so it needs to be treated differently. If you notice that a little or no attention is paid to these issues, ask why. As with other contractors, get more than one bid and compare attitudes and attention to detail. You may get different answers.

Some owner-builders choose to have insulated foundations installed in their new construction on the exterior walls. The benefits of having an insulated basement, slab on grade, or crawl space include savings on energy bills and below-grade rooms made more comfortable. There are also moisture-control benefits where condensation would normally be an issue. More benefits include:

  • Reduction of heat loss through the foundation walls
  • Damp-proofing coating is protected during freezing during back filling
  • A barrier against moisture
  • Protection of the foundation during freezing and thawing in particular cold climates
  • Reduction or elimination of condensation on the surface of the basement

A less costly option is to insulate the interior walls of the basement. Some of the benefits to choosing this option include:

  • It can be installed into existing buildings and is less expensive to do so
  • There are more materials to choose from
  • There is no threat of insect infestation, unlike insulating exterior foundation walls
  • The space is isolated from the colder ground more effectively
  • The best way to approach this phase of the construction process is to ask yourself what the best foundation is for you. The type of house you are building, the location of your property, and your budget are a few of the factors that will play into this decision.

The best way to approach this phase of the construction process is to ask yourself what the best foundation is for you. The type of house you are building, the location of your property, and your budget are a few of the factors that will play into this decision.