Foundations of Quality
The word "foundation" evokes thoughts of strength, permanence, and solidity -- the basis for everything that follows. A home's foundation is simply the most important part of its construction and overall performance.
As a professional remodelling contractor, we pay special attention to a home's foundation, especially if we are adding a second story or an adjacent space. We want to ensure that the existing foundation is structurally adequate for additional construction (the weight of the new addition) and make adjustments, if necessary.
Almost all single-family home foundations in Canada are built with concrete or masonry blocks or some close variation, such as pre-cast concrete panels or insulated concrete forms; a few are built with steel or treated wood, but those are rare occurrences and for special conditions.
In most parts of Canada, foundations are buried into the ground to below the frost penetration in the soil for that area unless you live in permafrost area.
One of the following three foundation types are most common in the single-family housing market particularly in Ontario.
Slab on Grade.
This type of foundation usually has a 48" high concrete or block wall resting on a poured concrete footing. The interior of this foundation box is filled with compacted granular material. A concrete slab is laid on top of this granular material usually with a layer of insulation and vapour barrier between. The concrete slab forms the first floor of the house . This type of foundation may be used in wet or unstable ground conditions. Many times the slab will be the heat sink for a radiant floor heating system.
A crawlspace creates a shallow area between the structural frame of the house and the ground using a short perimeter wall of poured concrete (called a "stem" wall) and strategically located short support posts (or piers) in the middle. Combined, the wall and piers hold up the structural beams and joists of the wood-framed first-floor platform upon which the rest of the home is built.
This creates a 3- to 5-foot space allowing easier access to plumbing and electrical conduits and central air ductwork serving the house; for an adjacent room addition, it allows us to extend the existing mechanical services and ductwork to the new space.
It is critical to insulate the inside of the stem walls to maintain the desired comfort level of the living space above and maintaining a warm dry area in the crawl space.
A basement foundation is built the same as a crawlspace. Excavated to about 8 feet below the ground, it features a concrete floor (essentially a slab) and concrete or masonry block perimeter walls with as-needed support posts. The first-floor frame is built slightly above finished grade, creating a platform for the rest of the house.
Accessible from the rest of the house above, so-called "full" basements create at least an 8-foot clearance between the slab and the floor frame above. This full-height area can therefore be finished as living space, storage, utility (such as the heating and cooling equipment and laundry), as well as mechanical and duct runs. Finishing a basement into living space is a common remodelling project, utilizing a wealth of space that's already built, which helps lower costs.
Most full basements are "daylight" types, with deep window wells along the perimeter that allow natural light and emergency egress. "Walk-out" types, meanwhile, take advantage of a slope on one side of the basement to create more conventional outside access to the basement. Some basements are not put deep into the ground to allow a lot of natural light access to the living space below.
Regardless of the type, a foundation is literally the basis of a home's strength and performance, from energy efficiency to withstanding high winds. A well-engineered and well-built basement allows the owners to add space above while maintaining structural integrity, or providing a cost-effective option to add living space.
While a foundation may not be very visible or sexy, a strong foundation is arguably the best way to maintain housing value and protect your investment.
This is an exert from a newsletter that is distributed to all former, current and future clients of Village Builders Inc. It is written by the President Doug Abbott. If you would like to receive this newsletter feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Village Builders Inc.