Buildings are only as strong as their foundations. A building’s foundation plays a crucial role in its durability, but if they are not built properly, the building’s durability and resilience can suffer.
You cannot build a house without a foundation because it holds the entire house and carries the weight. Naturally, the structure will only last for a short while without a solid foundation underneath.
In large cities, where high-rise buildings are getting higher and higher, it has become increasingly important to build strong foundations. In this article, you’ll learn more about the functions and importance of a strong building foundation.
House Foundation – A General Overview
Building foundations are placed between the building and the ground, so they are the lowest point on the building.
All foundations are designed to support and maintain the structure above them. In addition, your home’s foundation must be laid correctly from the beginning to prevent any tragedies from happening after the construction process.
Improperly constructed structures are dangerous to their occupants and the surrounding neighbourhood.
Because concrete is versatile, it is commonly used as a foundation material. During the foundation construction, a wooden frame is filled with concrete, creating a ‘slab’ of concrete. After the concrete is set, the wooden frame will be removed.
Concrete isn’t the only material used for foundations; their production can vary. After all, different types of foundations may be required depending on where the building is located and its purpose.
Types of House Foundations
Generally speaking, foundations fall into two categories, each of which can be further divided into subcategories:
- Shallow foundation
- Deep foundation
Foundation depth is measured by the depth of the soil where it is placed.
Generally, when a foundation’s width is greater than its depth, it is called a “Shallow Foundation.” Conversely, when the width is less than the depth, the foundation is considered a “Deep Foundation.”
Below is a description of each type of foundation’s main characteristics and subcategories.
Buildings must have deep foundations when constructed on soft soils, such as sand. In such cases, a solid foundation must be built deep underground below the surface of the earth, close to the strongest layers of the earth.
A tall industrial or residential building, or buildings built on weak soil, often need deep foundations, transferring the load from the weaker ground to the more solid ground or rock below. Here are some of the more famous subcategories of deep foundations.
Pile foundations: Pile foundations are deep foundations that transfer the structure’s weight to a hard rock layer that lies deep underground.
Pier foundation: Piers are underground structures that support a greater load, not supported by shallow foundations. Piles are usually deeper than piles.
Caisson foundation: Caissons are watertight retaining structures used in bridge construction, dam construction, and so on. Generally, it is used for structures that have to be built beneath rivers or similar bodies of water.
It is common for shallow foundations to be found near the earth’s surface, meaning the foundation depth (Df) does not exceed the width under the footing and is less than 3m. The types of shallow foundations (also known as spread footings) consist of pads (called isolated footings), strip footings, and rafts.
It should be noted that shallow foundations are more economical than deep foundations. They are the most popular because they do not require a lot of digging or boring into the ground. Some of the common subcategories of shallow foundations are as follows.
Isolated footing: The footing beneath an individual column is isolated from the rest of the structure. Depending on the design, it can be steeped or have concrete bases with projections.
Strip foundation: A strip foundation supports weight-bearing walls, including footings for porches, greenhouses, and building foundations.
Raft foundation: These foundations cover the entire building area to carry the entire weight of the building’s walls and columns.
Building Foundation Functions
A sound and sturdy foundation ensures the building’s stability no matter what nature throws at it. A well-constructed structure will ensure the safety of its residents in case of earthquakes, storms, high winds, and so on.
If your building is situated in a flood-prone area, this could be disastrous for the stability of the structure. However, an establishment with a solid foundation can remain intact even if water seeps into its structural elements.
As soon as the water subsides, it will assist in maintaining the building’s structural integrity.
Engineers and construction experts agree that the foundation should also resist dead loads and live loads.
Dead Loads & Live Loads Explained
Structural load refers to actions or forces that cause pressure on a structure, causing deformations, tensions, and movements. There are usually two types of loads: dead loads and live loads.
A dead load, also referred to as a static or permanent load, is one that is largely constant for long periods. For example, structural components of a building, including beams, partitions, roofs, and floor structures, are all dead loads.
Dynamic forces resulting from occupancy and intended use are called live loads. In short, they are the temporary forces that can move through a building and affect its structural elements.
The anticipated weight of these loads includes people, household goods, electronics, vehicles, and portable equipment, among others.
A structure must also be designed to withstand other dynamic loads subsequently acting on it to meet the requirements.
Several environmental loads, including snow, soil movement, and seismic activity, can contribute to these loads. Snow, especially in a cold climate, adds to the live load.
To bear these loads, the foundation must be continuous, connected by four footings in the ground. In addition, they must be sturdy enough to distribute the weight evenly to the ground without causing damage.
Now that you know what loads are and how they affect a building’s structure, it’s time to learn more about the importance of laying a solid foundation with the right building foundation materials and a qualified foundation inspection structural engineer on board.
Some of the most significant reasons why building foundations are so important are as follows.
The Importance of A Strong Building Foundation
Whenever a construction project is underway, contractors must lay out a strong foundation before beginning any work. A building’s durability and resilience will be determined by this part.
You will find the foundation in the ground beneath your home. A house’s foundation serves primarily as weight support. If it weren’t there, your house would sink into the ground, leading to cracks and damage.
However, a proper foundation does more than support a house. Building foundations prevent moisture from entering, provide insulation, and keep the earth from moving around them.
Holding The Building
The primary purpose of a foundation is to support the entire structure. As a result, it needs to be properly shaped and reliable so that the rest of the house can remain upright.
By not investing adequately at this stage, you may have to deal with costly repairs and modifications later in the process, a situation which you could have avoided earlier.
Storm & Hurricane Damage
People don’t consider how weather and natural disasters can affect their homes when they build them. A mistake like this could have serious consequences.
The foundation of a home should be built properly to keep it even and supported, regardless of floods or other natural disasters. Therefore, the foundation also functions as a stabilizer to minimize lateral movement ( motion from side to side).
Among them are storms, downpours, tailwinds, and other adverse weather conditions that can damage a building in various ways. When you build a foundation that can handle these events, your home will be protected the next time one occurs.
Keeping Moisture Out
When water is on the ground and houses are made from wood, rot in ground-contact posts becomes a problem.
Moisture is a significant factor affecting a home’s structure. Water will inevitably accumulate around the house as the rains pour down. This causes your foundation to expand, shift, and transfer pressure, severely damaging it.
So, it is not only essential that the foundation wall, slab, and footing are solid, but the drainage must also be good.
Offering Insulating Properties
In addition to offering insulating properties, the foundation is the most important part of your home, providing warmth regardless of the cold Canadian winters. A properly insulated basement can save money on your heating bills.
It goes without saying that adding insulation to your current foundation can reduce heat loss on the exterior or interior.
Risks of Poorly Constructed House Foundation
The foundation of a building plays a significant role in adding strength to the structure and minimizing damage risks. However, what happens if the building foundation materials aren’t satisfactory, or there is no foundation inspection structural engineer present during construction?
Over time, a building’s foundation may become damaged, making the building unsafe to occupy. It is possible, for instance, for the ground beam to become damaged, rendering the foundations unstable.
If you pay attention, you will see cracks along the house’s exterior, roofline separations, and diagonal cracks through the brick mortar.
As a result of clay or organic matter present in the soil, the soil holds water like a sponge, making it more likely to crack during freezing and expansion. Additionally, if the slab is poured over the crushed stone that hasn’t been firmly compacted, it may settle or crack.
A house may sink slowly into its foundation over time. The process is known as “settling,” causing severe damage to your home. A certain degree of settling is generally expected, but failing to recognize the risk of settlement can result in lasting damage to your home.
Your home’s foundation will be built with this knowledge in mind, helping offset the effects of settling.
The good news is that you can take several steps to repair a damaged foundation, such as hiring an expert structural team from Roar Engineering to inspect, manage, and oversee the building of your house foundation.
Foundation Inspection Structural Engineers Can Help
It takes more than putting a hole in the ground and dumping concrete into forms to make well-built foundations. As with a custom suit, it must be tailored to the site, accounting for soil conditions, water tables, and even the backfill quality.
A good foundation usually involves a poured concrete footing and foundation walls reinforced by steel. It keeps ground moisture out, insulates against the external temperature, and resists movement.
A foundation inspection and repair are often neglected, resulting in costly repairs down the road. You need to find someone qualified to inspect your home for any early warning signs, such as water damage, termite infestations, shoddy workmanship, and damage to the structure.
A structural engineer works closely with a client to understand the project’s objectives, providing a cost-effective, safe, and feasible solution. Additionally, engineers are consulted if a structure suffers damage from fire, corrosion, deterioration, earthquake, impact, or wear, causing public safety to be compromised.
With experts like Michael Ropret, P.Eng, on board, Roar Engineering’s Structural Team is proud to have a track record for delivering high-quality projects and collaborating with developers, builders, designers, architects, and owners to ensure a solid foundation.
Recommended Reading: Structural Engineering Basics & Benefits of Hiring Structural Engineers.
The foundation of a house is forever, so it makes sense to pay careful attention to the details that ensure it remains dry and crack-free.
You can measure the integrity of a building by the effort, time, and resources you devote to it. Building construction should not only be focused on its design but also on the structure and foundation to keep it safe and secure.
Without the proper foundation, your house won’t last long. You should be aware that even a small crack or a sign of separation could indicate larger problems that could threaten your home’s safety.
When it comes to fixing or building a foundation for a home or business structure, always seek the services of an experienced engineering firm such as Roar Engineering. As a result of our 50-plus years of experience and knowledge, we assure quality and will always meet safety and durability standards.
Do concrete foundations last forever?
Well, no. Concrete foundations can last more than 150 years if the contractor does their job properly. The quality of materials used in the construction of a home, along with the quality of the finish, will naturally translate into the durability of the house over its lifetime.
A concrete slab foundation is more common in places with warm climates where the ground does not freeze and crack the foundation. Buying or building a house on a slab can have many benefits, including cost savings and less risk of damage.
How much does it cost to fix the foundation of a house?
On average, foundation repair costs around $4,714 per home. Hydraulic piers can cost $10,000 or more, but some superficial cracks can be repaired for $500. Fixing foundation issues can cost homeowners between $2,010 and $7,717.
What does a structural engineer do when buying a house?
Assisting homebuilders in the design and construction of solid and safe residences is the responsibility of structural engineers.
During the inspection, an inspector will examine the home’s foundation, infrastructure, exterior walls, insulation, and building envelope. In addition to checking the integrity of walls, beams, joists, roofing, and foundations, they may examine the strength of load-bearing walls.
Do I really need a structural engineer?
Yes, you do. A structural engineer also ensures that old buildings do not collapse in addition to newly constructed buildings. You should consult a professional engineer for any project involving new construction or damage to an existing building.
Essentially, structural engineers are required for any project that changes the structure of a building or requires building control approval.