Best Foundation Installation Methods by Material

When choosing the foundation for your new home, it’s both exciting and challenging to find the perfect fit. Although there are several types of foundations to choose from, the selection of method and material is just as important.

This is the point at which the location of the land and budget are important factors in your decision. Do you prefer monolithic poured concrete slab, less expensive, or do you prefer the quick production and assembly of precast concrete panels? Is your land easily accessible for a concrete mixer and truck, or is your remote terrain more suitable for treated wood? These questions are important before construction begins.

Be sure to consult your builder for advice and experience with certain foundation installation methods. If you’ve already done your research or are just getting started, I’ve put together a short list of foundation methods for you to consider.

Poured Concrete

Concrete, which happens to be the oldest man-made material on Earth, is a mixture of cement, sand, gravel, crushed rock, various aggregates and the key ingredient: water. The proportions of these elements determine the durability and strength of the mixture. A continuous pouring of the mixture into wood formwork in situ will act as a single slab to support the weight of your home. Many builders and homeowners prefer this method to masonry or precast concrete panels, since the risk of moisture filtration is lower as it is a consolidated unit.

When poured into a monolithic above-ground slab foundation, concrete is most effective in hot climates and in areas where groundwater prevents basement installation. Poured concrete slabs should not be installed in cold climates or in areas where the soil freezes and thaws frequently in winter, increasing the risk of the slab cracking and breaking.

To protect the slab from possible cracks, it is usually reinforced with recessed steel bars. Concrete has remarkably high compressive strength, but low tensile strength. Translation: it can withstand large loads that transfer the compressed weight on its surface, but it is weaker when exposed to elongation forces that stretch the foundations longitudinally; It’s like when the ground moves underneath and pulls in opposite directions. Steel bars, known as rebar, add additional tensile strength in the rare event that the capacity of the foundation is exceeded. It is crucial that the mixture is adjusted with the right amount of water so that the concrete flows easily around the rebar and ensures a complete and uniform extension.

Poured concrete is a simple and easy option for many different house and foundation styles. The ingredients are easy to come by and can be molded into any shape, so it’s guaranteed to fit your home’s unique design. Its monolithic character and smooth texture offer a fine finish and a pleasant appearance. It is also very resistant to moisture, mold and damage caused by insects.

The impressive ability of concrete to tolerate intense loads thanks to its high compressive strength makes it more economical than other structures, such as steel or wood. However, concrete slabs may not be the best solution for cold environments, even when protected with rebar. Its low tensile strength puts concrete at a disadvantage against possible cracks that can be expensive and difficult to repair.

The cost of concrete can vary, although it is easily one of the least expensive foundation materials. The ingredients selected, the availability of materials and the method of mixing (hand or machine) contribute to its cost. On average, the price of concrete in the United States is about $113 to $126 per cubic yard, or $2.83 to $3.57 per square foot, depending on the thickness of the slab, plus the cost of labor.

Precast Concrete Panels

Precast concrete panels offer the same compressive strength as poured concrete, but are manufactured off-site as mobile units. These panels are created by pouring the mixture into reusable molds and adjusting them to your specifications. Once cured, the molds are removed and the concrete panels are transported to your construction site for installation.

Because they cure in a controlled environment, concrete panels are not at risk of weather delays. It should receive its foundation in the same time (or less!) than if it were poured on site. However, installing precast concrete panels requires machinery, such as a crane, which can be challenging. The cost of labor can also be higher than that of poured concrete.

Concrete is not usually advisable in cold climates, but it can be used effectively in combination with other materials and insulation. When properly cured and installed, precast concrete panels can result in warmer, drier basements and can offer convenient features such as easy access for wiring and plumbing. In addition, the high-strength, low-water mixture used for precast panels is typically denser than medium concrete and offers higher water resistance.

Precast concrete panels are available at a competitive cost compared to other foundation materials. They are most effective when used to build basements with consistent threshold heights, as different wall heights can slow down the construction and installation process and minimize profitability.

Concrete Masonry

The use of concrete blocks or traditional bricks to erect basement walls and frames for dragging spaces is known as concrete masonry. These structures can be reinforced with bars as needed for support. The installation of the blocks is an intricate process that involves the leveling and joining of the pieces.

Concrete masonry units (CMUs) are versatile building products that can be considered an eco-friendly option. They can be reused for many purposes, as they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Often made of cement, aggregates and water, these portable blocks are durable, easy to install, low maintenance and fire resistant.

Although this is a relatively inexpensive option, homeowners run the risk of costly long-term repairs if the structure is not sufficiently waterproofed. Moisture and soil can seep through the cracks, causing mold and pests to appear. A barrier against air and moisture can help seal cracks, but it can lengthen project execution time.

If you choose concrete masonry units to build at least part of the foundation, you can expect about $3 per square foot for concrete blocks and an additional $9 to $12 per square foot for installation, labor, and equipment. You can expect a complete 100-square-foot project to cost between $1,200 and $1,500, depending on its location and location.


Are you ready to buy your own stone fortress? It is a bit difficult to find modern houses with stone basements, but in their day they were very popular.

If you move into a quaint old farmhouse or a newly built historic house (before World War I), you can inherit a stone basement that includes a mixture of stones and cement to form a solid barrier. With the passage of time they tend to crack and chip, so builders have left aside this method that was previously common.

Most builders don’t use this method in modern homes, so if you have a house with a stone basement, it’s probably quite old. As all structures age, problems can arise as the mortar wears out and crumbles due to damage caused by water or tilt. The composition and lack of uniformity of the stones make the situation incredibly difficult to remedy. When the wall begins to crumble, don’t wait; You should try to replace the mortar as soon as you notice areas of degradation.

Unfortunately, as the mortar is replaced, other areas will continue to crumble allowing more moisture to enter. You may consider using certain spray concrete applications to permanently repair stone walls with a steel structure. These new walls will replace the stone and reduce the risk of the walls eventually collapsing.

Stone offers a magnificent aesthetic in many house foundations, but historically lacks the sustainability and structural integrity to last long. However, you may consider adding a stone fa├žade to your foundation to create a unique charm and intrigue in your exterior design.


Pressure-treated wood is an eco-friendly option for new home buyers. It is easy to assemble and quite sustainable. The wood is chemically treated to resist moisture that could lead to damage from mold, fungus or termites.

However, not all treatments are created equal. Be sure to do your research to know everything you need to know about your new home’s wooden foundations, the strength of the treatment, and what exactly repels. If wood is made to be resistant to moisture but not insects, be aware of its surroundings and make sure there are no prominent risks. The key to making wood foundations durable is regular maintenance and recommended treatments.

The treated wood is made to withstand heavy loads and environmental elements such as snow and winds. Although wood is resistant to moisture, it is not recommended to build in highly saturated areas. Treatment can wear out over time, which can lead to costly repairs and replacements if not properly and consistently cared for.

Cabins and shelters in remote locations are likely to have wooden foundations because wood is easy to transport to areas where cement trucks and concrete mixers cannot easily pass. They were once common in northern regions for building basements and raised foundations, but their popularity has declined in recent years.

Unfortunately, wood is quite expensive, and regular maintenance and treatments increase the cost in the long run. However, it can be an effective solution if you are willing to put in the time and effort necessary to keep treating the wood and taking care of its structure as time goes on, which increases longevity and economic benefits.

Choose Your Home’s Foundation Method

When you buy or build a new home, the foundation is key. Set the stage for your next great adventure and set the promise of many years and special memories to come. I hope my research has provided you with some good questions to ask your builder and new options to consider, so you can go out and choose the method of house foundation that is right for you.

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By Catharine Bwana