If you don’t want a concrete slab foundation, you might be considering a Pier and Beam foundation.
What is a Pier and Beam Foundation? Pier and beam foundations incorporate a crawl space (usually at least 18 inches) beneath the home and footings filled with concrete or cinder blocks to support the slab. This type of foundation is not considered a time saver, but it is safer and more convenient. An advantage of the crawl space, it allows access to heating and plumbing utilities without having to break through the concrete slab. The piers mean foundations are less susceptible to damage due to ground shifting. If extreme ground shifting does occur, the foundation is easily adjusted, a process that is much less expensive than slab foundation repairs.
Unlike a slab foundation with concrete floors, a pier and beam structure has wood floors, and a wood sub-structure. The disadvantage of this is that the wood is susceptible to rot after prolonged contact with water or soil, and also to deterioration from termites and other critters. Drainage problems are more severe in pier and beam structures. Make sure you divert water from flowing under the home. You can also add a skirting around the structure to keep those critters out. As for insects, call a pest company for assistance.
The spaced piers are always a main concern with pier and beam foundations. The standard spacing of piers is about 6 feet apart. This rule will usually prevent sagging of the wood structure above. Make sure you have a qualified contractor putting in those piers properly to omit some of those issues. Inadequate pier design is quite common under pier and beam homes where an inexperienced contractor has tried to install a makeshift support.
Some of the things you might see are wooden legs, bricks, pipes, which are not the normal way to construct this foundation. Concrete post or cinder blocks are the route to take.
Make sure you design the crawl space to be a minimum of 18”-24” under the floor joist. Usually the largest expense in repairing a pier and beam structure is when there is little or no crawlspace. Sufficient crawl space allows air to flow freely under the structure, keeping it dry. Having a reasonable crawl space allows inspectors, plumbers, engineers, telephone repairmen, air conditioning installers, electricians, and others easy access.
If you do have Pier and Beam, you might keep an eye on the Piers. If you have cinder blocks and you notice them angling, that is a sure sign that you need to get someone out. Or if you start seeing a corner of your homesinking, call a foundation to come out and level your home. As for the pipes under your home, make sure they are insulated for the cold winters.
Having a Pier and Beam house is not for everyone. But if you have a home or are going to build a home with this type of foundation, use qualified people to do the work or inspect it.
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