Foundations

Foundations, Footers, and Slabs

Conventional foundations, footers, and slabs use a lot of concrete, which is energy-intensive and polluting to produce—up to a ton of CO2 is released in producing a ton of cement. Admixture components such as calcium chloride (an accelerator), gypsum (a retarder), and sulfonated melamine formaldehyde (SMF, a plasticizer) also affect the environmental impact of the concrete. Depending on the chemical, the impact may be on-site or at the plant. Also, concrete foundations and slabs do not provide much by way of thermal insulation, though they can provide thermal storage.

Preferred techniques and materials

Several factors come into play when builders strive for a green approach to foundation, footer, and slab installations.

Foundations, footers, and slabs should always be detailed to reduce thermal bridging as much as possible.

Forming can account for a significant portion of the total cost of poured concrete. Essentially, things get built twice: once in forms and again in concrete. Plywood has been the mainstay of concrete-forming companies for many years, though some companies have invested in reusable, durable forms—a more resource-efficient solution that is still relatively labor-intensive. Reusable forms also require form-release agents, most of which are petrochemical-based and off-gas large amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Vegetable-based form-release oils are available.

Alternatives

A correctly designed and properly installed foundation holds the weight of the house in place while insulating against the cold, keeping out moisture and resisting the movement of the surrounding earth. There are three basic types: a concrete slab on grade (least expensive); a crawl space foundation with short walls supporting the house; or a full basement foundation (most expensive) with 8′-10′ walls. Which type is best for a specific location depends on soil and groundwater conditions.

Spartan Preferred Methods – Pier and Beams for Buildings in Clay Soil Conditions

Steel Piers 

Steel piers, also known as anchors, piles or screwpiles, are deep foundation solutions used to secure new or repair existing foundations. Due to their design and ease to install, they are most commonly used whenever soil conditions prevent standard foundation solutions. Instead of requiring large excavation work, they thread into the ground. This minimizes installation time, requires little soil disturbance, and most importantly transfers the weight of the structure to load bearing soil.

Steel Piers have numerous residential and commercial applications. They can be used whenever the job specifies caissons, driven piles or mini piles. When foundations are exposed to moisture over a long period of time or construction is cited on unstable soil, structural and foundation damage rears its head.

In Texas where soils have large amounts of clay, foundations of your property are exposed to high heating contraction of clays in summer heat, and during rainy wet seasons, clays expand when soils are flooded.  And to ensure the building doesn’t lose value, using a properly stabilized foundation id key. Telltale signs of clay soils today in Texas include:

  • Windows and doors are sticking, hard to open
  • There are large gaps in window and door frames
  • Interior plaster walls are cracking
  • Multiple nail pops are appearing in ceilings and walls
  • Walls are beginning to lean noticeably
  • Floors are starting to settle and become uneven
  • Chimneys are tilting or leaning
  • Cracks can be seen in foundations walls