Home Building Grounded
Home building grounded! What does “home building grounded” mean? Biblically, we are instructed to build on a solid foundation, and that is where our home venture should, and must, start. Without a solid foundation we cannot expect the home to long stand.
After we have carefully selected the site for the home, in accordance with the above preface, construction preparation can begin. This preparation includes careful examination of the soil content, amount of soil that must be removed for placement, external drainage requirements, etc. Consideration must also be given to clearances needed. If there is no basement, crawl space access for treatment against termites and other pests, ductwork, drainage requirements, utilities (plumbing and electrical), decay issues, safe-rooms, and any other unnamed requirements must be considered. For on-slab construction, correction of miscalculation of requirements is very hard to apply. Layout dimensions become more critical. Once these considerations are finalized, site preparation can begin. As prefaced above, this step, and the foundation that is dependent on it, are the most important steps in the home construction. An inadequate foundation means future trouble with the structural integrity of the home, and possibly very costly problems to correct.
The first step in site preparation is selection of the points of structure placement and orientations. The location is then staked out by a surveyor (preferred), builder, or other qualified entity. The topsoil is then removed from the intended structure location and moved to a storage location until it is needed for re-spreading during the finish grading. Then the excavation of the site for the footings and foundation walls is made to a depth in accordance with local building code. The Minimum Property Standards by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (MPS) provide some guidance for foundation excavation. The MPS requires that excavations for footings and foundation walls extend at least 6 inches into natural, undisturbed soil. This requirement is to provide adequate bearing except where bearing is on a stable rock formation and below the prevailing frost line. Extension below the frost line is important to prevention of heaving and damage to the footings, foundation and supported structure. The trenches are then dug for the footings and service pipes, drains, dry wells, sump pumps, septic tank, etc.
Inadequate Footing and Foundation Issues
Settlement of Structure
Settlement of structures, such as houses, is a natural occurrence which happens over time. It is due to time and weather. Over time the footings and foundation walls will sink further into the ground although designed with the intent to support the structure without settlement or shifting. This may be caused by improper soil preparation or extreme weather. Probably, the highest contributor to settlement is expansion and contraction of soil as it gains and eliminates moisture. Clays are especially susceptible. The footings are generally made of concrete poured over steel, wherein the steel holds the concrete together. However, the concrete will crack and, if the crack is large enough, this can contribute to settlement and resultant problems in the supported structure. Visible cracks in the footer and foundation can be the cause of problems, but further, critical examination may be necessary to distinguish a faulty footer or foundation wall from naturally occurring settlement.
Signs of Faulty Footer or Foundation
Wall Cracks: An irregular crack extending out at a 45 degree angle is usually a sure sign that the foundation is seriously shifting.
Sticking Doors or Windows: This happens when the door frames or window frames twist due to shifting of the foundation. It could also be caused by natural settlement or by moisture problems from some other source. However, the moisture problem will probably not cause consistent sticking.
Ceiling and Roof Level Damage: Check the ceilings for cracked covering, seams, and popped nails. Look for cracks at the corners and above window and door frames. In a brick home look for stair-stepping cracks in the brick veneer.
Floor and Foundation Level Damage: Visible damage may be evident in the foundation. Look for horizontal or stair-stepping cracks in the foundation. The footers and foundation walls can be subjected to very strong hydrostatic pressures due to water buildup behind the foundation walls or in the supporting and adjacent soil.
Un-level Floors: Floors that slope, if not by design intent, may indicate a damaged foundation, or it may be due to natural settlement. It may also be by design for a special use.
Separation of Structural Components: A porch or add-on structure that is separating from the structure, leaning chimney, bulging walls, or leaning walls, may indicate natural settling or damaged foundation. The chimney probably has its’ own independent foundation. The separating structure may have its’ own issues. Walls, from corner to corner and top to bottom should be essentially straight, both interior and exterior.