What is Pier and Beam Foundation

Pier and Beam Foundation

There are a few things to consider when you decide to build a home from the ground up. It’s a project that can bring excitement throughout the process.

However, extensive research is required to make sure everything goes smoothly and the property is built stable.

The first decision you will make is choosing the type of foundation to use beneath the home. The type of foundation you choose will greatly affect the condition of your home in the long run.

As the base of the home, it’s important that you know the different kinds of foundations available and which one will be best to hold up your property. There are lots of other factors that need to be considered as well.

Although your taste may vary, one of the most recommended kinds is a pier and beam foundation.

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What Is a Pier and Beam Foundation?

A pier and beam foundation involves the use of wood posts or concrete piers that are set deep into the ground to carry the weight of the home.

This type of foundation consists of three different components:

  1. Footing – the anchors of the foundation installed below the maximum frost depth
  2. Pier – posts that are installed on each footing
  3. Beam – laid across the tops of the piers, which will then be leveled and secured

One of the reasons most builders choose this type of foundation is because it costs less and is easy to build. Although, keep in mind that this foundation is best used for smaller properties.

This foundation also doesn’t sit directly on the ground. Instead, a pier and beam foundation is elevated about 18 inches above the ground.

The crawlspace that you get from this is where different utility units are installed such as plumbing and electricity. Having this crawlspace allows workers and repairmen easier access to utility connections, which is important.

This type of foundation has been used mostly for homes that were built before the advancement of concrete pouring technology.

Most builders preferred this type of foundation for homes because it was deemed sturdier and more convenient than other types.

Is a Pier and Beam Foundation Good?

Most homes used pier and beam foundations before slab technology was refined, but this doesn’t make it any less of a good choice.

An advantage you can get from having a pier and beam foundation is protection from floods and moisture, which can greatly affect the condition of the property. Being up in the air rather than sitting on the ground makes it ideal for areas that are prone to flooding or experience a lot of rainfall.

There is a crawlspace located underneath the home but above the ground, which allows room for utilities like plumbing units and electrical wirings. Because the space is enough to crawl through, installation and repairs are done easier and quicker.

In connection to this, compared to slab foundations, a repairman isn’t required to break open the concrete to get access to damaged pipes or wires.

Although a pier and beam foundation is not resistant to breakage, the chances that they would need to break the floor to make a repair is less likely. This would reduce costs for both repairing the damaged floor as well as the utilities.

The home would also have more insulation from beneath, which can save energy costs. This is why some builders prefer using wooden floors. Admittedly, this can attract termites, but the crawlspace makes them easy to detect and exterminate.

Like others, a pier and beam foundation has its own cons. One of those is that a pier and beam foundation would be a risky choice for areas that are prone to earthquakes and strong winds.

What Are the Types of Pier and Beam Foundations?

Pier and beam foundations are constructed from putting a pier and beam together.

Usually, there are two types of pier foundations:

Concrete Pier

Masonry or concrete piers often depend on the level of layers. When there is a stratum of up to 5m with good bearing, concrete piers are used to support it.

To determine the size and shape of the piers, other factors are taken into consideration such as the soil and depth.

Concrete block masonry foundation is used because they are cost-effective and would not be visible despite being unappealing to most people.

In some cases, they are reinforced with steel bars to increase the maximum load-carrying capacity of the foundation, therefore allowing it to support more weight and lateral loads.

Drilled Caisson

This is commonly called the cylindrical foundation, which is constructed by drilling a hole in the ground that gets filled with concrete.

The advantage of a drilled pier is its higher resistance to lateral loads. It is also lighter compared to pile driving and often makes no noise during construction.

The base of a drilled pier also provides greater bearing capacity, which means it can have greater resistance to uplifting.

A drilled caisson pier can be constructed in three different ways: a concrete caisson with an enlarged bottom, a caisson made of concrete-filled steel pipe, or a concrete caisson made with steel pipe filled with steel core.

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How Deep Are Pier and Beam Foundations Usually?

Usually, a pier and beam foundation comes with pedestals or piers that are buried in the ground about five to six feet with wood beams that support the floor joists.

They are positioned about 18 to 24 inches above the ground. This would make the property they’re supporting much taller than it actually is.

The space that is created underneath the homes is where utilities can be placed (e.g., plumbing pipes, electrical wirings, etc.).

Unlike other homes, properties made on a pier and beam foundation don’t have basements. They have a crawlspace instead, which can be accessed from the exterior of the home. The space is big enough for people to go through easily and gain access to whatever connection they need to work on, therefore making it easy for repairs to be made.

The space, being inches big, can attract pests such as rodents and termites, which can be a problem. However, the advantage of having enough space to crawl through is that the extermination of these pests can be done with ease as long as their location is detected.

Moisture can also gather underneath the home because of the given space. This causes the property to weaken and potentially damage over time, which is a big disadvantage.

Regardless, a pier and beam foundation isn’t deep enough that it makes it hard to access. Therefore, problems that occur can be quickly solved whether it’s a replacement, repair, or installation.

What Would a Pier and Beam Foundation Repair Cost?

Repairing a pier and beam foundation would generally cost somewhere between $4,000 and $6,500. Depending on your home’s square footage or the company in charge of the repairs, it can go as low as $1,000 to $3,500.

When a pier and beam foundation is repaired, this usually involves working beneath the home where the crawlspace is.

Typically, the whole thing isn’t torn apart. They replace rotten wood pieces that are fragile or need to be replaced urgently.

One thing that greatly affects the cost of the repair is the condition of the joists and beams. This is because they would need to be changed to prevent the home from collapsing or getting any further damage. It’s possible that the home will need new piers installed as well.

While these may incur other costs, the final price isn’t impossible to afford. In fact, compared to other foundation repairs, this is considered cheap.

They are also made to last longer periods of time, which means you wouldn’t need to have this done again unless something urgent comes up.

Repairs made on pier and beam foundations are also easier to do because of the crawlspace available.

Which Is Better: Pier and Beam Foundation vs. Slab Foundation?

The two most common types are the pier and beam foundation and the slab foundation.

The advantage of choosing a pier and beam foundation is that it is made to be stable and cost less in general, whether it’s installation or repairs. It also makes more room for easier access to utilities, which can also lower any repair costs.

They are also great for areas prone to flooding because the home stays above the ground. This means there are fewer chances that the home would be affected by the flood.

However, they are likely to deteriorate over time. Another con is the increase of the chances rodents and termites may reside underneath the home. What makes this less of a problem is that there is a crawlspace, which makes it easier to detect where the pests are and treat the issue.

On the other hand, slab foundations are very common in recent times. This is mostly used in planned communities because they are a quick and cheap construction.

Unlike the pier and beam, these rest directly on the ground, which makes it easier to build on homes that will be placed on level surfaces.

These are also recommended for areas with a lot of moisture because it cannot collect below the home, which is likely to occur with the pier and beam foundation due to the space underneath.

Although, there are a few major issues with using a slab foundation especially in the wrong areas. If soil is prone to shifting or ground moisture undergoes swings, the foundation may crack, shrink, or sink.

It’s important to know where it would be best to use a slab foundation because it takes a lot of money and time to repair. This is also something inevitable if you experience problems with your utilities since the removal of the floor may be required to get proper access to the damaged area.

While both foundation types are good, they have their own pros and cons.

If you’re not too conscious about the smaller issues that come with the pier and beam, then it might be a better choice unless you are located in an area where it won’t sit best.

In the end, it all ties down to what works best in the area you’re located in and your preference when it comes to certain aspects.

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