How To Control Foundation Costs

By Kenny Grono

They saved money by installing a slab foundation.

In the previous post I discussed how to use smart planning to save costs before you start building by considering the site you build on. Once you've picked the site and chosen a house that is suited to that site, it's time to begin construction.

The foundation is the first part of the home to be built. By thinking about your needs and the particulars of your site you can keep from spending unnecessarily on one of the critical but less than glamorous parts of your home.

These days most foundations are constructed from poured concrete or concrete block. The houses that sit on top of them can vary greatly in style, but the foundations will look very similar from house to house. The purpose of the foundation is to provide a stable base so that the house does not shift or settle over time. To perform this function, the concrete must be buried underground below the point underground that freezes in the winter. Freezing earth can cause foundations to move. In most of the country, this point is three feet or less underground. So to have a stable and structurally sound foundation, you often don't need to dig down very far. Check with local professionals and building inspectors to find out the code in your area.

So what does that have to do with saving money? Well, excavating dirt is expensive, so your thinking on what goes on under your home should center on how much dirt you need to remove from the site. The options stated simply are slab-on-grade, crawl space, full basement, or some combination of the three. The amount of earth excavated is least for slabs, up to most for full basements. A basement offers additional storage and a place to house the mechanicals, but it is not a must have. Think about your storage needs and consider stepping the foundation up from a full basement in one part of the house to a slab elsewhere.

No matter what type of foundation you select, think about how water will be managed. Once you go underground, dealing with water is inevitable, and if you want to keep termites and mold away you need to keep the water away from your foundation. Consult your builder about the best way to do this in your region and on your site, but common practices are waterproofing the exterior of the foundation and installing drainage at the level of the footer.   Though it will cost you more up front, insulating your foundation is a good way to save money over the long term. Rigid foam insulation is used to keep heat from being lost through the concrete.  

September 28, 2013