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What is a Pier and Beam Foundation and Are They Good?

Pier and beam foundation is a type of foundation style that is made with a reinforced concrete pier and steel (rebar). This type of foundation is an improved alternative to slab foundations, and it allows provision for functional underground spaces such as a basement. This type of foundation is popularly preferred in shifting soil areas and typically has a crawl space beneath the structure. A popular company that provides pier and beam foundation repair in San Antonio (Total Foundation Repair San Antonio) recommends this foundation type for temperate climate conditions.


How is a pier and beam foundation constructed?

In a pier and beam foundation, the piers are fixed atop the reinforced concrete slab. There is typically a cylindrical column of large diameter, which acts as a support. Pier foundation is usually a preferable choice where the top strata of soil is decomposed rock.

Pier foundations take more time to construct and are typically more expensive than other types of foundation, such as slab foundation. They are however suitable where the limitations of a slab foundation acts as a hindrance, and are quite similar to what is popularly seen in wood decks.

This type of foundation appears in contrast to the slab foundation type. Thus, it has the advantages which are the downsides of a slab foundation. There is easier access to fixtures beneath the foundation such as plumbing, heating and electricity. Thus, repairs and maintenance are easier to carry out.


Advantages of a pier and beam foundation

With a pier and beam foundation, a building can have a deeper foundation which offers more stability, since it does not rest directly on the grade. There is a better chance against the hazards of things such as tree roots and frozen ground. This is a good foundation type, considering that it prevents direct contact with surface water, and allows for air circulation.

A pier and beam foundation has a type of anchor, known as footings. These are supported by the reinforced concrete, installed beneath the frost depths in the ground. They are beneficial when there is a need to elevate the structure off from the ground for any specified reason(s).   


Things to consider before choosing a pier foundation

Before opting for this type of a foundation, the engineers must be well-skilled in setting of footers and piers. A pier and beam foundation is actually really good for most buildings, but it requires that critical considerations. You need to know the criteria to consider when choosing a suitable foundation type.

Some of these criteria include;

  • The potential weight of the building
  • The soil type in the area
  • The crawlspace available, as well as the amount of crawlspace required, etc.

Also, you must be able to afford the cost of constructing a pier and beam foundation before starting at all. One other factor to consider is the insulation required in a pier and beam foundation.

In most cases, the floors of this kind of foundation must be heavily insulated. This is done in order to protect it from natural hazards as well as pests. However, the extra insulation from the air under the structure serves to lessen the energy costs eventually.


Proper installation and construction is essential

The piers must also be efficiently installed, because a damage to any single pier can lead to serious damage within the whole foundation. This requires the use of quality building materials. The design must consider proper spacing in between the beams and the piers.

In a condition in which the building needs to be built on a slope, a pier foundation can be really effective to use. Although they aren’t very much in use today anymore, they are still preferable in different locations where the landscape and weather require them to be used.


Cons of the pier and beam foundation type

Seeing all the benefits of this type of foundation, one major thing that still discourages many people from opting for it is due to the cost. Especially when the structure to be constructed is quite large and heavy, the pier foundation can be a really expensive choice, compared to the slab foundation.

Also, another fear is that over time, the foundation might result in sagging or creaky floors, which most people generally feel unsafe with.

Also, due to the crawlspace beneath the structure, moisture can continuously seep underneath and moisture can accumulate. It also serves as a ready space for burrowing pests and rodents which can get really hard to totally get rid of.

In conclusion, you should consider if the many advantages outweigh the considerable disadvantages in your specific case. One final consideration in favor of the pier and beam foundation is that, despite the potential dangers, it is usually easier to detect damages early and attend to them before they become too critical or irreparable.

For further information on the pier and beam foundation, or in case you need some foundation maintenance, click on any of these links provided:

Foundation Repair

Pier and Beam Foundation

Benefits of Pier Foundation