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Is Slab Construction Recommended in Colder Climates?

When constructing a foundation, several factors need to be considered such as weather conditions and temperature variations.

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Several factors determine which type of foundation will be used when a new home is being built. A contractor, homebuilder, and homeowner will make a decision together considering the location of the home, the quality of the soil, budget, and weather conditions such as rainfall and temperature variations. A suitable foundation needs to be strong enough to be able to support the walls, floors, and roof. While these elements can all be replaced with time as a part of keeping a home up to date, replacing the whole foundation is a project no homeowner wants to embrace. That is why the foundation needs to be constructed to last. 

To be durable, a foundation needs to be suited to the soil conditions and climate where the home will be built. If you wish to build a concrete slab in Virginia Beach, VA, you might be wondering whether this type of construction works better with colder climates or if it is preferred in warmer locations. Here is everything you need to know about the most common types of foundations and the ways in which climate may impact them. 

constructing foundation

Slab Foundation

Before the concrete slab is built, the soil needs to be graded to create a level surface. After the perimeter footings are dug, concrete is poured on the soil over the footings and framework. Slab foundations can be quickly built and do not require a lot of excavation. While water and drainage pipes can be installed into the foundation, this may cause problems if the pipes start to leak. The concrete slab is a good foundation style to prevent termite infestation in damp climates. Unfortunately, slab foundations are usually built in warmer parts of the country where the ground doesn’t freeze. Because the freezing and thawing process causes shifts in the ground, it can impact the stability of the foundation, which is why concrete slab is less suitable for cold climates.  

In the parts of the country where the ground freezes during winter, footings usually need to be dug below the frost line, so that the foundation stays protected against frost heave. However, since the 1990s a type of foundation called the frost-protected shallow foundation (FPSF) has gained acceptance. With FPSF, there is no need to excavate below the frost line. This type of foundation is made of a standard concrete slab with thicker edges covered in rigid-foam expanded polystyrene or extruded polystyrene insulation. With this extra layer of insulation, the heat loss is directed toward the foundation, where it helps prevent the ground beneath from freezing and heaving. 

Basement Foundation 

Although basements are built all over the country, they can be mostly found in the northern parts. They are great for colder climates because they provide additional protection from the elements and needed space for heating equipment. In addition, the footings are installed deep in the ground below the frost line. The reason why most homeowners prefer this type of foundation is the possibility to transform it into additional living space.  

Having a basement adds value to the home, but it is more expensive to build than other types of foundation. Constructing a basement foundation for a typical house can cost up to $30,000. Most money is spent on excavation and grading, while tree removal and soil preparation can add to the costs. Basements made from cinder blocks are cheaper than those made of poured concrete but are less durable. The cost of finishing a basement greatly depends on the kind of waterproofing measures the homeowners opt for. Things such as insulation, sealers, and installation of drainage systems and sump pump systems can impact the total cost of a basement. 

Basements made of poured concrete have a life expectancy of as much as 200 years while those made of concrete blocks could last a century. While waterproofing and sealing coatings can last a decade, termite proofing applications usually last for about five years. The humidity of the climate affects the life expectancy of these elements. Homeowners who have basements should regularly check up on them to see if everything is in order. Damage such as cracks can be easily repaired while they are still small, so it is better to be preventive about this. 

Crawl Space Foundation 

They are usually one to three feet tall, so they cannot be used for storage or turned into a living space like basements. However, they are suitable for any climate and terrain, which makes them popular amongst homeowners.  

Constructing a crawl space requires limited excavation. Foundation walls stand on concrete footings and are made from poured concrete, mortared concrete, or treated wood. Other elements of the foundation are perimeter foundation walls with a girder system and floor joists. In most cases, crawl spaces are used for storing electrical and plumbing elements of the house. Sometimes heating and cooling appliances are placed down there. 

Constructing a crawl space is more affordable than building a basement since it requires less excavation and fewer materials. Unfortunately, crawl spaces are prone to moisture problems that cause rot and mold growth. Homeowners who have this type of foundation need to invest in waterproofing measures such as encapsulation, insulation, and a dehumidifier to keep their crawl space dry and clean. 

Depending on the size of the home, constructing a crawl space can cost from $8,000 to $21,000. Insulation, encapsulation, and the installation of the dehumidifier are all factors that increase the price of a foundation.  

If you wish to repair your concrete slab, waterproof your basement or encapsulate your crawl space, contact the experienced team at JES Foundation Repair today to schedule a free inspection and repair quote

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