Pier and Beam Foundations: An Introduction

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For anyone who is engaging in the complex and arduous task of having a structure built from the ground up, there can be no more important decision than the decision of which kind of foundation to use. As the name implies, the foundations are the very things that allow the building to remain standing. A failure here could be catastrophic, so it is of the utmost importance to get it right.

Before the 1960’s, most homes were made with pier and beam foundations. This means that the house is basically on stilts, like a pier. This kind of foundation usually raises a house off the ground by about three feet, but they can be raised much higher if required or desired.

After the 1960’s, most homes began to be made with concrete post-tension (PT)slab foundations which are much cheaper. The reduced cost is the main reason for the popularity of this foundation style up to the present day. However, it also has a few other advantages. This is why there is an active debate about pier and beam vs PT slab foundations.

A pier and beam foundation works by sinking long poles, which are the “piers”, down to the bedrock. Crossbeams are then laid across these piers, distributing the weight evenly. This creates a space under your home called a crawl space, which can be both a blessing and a curse in itself. On the upside, pier and beam foundations are strong, long lived, and have a well-proven history of effectiveness. The extra space under the home acts as extra insulation and helps the house to hold its heat or coolness. In some homes, the crawl space is actually a dirt floor basement that can be used for storage. But perhaps one of the best things about such basements is that they serve as an anti-flood measure.

This crawl space also makes it much easier to access plumbing lines or electrical wires that may require replacing or repair. Another nice little bonus is the fact that wood is just easier on the feet than concrete.

These foundations would probably be used much more commonly today if not for their slightly higher price. However, a pier and beam foundation does tend to be easier and cheaper to repair than a slab. And because of the aforementioned easy access factor, it is likely to save you money on other repair bills as well. For pier and beam foundation repair Dallas TX has some very good options. I recommend looking for a company that is familiar with the soil profile of north Texas, because the high clay content of these soils can create some unique issues.

It can be dangerous to replace the pier and beam foundation with a slab. The builder must make absolutely sure to remove all the existing piers, or at least the first three feet. This is because the piers can crack the slab foundation if they make contact. As they say…if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.