What is a pier and beam foundation?

If your home was built before 1979, your house is likely to have a raised foundation, whether it’s a stem wall, pier and beam, or cripple wall foundation.

These foundations were cheaper to build back in the day due to lower cost and accessibility. 

There is the question of the type of foundation you have. This article will look into pier and beam foundations.

Dalinghaus Construction has inspected over ten-thousand homes, having serviced over a thousand. We’ve worked on all types of homes and their variations of foundations, whether they’re raised or slab-on-grade foundations. When it comes to familiarity with foundations, we know them better than the back of our hands. 

What a pier and beam foundation is

A pier and beam foundation is a common type of raised foundation that uses posts and pads, though they can be made in a variety of ways. Helical piers might be put in a grid-like pattern in the crawlspace to support the girder beams. Concrete cylinders can also be driven into the soil. 

Concrete, wood, or steel piers may be embedded into the soils. Those piers are considered posts and pads, with the pads sitting on soil or gravel. Then the posts or piers sit on top of the pad. 

This foundation typically has a crawlspace for easy access to water pipes and electrical. The home is elevated around 18-inches from the ground, but the elevation can vary. 

Pier and beam foundations keep your home less prone to flooding. By elevating the home off the ground, your home is less likely to become damaged by moisture exposure compared to a house on a slab.  

Does fixing a pier and beam foundation cost extra compared to others?

The cost to repair is very similar compared to other types of foundations. How this foundation is supported will be different than a slab-on grade, requiring shimming of posts and pads, as well as replacing any beams if necessary. Full removal and replacement may be required.

Compare this to a slab-on-grade foundation, which can require a polyurethane injection to fill voids in the soil after lifting the home.

Repairs to either type of foundation will be around the same price.

Where is this type of foundation commonly found?

Pier and beam foundations are common. They’re more common on hills or areas with slopes. If an area has a frost layer, you’ll see this type of foundation more often.

Pros of Pier and Beam foundations

  • The home is less exposed to flooding due to being at a higher elevation.
  • With a crawlspace, access to plumbing and electrical is much easier. 
  • Broader remodeling options for your home.
    • Access to pipes makes it easier to move things around.
    • You can still remodel with a slab-on-grade, but you’ll have to breach the concrete to change the locations of pipes. 
  • You can use a crawlspace for storage.

Cons of Pier and Beam Foundations

  • Any moisture issues can compromise the foundation, damaging the wood used to support your home. 
  • Prone to infestation from rodents or other pests like termites. 
  • Floors are susceptible to creaking, sloping, and bouncing. 
  • More expensive to build compared to a slab-on-grade foundation.
    • Slabs only have concrete, which is cheap. A pier and beam foundation has the added material of wood, which is more expensive than concrete. 

How to maintain a Pier and Beam Foundation

Access your crawlspace to visually inspect the foundation at least once a year. Is there wetness to where you forgot you live in California or Arizona? Have you looked at the wood to see if there is deterioration? 

Here is what you can look for while in your crawlspace:

  • A post not touching or supporting the girder beams.
  • Warped wood from moisture exposure.
  • Holes are in the wood.
    • This is an indicator of termites or other pests. 
  • You see cracks in the concrete. 
  • Any mold or mildew.
    • Indicates moisture coming into your foundation. 
    • The goal of this type of foundation is to regulate moisture to where mold isn’t a concern and the soil isn’t so dry to where it compacts.

If you’re not comfortable going in your crawlspace, there isn’t any issue having someone come out and inspect for you. We get it. Going under your home somewhere dark and dirty isn’t appealing to everyone. Plus if there is something in the space with you, you have a recipe for a horror movie. 

Dalinghaus Construction can evaluate your home for free if you don’t want to deal with a potential Scooby Doo mystery. 

Look for settlement signs outside of your crawlspace

Your crawlspace isn’t the only place to look for signs of settlement. There are common signs of a failing foundation you can find in your own home. 

Common signs of foundation settlement:

  • Drywall cracks
  • Stucco cracks
  • Concrete slab cracks
  • Ceiling cracks
  • Tile cracks
  • Chimney cracks
  • Leaning chimney
  • Sloping floors
  • Doors and windows are hard to open and close
  • Water leaks

Any of these signs on their own aren’t direct indicators of a failing foundation. When you see more than one of these signs, that’s the time to find someone who can help. 

If you’re still unsure about your foundation failing or have questions about your Pier and Beam foundation, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877) 360-9227, or schedule a free evaluation today!

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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