There is a reason why an important aspect of something is often referred to as “foundational”. A foundation is supposed to be nearly unmovable and last forever. While minor shifts and movement are fairly common, a sturdy foundation is the most important part of a proper build. The foundation of a house is the base from which it will be built up and held on. The foundation supports the weight of the house and keeps it from large and potentially devastating shifts. A solid foundation does much more than just keep a house from shifting, as it will also help keep moisture and cold out as well.

Laying a foundation can be done in roughly five steps – although some approaches differ every so slightly. Whether you are a confident do-it-yourself-er or a general contractor that is new to laying foundation, we will elaborate on these steps below.

Building a Foundation in Five Easy Steps

Building a foundation is deceptively simple. One could describe it as simply digging a hole and filling it carefully with concrete. Of course, this belies the precision and accurate measurements that good foundation work often requires. While the process itself is fairly straight-forward, taking your time to ensure you are effectively executing the work is critical. In short, laying a foundation can be tedious and painstaking work. Let’s dive a little more into each respective step you need to follow.

Step 1: Establish a Datum Point

For those that don’t know, a datum point is a term used in building that refers to an original reference point, or base, from which all other quantities will be measured. This is an important part of laying a foundation. To elaborate, if the datum is incorrect, the entire foundation will likely turn out askew. If the foundation is askew, you risk not passing inspection as the structural integrity of the entire infrastructure is likely in question from flood check hoses to plumbing systems. Additionally, every other part of the build will be askew (i.e. walls, floors, etc.).

Step 2: Mark Out the Building Foundation

Tom Silva describes a building’s foundation as being like a tailored suit: every factor must be considered (from soil to weather) in order to make sure it is the perfect fit. This is why establishing a clear datum is so important and also why construction crews will use string lines and mark out all areas of a foundation to ensure everything fits as it should from water supplies to the flushing mechanism. At this point, it can be useful to mark a centerline that those that will be digging the trenches may find useful.

Step 3: Dig Trenches

After measuring and marking your foundation it is time to ensure that everything has been done correctly so far. It can be tempting to proceed even if you know things aren’t perfect, but mistakes will only become more costly in the future. When digging trenches, it is important to have your site-level set to the depth with which you will be digging to. Additionally, a building inspector will typically be in charge of letting you know when the proper depth has been achieved.

Step 4: Place Depth Pegs and Begin Pouring Concrete

Once the trenches have been dug to the requisite height, it is time to place depth pegs. These pegs should be placed at a standardized depth to help make leveling the concrete during pouring easier. Of course, the invention of self-leveling concrete has made this entire process of leveling manually somewhat redundant. You can learn more about working with self-leveling concrete in this article here.

Step 5: Let Concrete Cure

The final part of the process – letting the foundation cure and setup – may seem inconsequential at first blush. But, in reality, if done incorrectly, it can lead to the entire foundation failing. This is because the concrete doesn’t reach its full strength until several days after it has been poured, and a mistake at this point of the process could mean scrapping the whole foundation and starting all over again. Whether you are a millionaire or you have insurance for that, redoing the work and potentially paying for the replacement is a definite kick to the gut.

What is Foundation Made of?

In years gone by, a foundation could be made of almost anything. They are commonly constructed using large boulders procured from the job site. These days, many different materials such as brick, stone, concrete, and steel may be used when making a foundation. The most popular method for most will be steel reinforced with walls made of poured concrete. At this point, it is essentially the industry standard – although you don’t need to feel married to that particular method. If you have alternative materials that help you reduce costs, as long as it is safe, go for it.

Given the importance of concrete to building a foundation, finding a trustworthy concrete contractor becomes of the utmost importance. As wet concrete can’t be transported long distances, looking locally is often the way to go with concrete contractors. For example, a concrete contractor in Wabash, IN will most likely focus their business on serving their local community at the expense of larger projects farther afield from home.

Evan Zhang

Evan Zhang earned his Master’s in Construction Management from the University of Michigan and has 9 years of experience in commercial and residential construction. Evan joined our website as a freelancer in 2019, providing insights into construction methodologies, building codes, and safety standards. His background includes working as a site manager and a construction consultant. Evan also worked on various urban development and infrastructure projects. Evan is a DIY enthusiast and a mentor for young professionals entering the construction field.

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