Constructing a house is an exciting milestone in one’s life. Whether you’re going for a pre-made house or you’re building one from scratch, chances are you’ll have to look into foundations.
Two types of foundations are more cost-effective than others. It’s crucial to know which type to pick since this will be the structure that’s going to support your house.
In this article, I’ll compare crawl space vs pier and beam foundations to help you decide which one is more suitable for your project.
Factors That Affect Foundations
Before we start, you should know that several factors can affect your decision-making.
You’ll want to consider the following:
- Soil type
- House design
Crawl Space Foundation
The crawl space foundation is an elevated type of foundation. Crawl space foundations typically use concrete blocks or supporting pillars to support the above structure.
This type of foundation will raise your house about two to three feet higher. You’ll be able to crawl underneath the house should there be a need for repairs.
Crawl space foundations usually only have enough space to hold some of the house’s mechanics. You can keep utilities there like the air-conditioning, plumbing, and wiring.
The platforms of a crawl space foundation can be varying in length. This means that you can build a house on a slope without any problems.
How to Build a Crawl Space
Crawl spaces are built in a similar way to basements, except they’re shallower.
First things first though, lay down the footings and blocks to form a foundation. Then, position the perforated pipes and add gravel for better drainage. You may also dig a trench around the crawl space to prevent water from leaking in.
It might be a good idea to install a vapor barrier and try to encapsulate your crawl space.
Why You Should Pick Crawl Space Foundations
- Crawl space foundations are effective for areas with compact moist soil, as they can keep your structures separate from any ground-water.
- It’ll be easy to inspect and relocate any utilities. Plumbing is accessible and there may even be space for storage.
- Crawl space foundations are good for earthquake-prone areas.
- The air flow underneath your house means that having this kind of foundation can keep your home cool in hot climates.
Issues You May Encounter
- Crawl space foundations aren’t good for areas with regular flooding, as the open space can be a breeding ground for molds. You’ll need regular inspections to combat this.
- It might be a bad idea to use crawl space foundations for areas that have hurricanes since the foundation isn’t deep.
- You’ll need additional insulation to keep your house warm in the winter.
- The open space may be attractive to rodents and other pests.
Pier and Beam Foundation
The pier and beam is also a raised type of foundation.
There are two main elements to the pier and beam. The concrete piers anchor the house to the ground while wooden beams support the weight of the house.
Horizontal posts connect to the piers and beams, making this foundation look similar to a carton form. This shape lets the pier and beam foundation become adaptive to soil movements.
Since a carton form also makes this type of foundation modular, breakages are often isolated in a certain portion of the foundation. This means that it’s relatively easy to repair.
How to Build a Pier and Beam
First, you’ll have to dig holes for the piers. Pour gravel in to make it more compact. Next, place pre-formed tubes into the holes and pour the concrete in.
Finally, attach the pipes and wooden beams to the concrete piers.
Why You Should Pick Pier and Beam Foundations
- Pier and beam foundations are good for clay-type soil. Since clay soil expands when it’s wet and contracts when it dries.
- It’s good for flood-prone and earthquake-prone areas. It’s also great for locations that experience snow.
- You can run electricals and plumbing through a pier and beam foundation.
- In some cases, it’s possible to uproot the foundation and relocate it somewhere else.
- You can lessen excavation costs with a pier and beam foundation.
Issues You May Encounter
- Floors built on pier and beam foundations can warp and sag in some parts. There’s also the creaking floors issue since there’s little support below.
- Rodents and bugs can start living in the foundation.
Comparing Crawl Space vs. Pier and Beam
A crawl space foundation is similar to a pier and beam foundation in many ways. However, there are important differences we have to consider.
The height of the piles is adjustable for both crawl space and pier and beam foundations. This makes either foundation work well for locations with sloping and uneven ground.
Even though both types of foundations will raise your house over three feet above the ground, crawl space foundations are terrible against flood.
Crawl space foundations are most commonly built in warm, dry areas like California and Texas. On the other hand, pier and beam foundations are better for coastal areas.
Pier and beam foundations, with proper anchoring and bolting, may also be better for earthquake and hurricane-prone areas than crawl space foundations.
Because of their structure, pier and beam foundations are great for soil types that are shifting, like sandy and clay soil. Crawl space foundations are better for hard, rocky soil.
Both types of foundations will look great on your house. You won’t be able to see them since they’re normally covered by plants or a border.
However, what sets the crawl space foundation apart is that it can provide you with more storage space.
You can run utilities through both crawl space and pier and beam foundations, but it’s easier to access plumbing and electricals in crawl space foundations.
Crawl space foundations cost about $13 per square foot of your home, while pier and beam foundations will only cost you around $9 per square foot.
However, if ever you need to do repairs on the house, you’ll need to use a hydraulic lift for the pier and beam home. This might set you back more than $10,000.
Repairs on crawl space foundations are typically doable without needing to lift the entire home.
Do also consider that crawl space foundations are highly susceptible to mold growth. They need regular inspection and possibly even professional mold treatment.
You might want to install a vapor barrier with your crawl space foundation. Doing this will have additional costs.
There are advantages and disadvantages to crawl space vs pier and beam foundations. One might be better than the other. It simply depends on your circumstances.
Whatever your case, I hope you’re able to use this guide to figure out which one is best for you.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.