How is the Foundation Built?

The foundation, as the name suggests, is what your entire house sits on. For the most part, you will be hands-off with the foundation and there isn’t much to coordinate or customize. It is however important to take note of the steps in pouring the foundation so as a developer, you understand the timeline and have a basic talking language of what is happening. Here are the steps in high level overview.

1) Initial Survey

Before you officially break ground, you need your surveyor to stake out where where your dwelling is going. A developer tip is that you have probably used your surveyor a few times by now with the soft cost of construction and you will continue to use your surveyor for the foundation. With this in mind, see if you can negotiate with your surveyor for some type of developer package to lower his/her price.

2) Breaking ground

In this part, there will be an excavator which will be digging into the ground. If your construction site is large enough, the soil may be left onsite. But if your lot size is limited, you will need to arrange for a remote site to dump the soil. Be aware of the dumping fee. Make sure you clearly ask your excavation company on ways to minimize the dumping fee. You will unlikely get a straight forward number on what that dumping fee is depending on how many truckloads are needed. This is an important step during your design and may tag on significant cost (depending on your build and dump site distance, this can cost thousands). For example, if you are building a simple bungalow home, a raised bungalow has the advantage of only going 4 feet deep into the ground rather than the full 8 feet like a conventional bungalow. In addition to the dumping fee, you may also require traffic control each time a dump run is made and these costs are hard to precisely pinpoint. Another developer tip here is make sure you get a nice and ceremonious photo of the unofficial breaking ground to celebrate.

 
Lichee and I breaking ground, we didn’t get too far with our exaction on this day and waited until the big machines came.

Lichee and I breaking ground, we didn’t get too far with our exaction on this day and waited until the big machines came.

 
 
The excavator at work.

The excavator at work.

 

3) Second Survey

Your surveyor will now need to come back and precisely stake out where the corners of the house are so the forms for the footings can be made. You may have never seen a footing before and that is because these are underground.

4) Footings

Your foundation company will now come back and create forms for the footings. Forms are essentially containers that will hold the concrete once it is poured. Forms are temporarily and will be removed (or stripped in concrete lingo) once the concrete dries. The footings are generally wider than the foundation walls and go directly on the undisturbed ground.

 
The wood are the concrete forms for the eventual footings.

The wood are the concrete forms for the eventual footings.

 
 
Concrete for footings poured.

Concrete for footings poured.

 

5) Foundation Walls

When the footings are dried, the foundation walls can be poured. At this stage, gravel is usually first added in the centre of you bare dwelling. Similar to the footings, forms are placed to guide where the foundation walls will go. You may see metal wires coming out from the foundation walls and these are called rebar. Concrete is extremely strong but doesn’t do too well when under tension. The rebars are there to reinforce the concrete under tension to give it additional strength. A developer tip here is when the foundation wall dries, you may see what are called spider cracks (small cracks) and as long as these do go deep into your drainage system, you should be ok.

 
Foundation wall forms - These guide the concrete walls to be poured and sit on top of the footings.

Foundation wall forms - These guide the concrete walls to be poured and sit on top of the footings.

 

6) Drainage system

Dimple boards and weeping tiles are added to waterproof your basement. The dimple boards goo along the side of the foundation walls and channels the water into the weeping tile drainage system. The weeping tiles, contrary to its name, is not actually a square tile but rather a tubing system to that collects and drains the water. This drainage system helps to keep your basement dry and your foundation from the erosive effects of the water.

 
Weeping tiles to be installed.

Weeping tiles to be installed.

 

7) Backfill

Soil is now placed back on the side against the foundation walls for the backfill stage. You may want to leave some excess soil behind because you will need it for your final grading.

Weather

Weather does play a role when concrete is poured, especially here in Canada. Ideally, you want to pour your concrete on a hot and dry day for the concrete to dry nice and strong. Wet days are not good days to pour. Cold, especially in Canada is something that can be managed and not a hard reason not to build in the winter time. Calcium can be added to the concrete when pouring on a cold day for the concrete to dry faster but be aware there is likely an added cost to adding the calcium and once the concrete is poured on a cold day, it will need some type of insulation to keep it from freezing.

 
The final foundation with the drainage system

The final foundation with the drainage system