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Foundations, basements, berming; what should I read to become an expert?

 
pollinator
Posts: 969
Location: Victoria BC
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So I may be scrambling to move a house and mobile home onto my property due to a sudden short window in regulations.

One foundation is probably going to be a shallow basement as water table is fairly high. Ideally I will berm it up on 3 sides. The other will probably be piers or crawlspace, unclear..

I am aiming to design so that future external insulation will be easyish to add.

I will pay a pro to finalize the design, I don't have a choice about this anyhow. But, I need to know enough to muddle through the options on my own, and feel confident that the final choice is solid, and the best value.

I have seen way too many poorly built houses designed and constructed by so-called professionals to trust that they actually know their business, and will be rolling the dice as I don't know anyone in the business.


I don't know nearly enough about concrete and foundation design. What should I be reading? Looking for basic math and best practices.
 
steward
Posts: 4629
Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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As long as you add the external insulation before this winter, that should be fine.  Maybe it's ok to leave for future years but I'm guessing it's best to keep the stuff on the inside from freezing.

I'd read the code guidelines for your area.  If there isn't one, google one for a city nearby.  It should have some good ideas of what they feel is 99.999% good enough (and possibly overkill).

I believe the following is somewhat typical:
For a continuous foundation (basement or crawl space) I think you'd have a footing that is below your frost depth.  It's usually twice as wide as the foundation wall sitting on it and there's some rebar in it and pieces sticking up to tie it to the wall.  The wall is either concrete or block with a waterproofing layer on the outside.  Insulation can be on the inside or outside but I think outside is preferred.  Drainage pipes (corrugated perforated black plastic) should go around the inside and outside of the footing and either drain downhill to daylight or connect in a sump pump pit in the basement.  They need to connect via a pipe that goes under (not through) the footing.  The inner pipe keeps ground water from rising up into the basement, the outer one handles water that sinks down next to the building and keeps it from working its way through the wall.

I did piers once and used big concrete pads (18" dia) and then make cement posts with sonotubes (cardboard tubes).  Getting the final height of the concrete posts the same was impossible so luckily I had anchor bolts embedded in the top as it cured.  Then I could attach the joists to saddles on the anchors and adjust them up and down.  Although the cardboard tubes were all at the same height, as it cured/dried/settled the concrete ended up at different heights.  May have been a newbie mistake and a pro would get them spot on?
 
Posts: 75
Location: Southeast Missouri
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For the pier and beam foundation, try this website:  https://www.apawood.org/raised-wood-floors  There are a host of building and specification guides you can download free of charge.  This site is run by APA, the Engineered Wood Association.  Might not make you an expert, but you will learn a lot.  Also try https://www.southernpine.com/span-tables/.  This is a site run by the Southern Forest Products Association.  They both contain a lot of information, guides, and charts for using engineered products and SYP.  Very good information as they follow current building codes in their recommendations.  

I was able to Google building codes in Missouri and find a site run by the state government with links to what building codes are enforced in each county and even specific codes in some cities.  From there you can link to sites where you can either buy or download for free the applicable building codes.  In my county there ARE no building codes, but I downloaded the 2012 International Residence Code used in larger counties so I can make sure I build to the most currently used code.  I have only printed out a few pertinent sections because it is a 940 page PDF document.  Like most code books (IEC, NFPA), it can be very confusing to navigate.

If you wish to make access ADA compliant, go to https://www.ada.gov/ where you can download design standards and technical assistance materials.

Best of luck!
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
Posts: 969
Location: Victoria BC
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Thank you both.

The code for BC is very expensive, but the federal version which it is largely based on is now available for free.

The problem is, when it comes to things like vapour retarders, insulation, material toxicity.... code requirements are not great. Most things that I have some knowledge of, code is... either a low bar, or in some cases actively counterproductive to me.

And then, there are the old-school methods that are convenient for builders, which are not good for the quality or longevity of the building.. poly in walls, in my area... still common, still bad. Sand under slabs is the foundation one that I know of...


So, I am left with very little faith that code is a great resource, and 'standard practice' cannot be entirely trusted either.

The credentialed individuals who I am obliged to pay should be catching things that fail to meet code, but I hope to know enough to do better.
 
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