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Footings for a house/cabin  RSS feed

 
Alice Tagloff
Posts: 53
Location: Newfoundland
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I have a few construction dreams, and tho I'll probably never get the opportunity to do anything with them, I wanted peoples opinions on stone footings?
In doing some research for friends about slipforming a stone cottage, I came across landscape stone quarry's that reference that they sell natural stones in certain dimensions.

1) they offer 'natural steps' that I assume are snap/chiseled off a rock face, that come in sizes between 5-8" thick, 24-32" wide, and 4-8' long.
That sounds like a good foot wall if you could figure out how to keep it upright.

2) Most also offer granite, for wall caps, window lintels, etc. They offer it cut by the foot, in various grades, and various thickness. The lowest 'grade' was offered at 16-18" thick/wide, at about $8 a foot. The highest grade hovered at about 4-6" thick/wide(from memory, I could be wrong), and $20 a foot.
This sounds like a fairly reasonable choice for a foundation pier or a foot wall resting on a compacted bed.

Not wanting to use concrete because of water/drainage/seepage, the labour/equipment involved and then not getting into the issues of getting the 'mix wrong'(lets just say that its very easy to screw up mixing by the bag and it effects the 'quality', as my fathers crumbling shed foundation proves).
Having a solid stone foundation pier that won't transfer/wick water into a wood support beam resting on it sounds almost a dream.

There would of course, be issues of getting it to stay upright, and moving it I think, but it sounds fairly ideal. Especially considering that stacking stones/cinderblocks and mortaring them together runs the risk of frost heave snapping the blocks apart in northern zones, and water destroying the mortar in warmer places.

Can I get other peoples opinions on this?
It probably wouldn't do for a very large, or 2 story structure, but for a cabin/barn/tiny house, it would probably work.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Posts: 804
Location: Longbranch, WA
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Depends on the depth the ground freezes where the cabin is built. Where I live the the 16-18" stone would pass code because the ground only freezes 6" deep. Some areas require up to 6' deep foundations to prevent the ground freezing under a portion of the foundation and raising it and then roping it when it thaws. You could probably double the effective depth by adding an equal depth of gravel with a drain to keep it dry so there is no water to freeze and expand.
So the first step is to check for the required foundation depth where you plan to build then develop a strategy to meet the requirement.
 
Ben de Leiris
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Location: Hinesburg, Vermont
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This isn't really an answer to your question. But it's something I've always wanted to do. Build a small cabin or tiny house with a "tripod" foundation. The house would rest on only three points, each supported by a large stone or boulder sitting on the surface or just barely dug in. All it requires is finding three big rocks. No excavation, no crushed rock, no concrete, no masonry skills needed. It might heave a little each winter, but if things get really out of level you could just jack it up at each corner to shim it. Or maybe incorporate some kind of screw jack at each corner. The point is, since it only rests on three points, no matter how much the house moves, it shouldn't sag or warp or crack. Some day....
Other than that, I love the idea of stone foundations, though I have little experience with stacked stone. I did build a house with an urbanite (recycled scrap concrete chunks) stem wall on top of a rubble trench, which worked very well. I think the same thing but with natural stone would be just as good, and nicer aesthetically. The large quarry stones sound like a great option since you don't need to pick through lots of random shapes. When you talk about keeping them upright, are you saying you want to lay them on edge? Why not lay them flat and stack them to the height you need?
 
Alice Tagloff
Posts: 53
Location: Newfoundland
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Laying them upright to make a knee-wall type of thing, or as support columns, is mainly to lift the house/cabin off the ground.
The further you get away from the ground, the less backsplash from rain, and the less potential of water staying under the structure, reducing the risk of mold & rotting the wooden structure. It also reduces the risk of if/when the ground settles and the foundations sink, the house doesn't sink into the ground either.

Here in the north(east Canada), if your foundation isn't a basement, it has a crawl space. It's not just there for 'work access'. It lets the ground under the structure breath, and by 'soft enclosing' it with flashing, or skirting(heavy felt), it creates a sort of air break cushion. At least, that's my grand father's reason for why his cabin was originally built nearly two feet off the ground. Then when there's snow, it generally prevents the snow from piling against your house(with your average storm around here, the snow generally stays about 2 feet thruout the winter, when there is snow), and makes a sort of insulating pocket against the crawl space. Snow piling against your siding, especially natural siding = rot.

Building to close to the ground means, no work access in the future(say for example you actually want to run plumbing in the future, that means you'd have to jack the structure or tear thru your floor, or have to fix a joist), the rain backsplashing onto your siding as it comes off the roof rotting/offcoloring your siding, if the ground gets soaked in a torrential rain storm it's going to hang around, and if your ground is clay it -stinks-(clay actually -stinks-, and it holds to much moisture, even if you insulate your floor very well it comes thru the floor, never mind what eventually sheds off a house ends up in the clay and staying there adding to the smell).

The only structures that ever get built on a pad in the rural places here, unless it's a major concrete structure, is a garage. And if you don't do that pad right, the smell from the clay comes thru the floor. As many people have discovered around here, to the point where they've had to tear down or jack up the garage, tear up the pad and redo it again. In my hometown, it happens every 3-5 years, around when they've reached their limits about the smell and dirty concrete. Or because their buildings' too low to the ground, having to replace at least the lower half of their siding well before the manufactures specs. A lot of the houses around here have the bottom half-brick fa├žade, simply because of that, and not because of 'the look'.

And then there's the alternative motive, if your house isn't high enough off the ground, putting in a deck is a pain in the ass, and a deck that's too low again hits the 'it's going to rot' issue. As my father's figured out with his unsheltered back porch deck that he has to replace the wood every 3ish years, where-as the other front deck was only finally replaced after 20 years(and only when the support columns failed).

There's one thing to be said about building code regulations, it prevents people from building a house with a basement that has a concrete foundation wall, but an 'open' dirt floor. As seen when I was looking for apartment/house to rent in my city. All you could smell throughout the house was the dirt from the basement, and there was a trench dug throughout the basement with water clearly running thru it. They'd put in a washer and dryer into the basement and put them on concrete pavers. I'm not kidding. The house is so old it's grandfathered in, and they regularly get it rented out for 1300$cdn a month.
 
                        
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granite is heavy, does not flex and will move downwards over time with changing compaction cycle of the ground.
what this means is that you will likely require a form of foundation for your granite slabs.
i have knocked up a few menhirs and a dolmen out of granite and they are sill moving after 12 years.
 
Hans Quistorff
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Now that I know a little more about the soil and weather Yes using them as columns by digging a deep hole and standing them on end would be the way to support your foundation log. From my experience in northern Maine a berm or ~2 inch gravel under the log between the columns holds the snow berm during the winter but allows air flow during the summer to dry it out. A tar paper skirting is to easy for critters to make an entrance and stay for the winter. The gravel berm can be removed anywhere access is needed and then replaced. Did you see my ship lap vertical log house thread?
 
Alice Tagloff
Posts: 53
Location: Newfoundland
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I have, and it's an interesting idea. I've seen something like it done commericially even, tho mostly in the uk. Tounge and Groove Logs.
http://www.westernloghomesupply.com/logsiandtoan.html, has a graphic example of several different styles. Getting or having an appropriate router bit made would be doable I believe.
Without a very wide roof to prevent water contacting the logs, I wouldn't want to run them vertical tho. Again, water damage.

But around here, we actually don't have very many critters if you can believe that (Newfoundland).
Newfoundland Cabin country where I mentioned the tar paper and felt skirting is really just meant to keep the sun/heat off the ground underneath the cabin, and to prevent stuff from being blown under(and the bats from making it a roost. Can't forget those. Not that we have a swarm/flock of bats really). We've never had a problem with anything getting under the cabin, not even squirrels, in the roof yes, but never the underside(except the family dog). Even our black bears won't approach a cabin that's been abandoned for years, they only ever approach a cabin if they smell food around and no people. Our bears here actually have an aversion to metal and the sound of metal clicking together. Windchimes are a part of backcountry lore that's pretty much forgotten these days. The metal chiming is an unnatural sound, and functions similar like bear-bells.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Alice Tagloff wrote:I have a few construction dreams, and tho I'll probably never get the opportunity to do anything with them, I wanted peoples opinions on stone footings?
In doing some research for friends about slipforming a stone cottage, I came across landscape stone quarry's that reference that they sell natural stones in certain dimensions.

1) they offer 'natural steps' that I assume are snap/chiseled off a rock face, that come in sizes between 5-8" thick, 24-32" wide, and 4-8' long.
That sounds like a good foot wall if you could figure out how to keep it upright.

2) Most also offer granite, for wall caps, window lintels, etc. They offer it cut by the foot, in various grades, and various thickness. The lowest 'grade' was offered at 16-18" thick/wide, at about $8 a foot. The highest grade hovered at about 4-6" thick/wide(from memory, I could be wrong), and $20 a foot.
This sounds like a fairly reasonable choice for a foundation pier or a foot wall resting on a compacted bed.

Not wanting to use concrete because of water/drainage/seepage, the labour/equipment involved and then not getting into the issues of getting the 'mix wrong'(lets just say that its very easy to screw up mixing by the bag and it effects the 'quality', as my fathers crumbling shed foundation proves).
Having a solid stone foundation pier that won't transfer/wick water into a wood support beam resting on it sounds almost a dream.

There would of course, be issues of getting it to stay upright, and moving it I think, but it sounds fairly ideal. Especially considering that stacking stones/cinderblocks and mortaring them together runs the risk of frost heave snapping the blocks apart in northern zones, and water destroying the mortar in warmer places.

Can I get other peoples opinions on this?
It probably wouldn't do for a very large, or 2 story structure, but for a cabin/barn/tiny house, it would probably work.


I would lay them flat, standing stones on edge is inviting future disaster. You need to go look at some old buildings, like from the 1700's - 1800's, these all have stone footings which have the stones stacked. Since they are still working, the method used there obviously works.
Since you mention they offer stones in different dimensions so the best thing to do is give them the dimensions you need to do a proper stacked footing/ foundation for your area.
Standing stones as far as I have found from New York, and other northern states are used more for markers.
 
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