Giving your dream home a strong foundation

Foundations are commonly referred to in a philosophical sense. They typically act as the point at which you are not willing to budge ethically, morally, intellectually etc.  J.K. Rowling once said that “hitting rock bottom became the solid foundation for which I rebuilt my life”. It’s a deep quote, but it all speaks to the understanding that having a strong foundation is central to being a well-developed person. Equally, having a strong foundation for your home is one of the most important factors behind making a home that lasts. In this article, I will walk you through some of the different ways that you can lay a foundation for a modular/mini home and a unique foundation more are using that seems …. better.

Foundation Techniques

 

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One way that you can provide a foundation is with a slab of level concrete to support the home. You can also combine the level slab of concrete with attached poured footings and concrete walls to provide a basement or crawl space to set the home upon.

The Pro’s with this method are:

1) Tested & True: Concrete foundations are an industry standard and the product has been in use for many years – this allows you to benefit from a wealth of learning on the best ways to build with concrete.

2) Very Strong: Builders will combine concrete with rebar, mixes and reinforcing elements to ensure a final product that will last you for decades.

3) Efficient land use: By digging down into the foundation with a partial daylight or full basement you to get more useable space out of your build. You need to place the foundation either way, here you are gaining useful storage, living space, hobby space or more.

4) Easily available: If you live in or populated locations you’re access to contractors for the product will be easy.

The Con’s with this method are:

5) Slow installation: Putting concrete down requires a lot of time investment and can take as much as a few days to be completely laid and leveled, and requires decent weather to install.

6) Cannot carry weight immediately: Once the concrete has been laid, it takes even more time to dry and solidify.

7) Environmental concerns: Lying concrete is destructive to your land and requires a sizable investment to remove once laid.

8) Remote area access: Concrete requires specialized transport that struggles to make it to remote areas.

 

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This method involves laying concrete blocks around the perimeter of the home then wooden blocks are places on top of the concrete to separate the house from the rock. In many cases, the wood is held in place by the weight of the house pinching the wood between the concrete and the home. This is a method that is very common among mini homes and modular homes.

The Pro’s with this method

1) Economical: This method allows you to get into your home in the most economical manner of time and cost to the owner, requiring minimal materials, time and site disruption other than building the ‘pad’.

2) Future changes: This method allows you to move your home easily in the future – make changes like adding decks, additions or elements easily to the original footprint.

3) Low Impact: This method is fairly low impact on the environment – the elements needed can be removed years from now with very little site impact, assuring those who want a small footprint on the earth.

The Con’s with this method

4) Frost heaving: this refers to the gentle expanding and contracting that happens to land over the years. The changes in temperature and moisture can cause the concrete blocks to crack, change shape or move slightly. This can cause your home to experience a number of issues

5) Organic growth: The underside of your home is not ‘sealed’ other than by a ground sheet, over time you will likely find daisies and plants growing underneath your home, this encourages moisture.

6) Moisture and Temperature: This method places your home closer to the elements, it can cause dampness in your home, and is likely to increase your heating and cooling costs for the home unless very well insulated.

 

For this method, you get what you pay for. This is an easy way to get your house up and running quickly. However, you should expect some motion and eventually some infiltration under you home after an extended period of time. This method will require some maintenance in adjusting and checking your moisture levels over time.


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The Screw or Steel Pile Method is fast becoming an excellent foundation for a modular or mini home. It involves screwing large steel poles into the ground that then act as your foundation.

The Pro’s of this method

1) Rapid installation: It takes about 30-60 seconds for one screw to be screwed in.

2) It can instantly carry a load: There is no waiting period for the screws to dry, they are made with steel and ready to carry the weight of your home right away

3) Environmentally friendly: You do not have to destroy your land with this method. Each screw can be removed at any time.

4) Price friendly: Although steel isn’t cheap, the savings from the rapid installation and the gaining popularity of this method are making it a cost competitive option

5) Remote Access: The screws are highly transportable and are a popular option for remote sites.

6) They do not suffer from any frost heaving: They stay in the same place regardless of a cold winter or a lot of rain. This is because the screws are put in much deeper than the frost line, keeping them solidly in place. This means no bowed walls, no leaks, no risk of moisture, and no cracks.

7) They can handle a high water table: Unlike other foundations the screws are not bothered by water as the screws are coated in a powerful rust proof coating.

8) Can be installed in a variety of soil types: from lose clay to dense clay; loose sand to dense sand, this is the most versatile foundation methods.

9) It can handle Rock: Although these screws cannot screw into rock, there are many ways to make it work. The screws can be drilled in diagonally so as to avoid a rock in the way. The screws can be modified in the field to accommodate this due to their modular build.

10) Low Carbon footprint: Not only do you not disturb your land, but there are also little to no fumes being emitted by the transportation or the installation of the product.

The Con’s of this method

11) No foundation: This method does not allow you to have a finished living space under your home.

12) Insurance & Financing hurdles: Like all new products you may find yourself acting as an advocate for the product as well, so plan on coming armed with data to educate your

13) Some assembly still required: You will still likely want some method of finish, skirting or details around your home once it is in place, similar to blocking there will be some type of finish required.

In short, this technology makes up for many of the shortcomings of the other techniques. In speaking with Dan Smith – Owner of Postech in Moncton he had the following to say. “Screw Piles are better because it is guaranteed not to move once in place and they are backed by a warranty unlike many foundations. They provide an instant foundation, no mess and no site preparation. They can also be installed under existing foundations. They are simply better than any other method”

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Important things to know about Screw Pile in Canada

Although Screw Pile technology is the best option for modular foundations, the fact remains that it is a relatively new technique. Historically some people have run into trouble getting approved for a mortgage on a house that uses a screw pile foundation. This is because each mortgage in Canada is underwritten by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Given that the technology is so new, the CMHC’s stance on the matter is that they have not proven the technology to be as safe as others out there since this requires costly and time consuming tests that can take years to prove completely. Also, the CMHC currently requires foundations to be “fixed” and since screw pile is removable they perceive an issue with that as well.  Therefore, some find it difficult to get approved for a mortgage on these grounds.

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The good news is that it won’t be long until the CMHC will accept screw pile as an acceptable foundation for a home. Sources say that it is likely that the CMHC will approve it by the end of 2016. If this is the case, then people all over the country will be in for thousands of dollars in savings from cheaper costs to install the foundation to the lower long term costs from having a strong foundation that will last a lifetime.

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If you’d like to learn more about Screw Piles head to http://www.postech-foundations.com for a great gallery of projects they have done and lots of great information. You can reach the guys at Postech at 1-888-333-7453 if you’d like to have a chat about a Screw Pile foundation.

Until next time,

The Philosopher

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