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How to Build Foundation Walls

Factors to Consider Before Building Foundation Walls

Foundation Walls

A foundation wall provides support for the entire structure you are building. Foundation walls
should be planned and constructed carefully as they are probably the most important part of the
structure. When foundation walls are not built correctly, cracks might appear and settling of the
structure can also occur. Cracks may occur due to the foundation being backfilled before the
concrete has achieved the required strength or because the necessary amount of steel was not
placed accordingly.
Foundation Wall Design Considerations

Foundation walls shall be designed to withstand erosion, fast-moving water, and other factors
affecting those types of wall. The first two reasons restrict or limit the use of foundation walls in
coastal areas. Main elements that should be considered when building foundation walls include:

 Embedment
 Height
 Materials
 Bracing or lateral support
 Flood openings
 Grade Elevation

Foundation Walls Embedment

A foundation wall should be built in such way that the top of the footing shall be no higher than
the depth of erosion and scour. If you cannot achieve this, you must consider using a pile
foundation that can be installed at higher depths. A poorly embedded wall will lead a building to
simply slide along the ground surface. Foundation walls will typically require lateral support
from the floor system and diaphragm, and connections to the top of the walls must be detailed

Foundation Wall Height/Width

Foundation walls should be constructed high enough so the bottom of the floor is above the
design flood elevation. It is recommended to have at least 8 inches above the DFE at all points.
When you are building a masonry or concrete foundation wall, it shall have a minimum thickness
of 6 inches.

For larger foundation wall depths, the minimum thickness must be the greater of 6 inches or 1.5
times the length of the footing projection from the foundation wall.

Foundation Wall Materials

Foundation walls can be built from almost any material, but concrete, masonry, and wood are
predominant. If wood is selected, you will need to be sure that it has been treated or certified for
marine use, and even cuts and holes should be field-treated. Masonry foundation walls should be
fully grouted and reinforced, while concrete foundation walls must be reinforced and the
concrete mix must be a high-strength, low water-to-cement ratio.

Foundation Wall Openings

Wall openings are really important when it comes to balancing the water levels inside and
outside the walls. Building codes require air ventilation openings that normally do not satisfy the
floor opening requirement. Air openings shall be designed near the top of the wall, while flood
openings shall be close to the bottom of the wall. One single opening probably will not be
enough to act as both air and flood opening, so be sure to have the right dimensions for each one
of them.

Foundation Wall Elevations

When building your walls, avoid using excavated soil to promote drainage away from
the structure, by raising the exterior grade. By doing so, water will eventually generate additional
loads against the foundation wall. Make sure the interior grade is at or above the lowest exterior
grade next to the structure, as this might meet NFIP requirements. Flood openings in the
foundation wall will allow floodwaters to exit the crawlspace once floodwaters recede.

Foundation Design
Layout of a house footing. Photo courtesy of Bunici Bunici's Album

Foundation Design

Being able to complete a foundation design is a highly specialized function and usually is
performed by a structural engineer. It requires study and examination of multiple components,
and it is the main structure of any building, since it is the base of it.

Foundation Depths

The required depth of the foundation will depend on several factors like:

1. Soil bearing capacity. How much load the existing soil can withstand.

2. Type of soil. This depth will vary depending on the type of soil beneath the structure.

3. Depth of frost penetration in case of fine sand and silt.

4. Height of ground water table. This will usually be reported on the soil study.

5. The minimum depth should not be less than 18 inches to allow removal of top soil and
variations in ground level. However, depending on the structure, the engineer will select the best

Foundation Material

The foundation is usually built in brick work, masonry or concrete under the base of a wall or
column. This will enable to transfer the load to the soil in a uniform manner and allow the
transition from the structure to the soil. It will depend on the recommendation by the structural
engineer. He will select the location, width and depth of every foundation in the structure. For
smaller and lightweight structures, the design will be different depending on the material and
location of the structure.

Usually dry and uniform graded dense materials should have maximum shear resistance and
maximum bearing capacity. In general submerged soil and clay have fewer bearing capacities,
reducing the capacity to handle loads imposed by the structure.
Foundation Design Precaution

The foundation will be designed in a way that loads will be transferred uniformly to the contact

It should be designed to transmit the sum of dead load, live load and wind load to the ground.
The net loading capacity coming into the soil should not exceed the bearing capacity of the soil.
Settlements expected from the building will be design in such way that they will be controlled
and uniform for the complete structure to avoid damages to the structure. Whole design of the
foundation, super structure and characteristics of the ground should be studied to obtain benefits
during construction work.

Recommended Foundation to Avoid Cracks

There are several types of foundation use in the construction industry. The most ‘secure’ one is
the mat foundation. A mat foundation is a uniform slab acting as the footing for the building. It is
thought as the most secure, because there is no gap to allow for differential settlements and will
act as a mat for the whole building. Sometimes due to economic reasons, types of buildings and
space limitations is not used and then substituted by other types of foundations.

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