Is a pier and beam foundation good?


What is pier & beam foundation?

We hear about foundation repair a lot because most houses are built on a cement foundation today. This is where a slab of cement is poured, and the frame of the house is built on top of it.  What we don’t hear much about is pier & beam foundation repair

Pier and beam foundations are common among homes that at 50, 60, 75 years old and older. This is where piers, usually cement, are sunk into the ground and beams are placed in position, extending from one pier to the next.  Those beams support the joists that the subfloor is constructed on and then the actual flooring, leaving a crawl space under the house of about 18 inches between the joists and the ground. Pier & beam foundation repair is needed when the ground shifts and the house slides off one or more of those beams and beams slide off those piers. 

 How do you build a pier and beam?

In the 1960s and earlier, pier and beam was how houses were built. Then it was discovered that you could pour concrete into forms to create a slab foundation, and pier & beam became almost obsolete. Prior to slab foundation though, a pier & beam set up got the house off the ground and left a crawl space and in some instances, a basement. 

The construction style of pier & beam was unique, and as the ones that still exist, regular inspections are needed, often followed up by pier & beam foundation repair. How do you build a pier & beam foundation?  Four simple steps: 

  • Step One: Sink piers in the ground until they are solid planted. This can be cement piers or wooden (cedar) piers. 
  • Step Two: Add a concrete base around each pier to prevent them from shifting. 
  • Step Three: Add beams (usually wood, some use steel) from pier to pier. These will be used to connect the subfloor joists. 
  • Step Four: Set the subfloor on the beams then the flooring base on that.

Is pier and beam foundation permanent?

There is a variety of components that are considered to create a permanent foundation, like concrete blocks when used with Earthquake Resistant Bracing System (ERBS). This  systemic system requires support piers to be spaced following the home manufacturers recommendations between the positive earthquake bracing support. A few examples of homes that are pier supported besides the pier and beam foundation are: 

  • Manufactured homes
  • Modular homes
  • Mobile homes 

Piers can be made from cement or wood as mentioned above in the steps to construct a pier & beam foundation. Concrete blocks stacked are used for piers as well, with any of these methods considered to be a permanent foundation.

Why pier & beam foundation instead of a foundation slab?

 With the knowledge that a pier & beam foundation  will need adjusting and pier & beam foundation repairs, as well as eventually can deteriorate over time, why is a pier & beam foundation installation still a popular choice?  One of the key pier & beam foundation benefits that make it first choice for many homeowners is less expensive for pier & beam foundation repairs that a cement slab foundation. 

Another benefit, any plumbing additions or repairs are easier to and less expensive because of the 18” crawl space. Pier & beam foundations are easier for home that are built with these factors to consider: 

  • Contraction and expansion of the soil is substantial.
  • Construction is planned on a hillside or on an uneven grade.
  • The home is in a flood prone area.

How deep are pier and beam foundations?

The piers themselves should be buried no less than 12” below the ground. In areas where winters bring freezing temperatures regularly, the piers must be 12” below the frost line. Regardless of where the home is built, the piers should have a foot that is eight inches thick and two times wider than the posts it is supporting. 

How far apart should house piers be?

The standard distance is eight to ten feet. However, if the structure is to be multistory or made of heavy material like steel, the engineer may recommend they be placed closer together like four to six feet.

house with pier and beam foundation

What are the two common footing problems with Piers?

Pier & beam foundations are typically a very stable way to build a home. However, like a slab foundation, they do have their own problems: 

  • Collapsing Piers: Piers have fully or partially collapsed, leaned, or sunk. These can be reset and stabilized by a professional contractor. 
  • Beams Shift: The beams can shift, typically happens when the piers have shifted or sunk. 
  • Failed Shims: A home that has previously been shimmed with poor quality shims like plywood will rot, requiring the house to be releveled using better grade shims. 
  • Beams Decay or Rot: This is a problem with wooden beams that are exposed to moisture.

Need help with your pier and beam foundation in Dallas-Fort Worth Area, TX? Solid Rock Foundation Repair is here to help. Call 817-400-7625 today.