Introduction to Foundation Design

The foundation of a house is a somewhat invisible and sometimes ignored component of the building. It is increasingly evident, however, that attention to good foundation design and construction has significant benefits to the homeowner and the builder, and can avoid some serious future problems. Good foundation design and construction practice means not only insulating to save energy, but also providing effective structural design as well as moisture, termite, and radon control techniques where appropriate.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide information that will enable designers, builders, and homeowners to understand foundation design problems and solutions. This section provides the general background and introduction to foundation design issues. Section 1.1 explains the practical and economic advantages of good foundation design. The organization and scope of this handbook is described in Section 1.2 .

Before proceeding with solving design problems in new construction, there must be a basic decision about the type of foundation to be used— basement, crawl space, or slab-on-grade. Section 1.3 discusses the considerations that affect choosing a foundation type.  In retrofit cases this decision will have obviously been made; the first priority will be solving any existing moisture issues, followed by locating insulation upgrades so they do not worsen moisture accumulation problems.

Foundations are in contact with the ground, and in many areas in the country radon gas is present in the ground and should be prevented from accumulating within the living space of the home.  Because radon represents a major health hazard, a special introduction to radon appears in Section 1.4 .

This chapter is intended to set the stage for the more detailed information found in chapters 2 through 4.