What is a builder’s pier exactly? You’ve been researching foundation settlement and new home construction or home additions and run across this term. Well, this article is going to tell you just about everything you need to know about builder’s piers.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we offer empowering education so you can make confident decisions about your home. After 35+ years in business, we want you to know almost as much about foundations as we do. We can tell you all about builder’s piers because we install them.
As the title suggests, we will define and describe what builder’s piers are and what they do for your home. Then we will overview the installation process, cost, and explore the pros and cons too. Did we forget anything? I don’t think so, but let’s get started ‘cuz we’ve got a lot of info to cover . . .
Definition and Description of Builder’s Piers
Well, I tried and you can’t look up this word (ok, word combination really) in the dictionary. Builder’s piers are a home construction/foundation repair industry term floating around out there but there’s not a ton of info about them on the interwebs.
Builder’s piers serve as an enhancement to a typically constructed slab-on-grade foundation. Drilled piers are added to the slab during the construction phase. These piers offer extra stability by lowering the footprint of a regular slab foundation to less reactive soil depths. Builder’s piers are installed first. Then, the conventional slab is poured on top of the already set piers.
These piers are similar to ground-penetrating foundation footings found on commercial structures. Builder’s piers are just like the drilled bell-bottom piers used in some residential foundation repairs (but not every foundation repair company uses this method). Only instead of being put in place after foundation settlement has occurred, builder’s piers are put in place initially as a way to prevent future problems.
Custom home builders may offer builder’s piers as part of a premium engineered foundation package. It’s like getting an industrial-grade foundation for your home and a step or two above the standard slab.
If your lot has significant slopes, builder’s piers can also be a good way to safeguard your home or addition from settlement or foundation movement due to the varied terrain.
Can Builder’s Piers Prevent Foundation Settlement and Problems?
Builder’s piers are offered as a safeguard against foundation settlement and are effective in many cases. However, there’s never a guarantee that any foundation won’t fall prey to the powerful forces of expansive clay soil.
In other words, nothing can 100% prevent foundation issues. A home buyer or home builder can only try to minimize the chances of settlement by building a foundation that offers more protection than normal.
How Builder’s Piers Are Installed
As mentioned above, the builder’s piers are poured first during home construction, often by another contractor than the one doing the rest of the slab. Then, the conventional slab is poured on top of the already set piers. But let’s be more specific about this process.
First, soil analysis and engineering plans will determine the optimal size, depth, and pier type specific to the individual property – a custom plan. Site preparation and soil work are completed on the lot to clear, sift, and compact the soil. Form boards are installed to set the footprint for the foundation and pier locations are marked by the slab company.
Piers are drilled in the marked locations to the predetermined depth and concrete is poured.
There is an option here to either tie in the piers to the slab with exposed rebar so that they are connected or keep the pieces independent from one another.
Then, the remainder of the excavation is completed for the slab. Steel reinforcements are placed within the beams and slab structure before pouring the regular foundation.
Here’s what was just described above in a shortened list version:
- Soil analysis and engineering
- Lot preparation
- Form boards installed
- Builder’s pier locations marked
- Piers drilled and poured (option to tie piers and slab together or keep separate)
- Further excavation, steel reinforcements placed for the slab
- Slab foundation poured
Creating a slab foundation takes considerable time and work, but adding in the builder’s pier option doesn’t add much extra time to the overall project timeline – really only a couple of days extra for adding builder’s piers.
What is the Cost of Adding Builder’s Piers to a New Foundation?
Cost is a big factor in determining if builder’s piers are right for your new home construction. Builder’s piers add extra cost on top of the typical cost of a standard slab-on-grade foundation.
The price range for a builder’s pier is around $250 to $350 per pier. So if you were doing a small addition to your home and wanted to add builder’s piers, it would add $2,000 to $4,000 to the slab price tag.
If you were putting builder’s piers on a new construction home, the additional cost to include builder’s piers on the whole foundation would add $20,000 to $30,000 to the price of the home.
Now, this might be too high a price tag for some homeowners. But for someone already spending a considerable amount on a higher-end custom home, the additional expense might be worth it to protect their new dream home from settlement as much as possible.
Also, the cost of adding builder’s piers is far less than having to get foundation repairs later, not to mention the hassle, stress, and additional damage brought on by foundation issues.
The Pros and Cons of Using Builder’s Piers for Your New Home
Now that you understand what builder’s piers are, how they are installed, and how much they cost, it’s time for the pros and cons to wrap it all up in summary. Builder’s piers offer:
PRO: A more stable foundation from the start to prevent settlement.
PRO: Foundation versatility and less cost in uneven or hilly terrain.
PRO: A short installation timeline, only adding 1 or 2 days to construction.
While builder’s piers can improve your chances and minimize settlement, nothing is guaranteed. This brings us to the cons:
CON: Higher upfront costs for the homeowner
CON: Cannot absolutely prevent settlement – nothing can
When building a new home, you have to decide whether it’s worth it or not for you to upgrade your foundation with builder’s piers. Some would like to protect their home and investment as much as possible with this enhanced foundation. On the other hand, the additional cost might be a deterrent for others, and decide to take their chances by skipping the builder’s piers.
We know that many homes do just fine with the standard and conventional slab, but we also know that many homes are susceptible to foundation settlement in this area of Central Texas.
If you want to know you’ve done everything you can to give your home the best possible foundation (and you have the funds to do it), then builder’s piers might be a great option to give you that extra peace of mind.
Find Out if Builder’s Piers Are a Possibility for Your Foundation
Now that you know just about everything about builder’s piers, do you want to look into getting them for your new home? The best place to start is with your home builder to see if this is an option they offer. Or if you haven’t selected a builder, this would be a great question to ask when trying to decide what contractor you want to use.
We have worked with local Brazos Valley home builders many times to add builder’s piers to new construction custom homes, and for remodels and additions.
With Anchor serving your foundation needs with excellence, you’ve got 35+ years of expertise in the Brazos Valley and a 5-star Google rating too. On top of that, our drilled piers are the gold-standard, tried-and-true foundation repair method that upgrades your foundation to industrial strength. We do the same with our builder’s piers because you deserve the best that your hard-earned money can buy.
While you’re talking to your builder to see if you can add on builder’s piers to your home, check out the specs on our regular drilled piers. Get an *in-depth* look at our piers with, “What is a Drilled Concrete Pier?” for all the details.