You have come across a term – crawl space foundation – and you just don’t quite understand what that means or how it is different than a slab foundation. No big deal, it’s not a term everyone is familiar with so let’s spell it out for you.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing home foundations in Bryan, College Station, and the surrounding Brazos Valley communities like Caldwell and Madisonville since 1985. We are familiar with this type of foundation because we work on them all the time. We know how they are built, and more importantly how to fix ‘em.
This article will explain the term crawl space foundation and define two distinct types that we typically see in the Central Texas area. We will go over this foundation type’s main characteristics and pros and cons.
Definition of a Crawl Space Foundation
Our friends at Wikipedia say, “A crawl space is an unoccupied, unfinished, narrow space within a building, between the ground and the first (or ground) floor. The crawl space is so named because there is typically only enough room to crawl rather than stand.”
So we know where it is and just about what it looks like. But what is its purpose?
This type of shallow foundation primarily creates a protective buffer between the ground and the wooden structure of the home or building. It also allows easy access to repair plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.
How Crawl Space Home Differ From Other Foundation Types
Basement foundations are usually needed in colder climates where the foundation needs to reach below the frost line. Crawl space foundations are more typically found in warmer regions where there is no frost line to contend with.
But crawl space foundations can be found anywhere if it’s an older period home because at one time, that was all they made.
A crawl space foundation is kind of like a mini unfinished basement.
People don’t use crawl spaces for living space like they do basements though. But sometimes homeowners use crawl spaces for storage if they are sealed. Most crawl spaces we see in Central Texas are the unsealed kind that you would not use to store things.
Two Types of Crawl Space Foundations
In our region of the US as well as other areas, we see two types of crawl space foundations:
- Block and base, and
- Pier and beam.
Homeowners are often more familiar with one term over the other and some people sort of lump both types of foundations and the term crawl space foundation all into one and use them interchangeably. Many in our area just call everything a pier and beam foundation even when it’s technically not. That’s okay though, we know what you are talking about.
Block and Base Foundations
A block and base foundation literally looks like a house up on blocks. The supports under the home are piers that can be made from stone, bricks, concrete blocks, or even timber. Block and base homes are open underneath and may or may not have cosmetic skirting around the perimeter of the home.
Pier and Beam Foundations
Instead of pier structures every so many feet along the perimeter of the home, a pier and beam home has a solid concrete support beam that runs the perimeter and penetrates into the ground all the way around. This perimeter beam is typically concrete, but can also be made from concrete blocks or brick.
You can tell that a home is a pier and beam home when you see vents spaced out along the base of the home. The solid perimeter beam can limit ventilation. To keep excessive moisture build-up out of the crawl space, vents are needed to allow for more air circulation under the home and prevent wood rot, mold, and other foundation damaging conditions.
Pros and Cons of Crawl Space Foundations
Like most things, crawl space foundations have advantages and disadvantages to the homeowner as well as the builder. We will quickly break them down for you here:
Pros of Crawl Space Foundations
- Easy access to home systems for repair, like plumbing and electrical
- Putting an addition to the home can be easier
- Typically cheaper foundation repair/house leveling costs
- Home rests at a higher elevation for nice yard views
- Wood materials used in floor/foundation structure are easier on the human body
Cons of Crawl Space Foundations
- Crawl space homes need ongoing maintenance
- Under-home leaks more likely to go undetected compared to basement homes
- Lightweight and more prone to movement from expansive soil and extreme wind
- Greater potential for drainage problems, mold/mildew, or musty smells
- Some people think they are *old school* and not as good as other foundation types
- Not well suited for cold, frost line climates or extreme sloping lots
Why Don’t They Make Crawl Space Foundations Much Anymore?
Crawl space foundations are not made as frequently anymore, but it’s not because they are not fashionable anymore. Homes with a crawl space are actually very in-style for people who love that vintage fixer-upper look or period homes.
This foundation type has fallen out of favor in the home building industry because frankly, they are more expensive and harder to build. It’s all about the money and not fashion. Crawl space foundations are made with a lot of wood (not cheap) and take a long time to construct.
Because crawl space foundations are complex and interconnected, they also take more skill and precision to build and repair. So they have fallen out of popularity because builders prefer to use less expensive materials they can quickly put together to boost efficiency and their bottom line.
You might more often see a newer crawl space home built in the country. In that case, it might be cheaper to build that style in a rural area over a slab-on-grade home, due to limited access to labor or materials.
Do You Have Foundation Issues with Your Crawl Space Home?
Now that you know all about crawl space homes, including the different types and their pros and cons, why are you really here? Is it because you might be having a foundation issue with your crawl space home?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing all kinds of foundations since 1985. We know how to spot the signs of settlement and problems in your home foundation and can share them with you.
When searching for signs of foundation problems on the internet, you might find a lot of information only to learn that it’s more about slab foundations. We have an article that’s specifically written about signs of foundation issues in crawl space homes. Check it out if you want to know what to look for.