Are there pros and cons to different types of foundations? Like are slab foundations better or do pier and beam homes have any advantages? Maybe you are wondering this because you are house shopping or looking to build and it has come up.
Or perhaps you are an insomniac killing time online because you can’t sleep? This is *fascinating stuff* so be prepared to stay awake a little longer . . .
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we specialize in repairing both slab and crawl space foundations and have seen firsthand all the issues that can arise with both of these foundation types over the last 35+ years in business. We can fill you in on their pros and cons for sure.
This article will briefly explain slab vs. pier and beam (or crawl space) foundation types. We will break down the advantages and disadvantages of each in a pros and cons format.
What Is the Difference Between Slab and Crawl Space Foundations?
First, let’s just make sure we touch on what these common foundation types are. Both types are considered “shallow” foundations because they don’t penetrate that far into the ground. Well, they do go into the ground a little, but not compared to a basement foundation.
About Crawl Space Foundations
Crawl space foundations are an older style of foundation, while slab foundations are *relatively new* (they became prominent in the 1950s) in the world of home construction. But today, both types are built and can be found in many areas of the US and are considered common.
All crawl space homes are elevated off of the ground and there is a space between the dirt and the bottom floor structure of your home. The load-bearing parts of the foundation are most commonly made from masonry, stone, or concrete and the rest of the floor structure is made of wood . . . lots of wood.
Two Types of Crawl Space Foundations
There are different types of crawl space homes: block and base and pier and beam. The terms crawl space foundation, pier and beam, and block and base are often used interchangeably. I know . . . it’s a little confusing . . .
Many people call crawl space homes pier and beam homes, even if they technically are block and base. It’s okay, these terms are regional so use whichever everyone else is using.
Both types of crawl space foundations have some type of freestanding piers under the middle of the home. The main difference is that a block and base home is open underneath, sits elevated on some type of pier, and might be enclosed along the perimeter by an easily removable (and non-load bearing) skirting.
A pier and beam home has a solid concrete beam around the perimeter that does bear weight. The beam acts in place of perimeter piers on a block and base home.
About Slab Foundations
Slab foundations lay directly on the ground and are fully made of steel-reinforced concrete. We call them slab-on-grade foundations because “on-grade” basically means on the ground, but that’s just fancy construction-industry talk. Slabs do have a concrete beam that goes deeper into the ground along the perimeter similar to pier and beam homes.
Slab foundations are one continuous piece of poured concrete that include load-bearing beams and create the general floor structure as well. So underneath your flooring type, you are basically walking around on concrete. For more info on how slab foundations are made, check out this article: What is a Slab-on-Grade Foundation and How Are They Made?
The Pros and Cons of Slab and Crawl Space Foundations
Since slab and crawl space foundations are made so differently, they each have pros and cons. You might want to know what advantages and disadvantages these home foundations have in case you are looking to buy, build new, or have never experienced one or the other home type. Let’s break it down for you as simply as possible.
Pros of Slab-on-Grade Foundations
- Faster to construct
- Cheaper to construct
- Reinforced with steel and further ground penetration than crawl space homes
- Feels sturdy and secure underfoot
- Maintenance-free if constructed with the right soil and lot preparation
Cons of Slab Foundations
- The cost to repair slab foundations is higher than crawl space homes
- Plumbing repairs under your slab can be difficult and expensive
- Harder to remodel or move load-bearing walls, plumbing, and electrical conduits
- Can be hard on your joints and body
- Sit closer to the ground and views are not elevated
Pros of Crawl Space and Pier and Beam Foundations
- Looks great and has a vintage or period feel
- Feels better on your body and joints
- Easy to access and repair plumbing and electrical systems under the home
- Easy to make changes to plumbing and electrical when remodeling
- The cost to repair crawl space foundations is cheaper than slab
Cons of Crawl Space Foundations
- Expensive, time-consuming, and complicated to build and repair crawl space homes
- Difficult to find quality installers or builders (everyone wants to do the new style slab)
- Requires ongoing maintenance
- Feels more hollow and can begin to rattle or feel less sturdy without maintenance
- Prone to wood rot, termites, and drainage issues
Slab vs. Pier and Beam: Which is Better?
There is no overall better or best foundation type since they all have an equal number of pros and cons as you can see above. You just have to decide what is most important to you among the pros and cons.
Sure, people tend to have their preferences, but the location and age of your home will usually determine what kind of foundation you have. North, south, country, city, predominant style, and availability of labor and materials are the biggest factors in your foundation type.
But if I did have a choice in foundation type for my dream, fantasy, forever-home, it would be a crawl space home. Mostly because I stomp around like an elephant and love the idea of my home being softer on my knees as I grow to a ripe old age. Also, I like the appearance of an elevated home that looks out over the property.
But alas, I live in a slab foundation home at the moment. The good news is that at least I know how to repair it if there is damage to my foundation. I might be able to get a good deal on foundation repairs. You know *wink wink* since I am the owner of the company and all . . .
More About What Damages Foundations
No matter what kind of foundation you have or choose in the future, the soil we have in our Central Texas area will impact the structure of your home. Our dirt is predominantly expansive clay soil and it has some *special* properties.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been working in the Brazos Valley dirt since 1985. We can tell you that when it comes to expansive soil and foundations, the dirt don’t discriminate. Expansive clay can cause settlement and damage to all foundations.
For more information on what causes foundation settlement and damage, check this out: What is Expansive Clay Soil? How Does It Affect My Home’s Foundation?