The most important component of a quality custom built home is the part that is generally not seen, at least once the home itself begins to take shape. As the name implies, the foundation is the base and the starting point, and ideally a home’s foundation should last forever. It is critical for the foundation of any luxury home to be properly laid, as any failure can lead to a host of problems down the road in addition to great additional expense for the homeowners.
The purpose of the home’s foundation extends far beyond load-bearing for the structure. It serves as a protective barrier from outside elements, providing insulation and protection from water, as well as resisting the inevitable movement of earth around it. The most common foundations are concrete poured, but a good foundation requires much more than digging a hole and pouring concrete. As with a custom home, each site needs to have the foundation tailored to the specific soil conditions, water tables and even backfill used.
Many renovations today may be working with decades old foundations laid with stone, brick and mortar or even concrete block, all of which are more prone to leaks and cracks over time. Many older foundations may be repaired by pouring an interior or exterior wall, yet often a new foundation needs to be laid to ensure the integrity of the structure. The most trusted custom home builders today that are building dream homes to endure over time will ensure not only a sound foundation but that every detail is perfect. Ideally with new construction, steel reinforced foundation walls are used with footings made of poured concrete. In climates prone to more extreme temperatures, such as the upper Midwest, concrete footings extend below the frost line to provide extra support for a concrete slab foundation.
There are many ways foundations can fail if they are not executed with perfection. The composition of the backfill is critical, as soils with high levels of clay or organic matter retain water, which increases the risk of cracks in the foundation when the soil freezes and expands. The concrete also must cure for the proper amount of time to reach its proper strength. Poured concrete can also crack if it is laid over crushed stone that has not been properly compacted. Additionally, concrete should be poured in one go; if it is interrupted by even a day, a cold joint could be formed between the fresh concrete and the prior pour, which will likely lead to cracks.
The best time of year for laying a foundation in Wisconsin is generally during the Spring or Fall, with temperatures hovering in the mid 50s for 4-5 consecutive days. Extreme heat or cold are bad for concrete, as are direct sun and windy conditions. Wind can cause water to evaporate too quickly from the surface. Ideally conditions would be overcast and damp, but when nature doesn’t cooperate, builders use various methods to cover and insulate to protect the pour. Most importantly, trust your custom home builder to advise on the best time line and conditions, as the foundation is the first and most important step to building the home of your dreams.