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Everything You Need To Know About Foundation Piers 

Everything You Need To Know About Foundation Piers 
Everything You Need To Know About Foundation Piers 
In this article, we’re going to talk about foundation piers. Not to be confused with the piers used in underpinning (a form of foundation repair), these piers are a type of foundation, like basements and slabs. If you’re building or buying a new home, chances are you’re looking to see what kind of foundation you need. That’s where this blog comes in.

What Are Foundation Piers?

Foundation piers are just one part of a support system called pier and beam. The piers transfer your home’s weight into the soil below it. Then, wooden beams are placed over these piers. Together, this two-part system keeps your home off the ground and is usually used on sloping properties or areas with rising tides. Pier and beam foundations can also be called crawl space foundations since they leave an opening under your home.
concrete foundation piers

When Are Pier Foundations Used?

Contractors usually use pier foundations when it’s too challenging to build a traditional slab or basement. Here are a few examples.
  • If your property contains mostly decomposed rock near the surface.
  • If your property contains a vast tree root system.
  • If your property contains a lot of stiff and resistant clay.
  • If your property has a low water-bearing capacity.
  • If your home is built from logs or timber.
  • If your home needs to be built on a slope.

Do Foundation Piers Really Work?

Yes, foundation piers really work. Below are a few benefits of building or buying a home with foundation piers.
  • Less material – Because piers are spaced out from each other, they require fewer materials to build.
  • Wider design variety – There are multiple types of foundation piers used by home builders: concrete blocks, solid piers, and drilled caissons. Contractors can change or add to the design even after your foundation is built.
  • Less excavation and disruption – Pier and beam foundations don’t require as much excavation as basements or slabs since contractors only need to build individual piers.
  • Less water damage – Because foundation piers keep your home off the ground, rising water won’t be able to damage the wooden beams and joists.
  • More visibility and access – Electricians, plumbers, and sewer line professionals have clear access to wires or pipes that run underneath your home. This also makes it easier for foundation repair specialists to inspect any damage to your home.
  • Less vibration – Foundation piers transfer the weight of your home into the soil below it. This means that if there’s an earthquake, the piers will counter the movement.

What’s The Difference Between Foundation Piers And Footings?

Footings are the concrete support platform at the bottom of your piers or basement walls. There are a few different types of footing: pad footings (t-shaped), stepped footings, and sloped footings. Piers are the concrete columns or piles that rest on top of the footings, usually connected using steel rebar.

the timber framing of a house under construction on a pile Foundation

Are Foundation Piers Considered A Permanent Foundation?

Yes, when well maintained, foundation piers are considered a permanent foundation. Unless affected by something severe, such as a mudslide or extreme earthquake, foundation piers can last well beyond the life of your home.

What Size Foundation Piers Do I Need For My House?

The general rule of thumb for determining the size of foundation piers is “1 inch per foot of span.” That means that if your foundation is 20 feet wide, your piers need to be 20 inches in diameter.

Is It Cheaper To Build On A Slab Or Foundation Piers?

Slabs are cheaper to build but harder to maintain over time. Foundation piers offer more flexibility and accessibility, making them easier to care for as they age. Slab foundations typically cost homeowners between $5,000 and $20,000. Pier foundations cost homeowners between $16,000 and $30,000.

Things You Should Know About Foundation Piers

Although we mentioned the benefits of foundation piers, they can come with some drawbacks. Below are a few.
  • Sagging – If some of your foundation piers sink into the soil deeper than others, your floors can begin to sag and creak.
  • Tilting – If your foundation piers start tilting, you might notice some strange effects in your home, such as sticking windows and doors.
  • Failure – If they’re poorly built and not well maintained, these piers can collapse or crack over time.
  • Exposure – Because the underside of your home is exposed, moisture and humidity can affect your piers, beams, and joists. In order to counter this, experts need to encapsulate and insulate your crawl space. Without proper insulation, your foundation could even be energy-inefficient.
Wooden flooring base under construction. Closeup on pile foundations support the floor.

Who Offers Foundation Pier Repair Near Me?

If you need foundation repair in the Chicagoland area, call The Real Seal. We’ve been repairing all types of foundations, including piers. We’ll come out and inspect your home, find out what’s causing your foundation to fail, and give you the best solutions on the market. We also offer foundation waterproofing (we can encapsulate your crawl space), concrete leveling, and more. Call today for your free inspection and estimate.


Austin Werner

Austin Werner is the Owner of The Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing and foundation repair company. Austin believes that having a highly trained and happy team is the key to success. This is reflected through hundreds of 5 star customer reviews his company has received online.

4 Responses

    1. Hi Angela!

      What do you mean by low piers? If you can you point me to the spot in the article you are talking about I can help clarify it.

  1. Are steel piers considered permnament foundation?
    What kind of base do they need to sit on?
    We have ordered new double wide and comparing this to concrete pier construction.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Peggy!

      Steel piers, as long as they are galvanized, will last a very long time. They will need supportive strata below the ground, and it depends on the weight they are holding to determine how deep they go to hit the correct support. Typically, Helical Piers would be used in this application, spacing and size determined by an engineer.

      Galvanized piers are coated in a material that prevents rusting of the piers.

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