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Pros & Cons Of A Pier Foundation

Pros & Cons Of A Pier Foundation
Pros & Cons Of A Pier Foundation

Are you familiar with a pier foundation? Have you ever seen a home that looks it’s built on stilts? These homes are built on a pier, or pier-and-beam foundation, a construction style similar to building a wooden deck. Follow along! This article will go over the pros and cons of a pier foundation.

What Is A Pier Foundation?

A pier foundation is a series of vertical pillars or piles that transfer the building load to the soil. Beams are then built on top of these columns. They lift the house off the ground and are very popular in coastal regions where rising tides are a problem.

Pier foundations work well in sites where it might be challenging to build a traditional foundation, such as around trees or vast root systems. Other reasons pier foundations are used:

  • When decomposed rocks are close to the surface, and there is firmer soil just below them.
  • When there is a lot of stiff clay in the soil that offers resistance.
  • When a home is built from log or timber.
  • When the homes need to be built on a slope.
  • When the soil has a low water-bearing capacity.
Pier Foundation

Types Of Pier Foundations

There are two types of pier foundations used today, masonry or concrete piers and drilled caissons.

  1. Masonry or concrete piers – Made of concrete, these solid piers depend on the level of the stratum (load-bearing soil). If good soil is not too deep below the foundation, masonry piers are used.
  2. Drilled caissons – Sometimes referred to as drilled piers because of their cylindrical shape, these piers are drilled into the ground and then filled with concrete and reinforcing materials. With caisson drilling, weight-bearing concrete columns (supported by steel cages or other reinforcements) can reach the bedrock, providing a more stable base for large structures.
types of pier foundations

Pros Of A Pier Foundations

Below are the pros of using a pier foundation.

While the pros seem very attractive, a few cons come with building a pier foundation. All foundations will have their problems, so it’s up to you and a trained professional to find the best solution.

Pier foundation graphic

Cons Of A Pier Foundation

Below are the cons of using a pier foundation.

pier foundation graphic

Now What?

If you have a pier foundation and want to know if it needs repairs, replacement, or you want a simple inspection, who should you call? You’re going to want to talk to professionals who not only know what they are doing but have the real solutions.

Know more about – How to Know Your Property Has a Good Foundation

The Real Seal

If you live in the Chicagoland area, call The Real Seal for all of your pier foundation needs. We can inspect your foundation, find any problems or signs of potential damage, and get you on the right path.


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.

6 Responses

  1. Good morning
    I’m in the process of building tiny homes on my property…after reading your post I jus want your professional opinion… do you think I should go with pier or slab foundation? My original plans were to go with pier after reading your post I’m leaning more towards pier… very informative by the way thank you… I guess I’m looking for your stamp of approval…lol thanks in advance

    1. Hi Summer!

      Thanks for the question. It really depends on how heavy the homes you are building are, what kind of soil they are on, and what your long-term plan for them is. It would be best to consult with a local architect so you can get all of those questions answered and a specific answer. Slab and pier foundations are both acceptable foundations for their use types. Basically, get an architect to help you get the specifics so you get the right foundation for your project.

  2. I built a farm house 3/2/slab. Poor grading was done allowing water to reach my slab. My builder told me that I had 35 piers but my project manager told me I had 81 piers. I had. A Mold Co. Come out bc of slight headache upon awakening and a crusty nose and discovered mold. It is aspergillus pneumoniae (or reverse) and a other Type for which are both toxic. I have a lot of problems with my house which the builder refuses to fix so I have had to sue him. Nothing was done on punchout list either. He has been a real jerk. Problems with my roof (metal), my $12,000.00 LVP flooring has cupped all over my house has to be ripped up, slab dried out and more put down, I could go on and on. I need someone who can come out and give me a quote on what it would take to fix my house. Do you know who I call to get someone to come out and give me a figure so my suit can go forward. I had a private home inspector come out and there was 8-9 pages of things wrong. Most of them were code violations. Some were cosmetic. I’m not worried about the crooked doors, bowed framed, bowed studs, etc I just need the major things fixed. I just don’t know who to call. He buried a ton of stuff on my property which I was told it was strictly against the law to bury on a build site per the person that is head of Zoning UNTIL he found out who my builder was. Then he said he couldn’t help me bc Chris told him in good faith that he buried 90% brick and cement
    I have pictures which show differently. Wood, tires, wire, barbed wire bundles, french posts,hundreds of 2×4 pieces that were cut off, HVAC from previous house, metal. Cast iron pipes, cans of something. The man who lived here was a diesel mechanic. Just to name a little of what is in the hole that is about 35 ft. Deep. Can you help me find the right person to talk to?

    1. Hi Rita!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experience building your home. It sounds like the best person to help you quote this whole project correctly to move forward would be another GC with a better reputation. The best way to find the best GC for the job would be to compare reviews across all sites online. We suggest going to Yelp, BBB, Angie’s, and Google. Read the reviews and you will be able to find a good contactor who can help with all that.

      Again, I’m sorry you have that headache.

  3. Hi Austin, I wish I could post pictures to easily explain this. I saw a house sitting on a pier foundation of 17 drilled caissons, with 17 structural wooden telephone poles sitting on top of 17 drilled concrete base piers. The concrete piers are each about 20 inches in diameter and the wood poles are about 12 inches in diameter. So the base concrete piers are much wider than the wooden poles sitting on top of them. But the wooden poles are not sitting directly on the flat surface of the concrete pier tops. They are all raised higher on 1.5 inch cement steppers of the same diameter of each corresponding wooden poles. My friend concluded that the wooden poles were rotten, cut and filled with cement in between. I think this is intentionally designed to avoid the wooden post to suck up rain water or moisture on the flat concrete surface. It hides the bottom of those wooden posts on top of the 1.5 inch high steppers, and keeps the rain water away. What is your take on this?

    1. Hi Steven!

      Thank you for the detailed explanation. My take on this is simple: We don’t build homes (in areas other than in the middle of nowhere) on telephone poles anymore. While it may have worked in the past and on coastlines, the only thing to do with those as they rot and decay would to be replace with new wood or steel. It’s common to see these in Chicago in the older homes. We see them raised up on shims above the concrete caissons, as well as just those wooden posts in the ground.

      When you’re not dealing with the rising tide, it’s best to stick with concrete for your foundation.

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