Unfortunately, many homeowners do not know the difference between a foundation and a concrete footing, and they often believe these are one and the same. However, even though the purpose of both these structural elements is to support your home, the footing is designed to support the foundation. The purpose of concrete footings is to prevent settling, especially in areas with unstable soils.
Since without a properly built footing the house cannot achieve complete stability, the construction must be done by professionals. Experts in North Carolina can assess the soil condition and decide how deep and wide the footing needs to be, and where exactly it needs to be placed. When a footing is built on the wrong type of soil or the dimensions are not calculated correctly, a lot of problems can occur, and the health of the foundation can be jeopardized. Read on as we take a closer look at concrete footings and their characteristics.
What Is a Concrete Footing?
A concrete footing is made from poured concrete and reinforced with rebar. When calculating the size of the footing, the contractors need to consider the size of the building being built. They also need to keep in mind the moisture content and bearing capacity of the soil. When built on unstable soils, the foundation can settle over time, and the structure will eventually get damaged.
When built and placed properly, the footing can provide support to the foundation and the entire home. Apart from houses and buildings, concrete footings also play an important part when it comes to projects such as building a deck or a pergola.
Building a Concrete Footing
When contractors are building a concrete footing, they need to complete the following steps. First, they need to dig up the ground to make room for concrete footing. After setting up the formwork, they will need to mix the concrete on a clean surface so that unwanted elements won’t end up in the mixture. In the next half an hour, the builders will need to pour the concrete into the wooden forms, or otherwise, the concrete will begin to set outside of the forms. The next step contractors will take is bringing the refill material or soil, and then compacting the base of your home. In the end, they will need to wait for the concrete to cure so they can move on with the construction.
Not doing any of these steps properly can result in concrete footing failure.
Which Factors May Impact the Footing Construction?
Although constructing the concrete footing seems relatively easy, it takes a lot more than just digging a hole and pouring the concrete on forms to make a reliable footing. Here are two factors contractors need to take into consideration when building the concrete footing:
- Soil Condition
There are different types of soil, and they all behave differently under the weight of the home. When a footing is being created, the condition of soil it will sit on needs to be taken into consideration, since it will play an important part when it comes to footing’s health. There are three types of soil the footing will sit on: man-moved soil, backfill soil, and native soil layers. Each of these layers reacts differently to moisture content and temperature. It is important to consult with a structural engineer who will assess the soil condition before the footing is poured. They can determine whether the ground will be able to bear the weight of the structure. If the soil is unsuitable, it can be removed and replaced with better materials. Also, contractors can mix the existing soil with aggregates to improve load-bearing capacity. Denser soils have a better load capacity than lighter ones.
- Moisture Content
Another factor contractors need to count on is soil moisture. This factor will determine the density of the concrete footing. If concrete is poured into a hole with dry soil, chances are that the soil will suck the water out of the concrete and, as a result, the concrete will become much weaker than it is supposed to be. This is why it is important to dampen any dry soil before the concrete is poured. However, not all dry soils should be moistened the same way. For instance, clay soil does not absorb much water, so it doesn’t take much liquid to dampen it. On the other hand, excess water in the soil increases the water-to-cement ratio in the concrete and weakens the footing. Therefore, it is important to check the moisture content of the soil before any work is done.
Benefits of a Concrete Footing
Although it has many purposes, the main one is to support the foundation and keep the home stable. Footings are what prevent the house from settling, so they need to be properly built. Building a foundation on bare earth can result in foundation cracks. The concrete footing is the first line of defense against environmental loads and damaging natural forces.
However, not every structure needs to have a concrete footing. The lighter ones that aren’t so heavy and are not prone to structural damage don’t require a concrete footing.
If a concrete footing is not properly built, it will not protect the home from settling. If the footing malfunctions, you will be able to notice signs of damage related to foundation settlement, such as cracks in foundation walls, leaning chimneys, cracks around doors and windows, and sticking doors and windows.
If you notice any signs of foundation settlement or you wish to learn more about the ways you can keep your foundation in the best possible shape, get in touch with experts at Tar Heel Basement Systems to schedule a free inspection. After a thorough assessment, our inspector will notify you about the existing problems and all the ways you can fix your foundation.