Elevate takeoffs for faster bids and increased project success for FREE. See Details Here.

PlanHub’s Q2 Research Reveals Many Opportunities. Register for the Webinar and Learn More

Common Foundation Types and Their Uses

cement pouring stage

The foundation of a building is the most important part. It provides stability and strength and helps prevent hazards such as moisture intrusion. Buildings can’t be built without a foundation bearing their weight.

Foundations come in a variety of types, each with their strengths and weaknesses. Before we look at the best foundation types for residential and commercial buildings, we’ll look at the parts of a building foundation.

Parts of a building foundation

A standard foundation has three main parts: footings, stem walls, and the slab. Together they provide a level, straight, structurally sound base for constructing a building.

Footings are the part of a foundation that touches the soil. They help transfer the weight of the building to the soil and help prevent moisture from seeping into the structure. They can be located in select locations or may be poured below the walls around the perimeter of the building.

Stem walls are short walls poured along the outside edges of a foundation that raise the building above the ground level. They help protect the structure from flooding or raise it up to counteract the slope of the land.

The slab is the concrete floor or base of a foundation. It may be poured above the footings and stem walls, or directly on the ground (called a slab on grade). The slab provides structural support and helps spread the weight of the building across the footprint of the structure.

Most common foundation types for homes

Homes and other residential buildings generally use one of the following foundation types: basement, crawlspace, slab on grade, or spread footings.

A basement foundation, as the name suggests, refers to when a home or building includes a basement, which is a room dug out of the ground. A full basement is completely dug out, while a half or daylight basement is only partially dug out. Half or daylight basements are seen when a home is built on a slope, and only half of it needs
to be dug out. Due to issues of moisture intrusion, basement foundations often need special treatments to help prevent water from seeping in. In particularly wet areas, a pumping system may need to be installed to remove water before it damages the structure or its contents. Basements can be finished to provide extra living space, or unfinished to hold items like laundry appliances, furnaces, and/or provide storage space.

A foundation with a crawlspace generally includes stem walls that raise the slab above the ground. This leaves a space, usually two to four feet high, between the ground and the slab. This space, called a crawlspace, can be used to access the underside of the slab to run and work on utilities and/or can provide additional storage. Similar to a basement, this space often requires added protection to prevent moisture from entering. In addition, venting is added along the perimeter to keep the space as cool and dry as possible.

A slab on grade is a foundation poured directly on the ground. This is the easiest and most cost-effective type of foundation to use, because not much excavation is required, but it does have its drawbacks. If a leak occurs in the piping under or in the foundation, the foundation must be jackhammered up and patched once the leak has been repaired. Also, because the utilities are cased in concrete or run below the concrete, it can be difficult to detect leaks when they occur. Professional leak detectors are often required to diagnose the leak so it can be fixed.

Spread footing foundations, also called strip foundations, are poured wider at the bottom than they are at the top. This provides additional stability and helps spread the weight of the building out over a wider area. This foundation type can be used to help stabilize a building in loose soil.

Most common foundation types for commercial buildings

Commercial buildings may use one of the following foundation types: pile, slab on grade, mat, spot footing, caisson, and T-shaped.

When dealing with loose soil conditions, commercial buildings may rely on a pile slab to stabilize the structure. Long posts, called piles, are rammed into the ground to increase stability. The footings and foundation are then poured on top of these piles. Piles help when the soil is only slightly unsteady. For extreme loose soil, another post, called a pier, is used (see below for foundations used in flood zones).

Just like with residential foundations, commercial foundations can be poured directly onto the ground. This is called a slab on grade or slab foundation and is the most cost-effective type of foundation to use, because not much excavation is required. It has the same drawbacks, making leak detection and repair difficult and requiring moisture protection.

Mat foundations are similar to slab foundations, but the structure weight is borne by columns that are fastened to the slab. Traditionally, mat foundations are round or rectangular, depending on the shape of the building and the soil conditions. They help guard against soil settlement and allow commercial buildings to have basements.

Spot footings are used with piles or piers to support these elements and transfer weight to the soil. Each pile or pier gets its own footing, sort of like a mini foundation. There can be any number of these footings in a building, and they are commonly constructed of reinforced concrete and rebar.

Caisson foundations are used in extremely loose soil and are often found in bridges and dams. A pre-manufactured hollow structure is sunk into an excavated hole in the ground, usually with piers and drilled holes. Then the hollow structure is filled with concrete. The weight of the filled caisson, combined with the support of the piers, helps keep the structure stable in loose soil.

With a T-shaped foundation, multiple footings are driven deep into the ground, usually below the frost layer to help protect them from freezing. Then walls are erected on top of the footings, and a reinforced slab is poured between the footings. This foundation type is used with tall commercial buildings and sites prone to the freeze/thaw cycle.

Foundation types for flood zones

There are two main foundation types used in flood zones: pile and pier and beam.

As was mentioned above, a pile foundation is made up of long posts driven into the soil with a concrete slab poured on top. These piles help provide stability in loose soil conditions, such as a flood zone.

A pier and beam foundation, also known as “piers and pile” or “pier and post,” uses concrete beams or posts, called piers, driven deep into the ground for additional stability. Piers are driven deeper than piles, and the structure operates similar to an ocean pier. Beams are installed at the top of the piers to support the structure’s foundation. The use of this type of system requires an engineered design to ensure that the system can support the weight required.

Are you a general contractor looking for a concrete contractor to furnish a building foundation, or a concrete contractor looking for work? PlanHub can help GCs connect to subcontractors and help concrete contractors find new work. See how we helped this concrete contractor boost its revenue, then check out a free demo today.

Be the first to know

PlanHub insights, resources, and news, sent directly to your inbox.

    planhub icon

    Data and Deep Insights

    We make construction smarter by connecting with the right people, at the right time, for the right project.

    With our technology and data intelligence, we empower construction professionals to easily build the right business relationships, streamline pre construction processes, and make efficient decisions.

    From competitive intelligence in each project allowing you to know how many other contractors are downloading or bidding to insights as to contractors’ performance, we provide the data you need to lead your business to success.

    By providing faster, simpler, and unmatched data insights in each step of the pre construction process, PlanHub helps your business lay a strong foundation for the success of the rest of the construction process.

    planhub icon

    Bid Leveler & Proposal builder

    Comparing bids to one another has never been easier. Users can now see bids side by side, compare bid amounts, and review subcontractors’ certifications and qualifications all in one place.

    Bid Leveler’s apples-to-apples approach allows you to easily drill down and see detailed, easy-to-scan cost breakdowns. Indicate bid preference, hide bids that don’t meet your needs, and request needed information from subs.

    planhub icon

    Full Bid Management

    From the initial decision to pursue a project to the final bid submission and follow up, bid management plays a central role in pre construction.

    Effectively managed bids during the preconstruction phase set the stage for a successful project execution and satisfied clients.

    Streamline bid management from project posting to estimating, bidding, and awarding in one place with easy project posting, project-contractor automatic matching based on trades, location, and qualification with PlanHub.

    Use bid planner, bid builder, bid leveler, and award tools to always know what’s going on with each project and bid.

    planhub icon

    Estimation and TakeOff

    Let’s face it—time is money. And the more time it takes to perform takeoffs and submit bids, the more you risk losing out on valuable revenue opportunities. Manual methods and locally installed desktop software slow your takeoff process, and many digital solutions currently on the market can be overly complex and not user-friendly. 

    Build faster takeoffs, get more bids out the door, and win more projects. Forget pen and paper, outdated desktop software, and overly complicated digital takeoff solutions. PlanHub’s easy-to-use Takeoff tool helps you and your team build accurate takeoffs faster, minimize errors and material waste, and win more projects that boost your business growth. Performing your takeoffs with PlanHub allows you to:

    • Streamline and integrate your process: Perform your takeoffs in the same platform you use to manage your network and bids.
    • Avoid costly estimating errors: Get better accuracy with digital tools instead of traditional, mistake-prone pen and paper.
    • Collaborate easily: Share and work with your team, no matter where you—or they—are located.
    • Submit more bids and win more projects: Get quality bids in front of general contractors faster and get ahead of your competition.
    planhub icon

    Document Management

    Organize, store, and manage various documents, blueprints, drawings and other information related to projects before the actual construction phase begins.

    This phase is crucial for setting the foundation of a successful construction project, and effective document management plays a significant role in ensuring that all necessary information is accessible, accurate, and up-to-date to all interested parties.

    Access, review, work on, and share large complex documents in one platform with amazing speed. From project definition, drawing management, takeoff, estimation, bid management, and contracts, everything happens in PlanHub.

    planhub crm
    planhub icon


    Be part of a construction professionals’ ecosystem that enhances collaboration, streamlines project management, and fosters smart relationships between companies, construction professionals, and projects.

    Enjoy seamless communication, build strong relationships, and streamlines project management. By leveraging the power of connections and collaboration, we enhance efficiency, save time and resources, and drive collective growth in the industry.

    planhub network
    planhub icon

    1M+ pre-qualified network

    PlanHub is the leading platform that connects companies, construction professionals, and projects in the pre-construction industry, focusing on building and developing meaningful relationships to enhance efficiency and productivity.

    We have integrated general contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers’ workflows in one platform to simplify the complex back and forth usually present in preconstruction. By allowing all interactions to be done through PlanHub, tracking projects and relationships is much easier, saving contractors and material suppliers time and money. Interactions in the platform are tagged and measured to provide insights to users.

    General contractors create bid packages that are shared in PlanHub as projects. They can include templatized lists of all CSI cost items as part of the new Baseline feature. Baseline allows for faster and more accurate bid requests, facilitates homogenization of subcontractors’ bids, and simplifies the comparison of incoming bids.

    Subcontractors are automatically matched with relevant projects based on their profile, preferences, and pre-qualification information saving hours of research to both sides. They can review project details, documentation, and blueprints.

    planhub icon

    High-quality projects

    Your one-stop job for qualified hard-to-find private project leads in varying stages like pre-planning, bidding, etc., and across different geographies, zip codes, or distance to your office.

    Projects include plans, specifications, bid dates, and other relevant project information.

    You can segment project leads by type of project, status, project building use, trades and sub trades, or create your own list of keywords — and be notified when one of them is found in a posted project’s documentation or plans.

    We make it simple to find projects that match your business — and make sure you are notified right away.

    					<script src='https://planhub.com/wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery.min.js' id='jquery-core-js'></script>
    <script charset="utf-8" type="text/javascript" src="//js.hsforms.net/forms/embed/v2.js"></script>
        region: "na1",
        portalId: "7063061",
        formId: "ced7254f-5c61-49b9-9ce0-6f870b79a958"

    Get the report!

    From the very beginning, PlanHub has been a place where people can do meaningful work and build strong relationships.

    Come grow with us! We’re building innovative technologies that simplify preconstruction for everyone.

    Expand your network and connect with general contractors, subcontractors, owners, architects, and suppliers – not to mention thousands of relevant projects at your fingertips.

    Generate relevant leads, faster and with precision. With access to private, hard-to-find projects, you can connect with architects and owners on projects still in the pre-design and design stages.

    PlanHub’s advanced suite of bid management tools allows you to increase productivity, identify relevant projects using data, build bids with Takeoff, and manage bids through the entire process.

    Create quicker, improved takeoffs effortlessly. PlanHub’s Takeoff Core aids your team in accurate, faster estimates, minimizing errors, and driving business growth.

    Expand your network and connect with general contractors, subcontractors, owners, architects, and suppliers – not to mention thousands of relevant projects at your fingertips.

    Generate relevant leads, faster and with precision. With access to private, hard-to-find projects, you can connect with architects and owners on projects still in the pre-design and design stages.

    PlanHub’s advanced suite of bid management tools allows you to increase productivity, identify relevant projects using data, build bids with Takeoff, and manage bids through the entire process.