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Residential Foundations in the Florida Panhandle

Where to build?


The right foundation for the right site.

A safe, healthy, comfortable, and durable house begins with a proper climate-specific foundation. When building a house, it is extremely important to select the appropriate type of foundation that is both suited for the building site, and its intended purpose. In most cases, there are foundation-type options, depending on your geographical location, climate, soil conditions, and intended use of the structure. 

Health concerns and the expected longevity of the structure may also be determining factors for considering foundation type or types. Some structures may require multiple types of foundations.


The panhandle’s most common foundations.

Raised Slab-on-Grade

Description: Also known as a monolithic concrete slab, this foundation involves pouring the footing and concrete slab simultaneously.

Popularity: It is the most common and least expensive foundation type. 

Raised Slab-on-Grade

Description: This foundation consists of continuous footings with either concrete block or poured concrete steel-reinforced stem walls and a concrete slab. 

Popularity: It is the second most common, especially used when the building site has a slight slope (generally less than 4 feet).

Cost Considerations: Generally reasonable, except near the coast where footing
requirements are typically extremely deep and wide. The first level is often built with 12-inch CMU blocks, solid grout filled, and reinforced with larger rebar. Openings are often reinforced with formed poured concrete.

Structural Characteristics: The rest of the exterior structure is often built with reinforced block and/or poured concrete, creating a very solid structure often referred to as a “fortress house”.

Expense: It is the most expensive foundation type and exterior wall system to construct.

Crawlspace

Description: A continuous cmu or concrete stem-wall on a continuous footing with foundation vents, and wood frame floor system. Although it meets the code, do not construct this type of foundation in Florida – it traps moisture under the floor system.

Walk-Out Basement

Description: Rarely constructed in Florida due to the state’s flat terrain and high water table.

Structure: The foundation slab is almost level with the exterior grade on the lowest side of the slope to provide an exit from the basement, and manage bulk and groundwater under and around the foundation and basement wall structure.

Elevated foundation floor systems.

Houses where the conditioned living space is elevated off the ground generally because of flooding and/or tidal surge potential.


Wood Pilings

o   Made from pressure-treated round poles or square timbers.

o   Supports a wood frame floor system.

o   Third most common, used for sites with flooding potential.

o   Less expensive than prestressed concrete piles.

 

Prestressed Concrete Pilings

o   Made from high-strength concrete and steel, offering extreme durability.

o   Used with wood or concrete floor systems.

o   Common near beaches where tidal surges and flooding are concerns.

o   Generally the most expensive piling foundation type.

 

Cylindrical Concrete Forms

o   Steel-reinforced, concrete-filled circular forms.

o   Support a wood frame floor system.

o   Moderately priced.

 

Stacked Block Columns

o   Built from solid concrete-filled and steel-reinforced concrete masonry units (CMUs).

o   Support a wood floor system.

o   Moderately priced.

 

Helical Piles/Piers

o   Square or round shafts driven into the ground with a rotating action, filled with concrete.

o   Used with wood frame or concrete floor systems.

o   Suitable for deep foundations, causing less soil disturbance and vibration than driving pilings.

o   Less expensive than prestressed concrete and sometimes wood pilings.

More about foundations.

Deep Foundation Options: These are typically used in residential construction under specific conditions such as high wind zones, poor soil conditions, or areas prone to flooding and/or storm-driven tidal surges.

Foundation Recommendations: The foundation type for your lot is usually recommended by an architect, structural engineer, or geotechnical engineer (who conducts soil tests). These recommendations are based on geographical location, owner’s preferences, and costs. Knowledgeable builders can also provide valuable input.

Foundation Requirements: All foundations must support the structure, prevent bulk moisture and vapor from entering the conditioned space, be airtight, and keep insects and critters out.

Construction Durability and Performance: These foundation types can all be highly effective if built according to best building science practices.

FOR INSTANCE

A monolithic slab with a 6-mil plastic barrier is code-compliant but not ideal for areas with a high-water table, prevalent in the North Florida panhandle. Instead, using a bed of 4” deep ¾” gravel for a capillary break and a 10-mil vapor barrier taped at seams and penetrations, wrapped under the footings and up the sides of the slab, exemplifies best practices. This method prevents moisture from wicking into the slab through capillary action.



Key considerations.

Each type of foundation has its own unique conditions to consider, but all foundations should include the following best practice considerations:

Geographical Conditions:

  • Topography
  • Seismic Zone
  • Building Site Location and Geography
  • Orientation
  • Soil Conditions

Climate Conditions:

  • Cold
  • Hot/Dry
  • Hot/Humid (e.g., Florida)
  • Mixed Climates
  • Wind Zone
  • Annual Rainfall (important for foundation water management)
  • Types of Storms (such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and flooding)

Building better foundations.

Intended Durability of Structure:

A durable foundation requires climate-specific construction building materials and construction methods, and a builder that understands best building practices and the knowledge to build foundations that actually perform for the intended life and service of the structure.

 

Maintenance and Operating Costs:

Constructing a durable foundation not only reduces maintenance and operating 

costs, but consequently also contributes to better indoor air quality and comfort.

 

Sustainability and Environmental Impact:

Designing and building for durability is the cornerstone for sustainability and environmental impacts – buildings last longer and require less maintenance.

 

Indoor Air Quality:

If you want a safe, comfortable, and healthy indoor environment you must control the air, heat, and moisture movement (flow) through the building structure, and it begins with the foundation. Consequently, you also achieve a more energy-efficient and durable structure.

Building to code. (Standard practices)

vs.
Building to science. (Best practices)

Selecting a foundation type or types for your house in the North Florida Panhandle that performs appropriately requires a comprehensive knowledge of building science ‘best practices’ to construct a safe, healthy, comfortable, and durable structure on a solid foundation.

Here at Grahame Family 30A Custom Home Builders, we know how to construct these types of foundations and build houses that meet these criteria.

Give Kris a call at 850-220-1850 or email him at kris@gf30a.com Any questions? Want to talk face-to-face? No problem. Contact Kris or Tony@gfh30a.com.

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