Most people understand that a house is built from the ground up. Actually, in Wisconsin, it’s made from the “underground” up. That’s because foundations in Wisconsin are constructed differently than for homes in many other parts of the country. This is due to the wide fluctuations in weather and the different types of soil.
A home’s foundation is the structural base and bears the weight of the entire building. It evenly distributes the load of a house and prevents it from sinking or shifting.
Building a New Home in Wisconsin: Below the Frost Line
The best foundations in Wisconsin begin with footings installed below the frost line. This is the deepest point where the ground will freeze in the winter. Depending on where you are in Wisconsin, the frost line varies between 40 and 48 inches; the farther north you go, the deeper the frost line will be. The foundation walls and floor are then set on top of the footings.
Changes in the ground, shifting and heaving due to freezing and thawing soil, can cause cracks, wall movement, and settling or bowing in the floors and walls. This can cause major damage to your home if the footings and foundation are not installed properly.
So, what kind of foundation is best for your custom home? Here are some of the most popular types of foundations in Wisconsin and the pros and cons of each.
Building Materials for Foundations in Wisconsin
Several different types of materials have been used for houses and building foundations in Wisconsin. But frankly, problems may occur with every kind of construction material. However, if you know something about each, you’ll be able to identify unique issues and choose the best one to use for your new home.
- Brick – Pros and Cons
Although this material is not used very often today for a foundation, it was very popular nearly a century ago. A brick foundation uses hundreds of uniform-sized clay bricks – averaging 8”x 2” in a staggered pattern – with mortar in between and usually having several thicknesses. For example, the average brick foundation wall uses three layers of bricks, making the walls somewhere between 18 and 20 inches thick.
Most bricks are red but can vary from brown to off-white and offer lovely textured walls to your lower level if not covered by drywall. Additionally, brick is better at insulating your house from the heat and cold than many other building materials and can lower utility costs. Other pros are that brick is fire resistant, a great noise reducer, and largely maintenance-free.
The cons to brick are that, first of all, it can be porous. If the area has water drainage issues, the house or lower level can get moldy and become musty-smelling. If this is the case, it’s best to use other materials for the foundation and use brick for different areas. Finally, vines and plants can grow into brick and damage the foundation walls.
- Stone – Pros and Cons
Historic houses in Wisconsin often used fieldstone or limestone for their foundations. While not as common today, stone foundations in Wisconsin now use various large, round rocks with cement mortar to create a solid wall. The colors range from off-white to grey to brownish-red.
Although these walls can be very strong, frankly, most builders shy away from using stone for foundations in today’s homes. This is because it tends to crack, chip, and then allow water to seep into the basement.
However, a stone or brick façade can always be added to your foundation’s exterior to give it an aged look.
- Concrete Block – Pros and Cons
Concrete block foundations use uniform blocks, measuring approximately 14” wide x 8” tall. Installing these blocks requires jointing the pieces together with a mortar and leveling each row. Some builders also use steel rebar for added strength.
One pro to using concrete blocks is that these blocks can have a special front added to imitate the look of stone but will cost much less. Using blocks of masonry, the foundation can be built in less time than other products. This makes it less expensive overall and is quite popular with many home builders.
A major issue with concrete block walls is that waterproofing is crucial. Blocks are susceptible to water leaks along joints of the wall and floor. Water can also seep through the mortar holding the blocks together. It can even remain in the holes of the blocks after the ground is dry.
- Poured Concrete – Most Popular Foundations in Wisconsin
Today, poured concrete is the most common and most popular type of basement construction. It is simple, sturdy, and begins with installing a footing below the frost line. Then, the builder uses forms to contain the poured concrete and hold everything in place as it dries. This results in very strong basement walls that usually don’t have problems with leaks or cracks.
Poured concrete has more advantages to other materials, such as better fire resistance because of the joint-free and dense construction. Water and soil pressure won’t cause bowing, cave-ins, or cracking. Because the poured concrete is a solid piece, it has smaller and fewer voids and is resistant to water seepage, too.
Foundations in Wisconsin Aren’t Always Perfect
In general, if a foundation is built correctly, there is technically no one kind that “holds up” longer or is better than the others. However, one thing to study is the topography of your lot. Talk it over with your builder to know which type of foundation is best for your new home. Consider your plot of land, the style of the house, and your budget.
Joseph Douglas Homes – Building Brand New Homes from the Foundation Up
For more than twenty years, throughout southeastern Wisconsin, Joseph Douglas Homes has been building award-winning custom homes. They can create a home using your plans, you can choose one of their floorplans, or they will design a one-of-a-kind home just for you and your family.
Plus, all Joseph Douglas Homes’ houses conform to the highest criteria of energy efficiency and are built to Energy Star standards. They use energy-efficient equipment in all their homes, such as high-efficiency furnaces, power-vented water heaters, energy-rated windows, doors, and insulation, direct vent fireplaces, and so much more.
This focus on energy efficiency saves their customers money in utility costs and shows that Joseph Douglas Homes cares about the environment and our community.
The professionals at Joseph Douglas Homes are proud to turn their customers’ dreams into reality. They build custom homes using superior designs and competitive prices. Contact Wisconsin’s best home builder – Joseph Douglas Homes – today!