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Steps Involved in Building a House - Footings & Foundations

If you haven't already done so you must soon choose the type of doors, windows, garage doors, siding or stucco, trim, brick, furnace, fireplace, cabinets, bathtub & shower.

9. Engineering: In certain conditions an engineer may be required, City Hall, your General Contractor or yourself may feel there is something about the house or lot which requires a stamp of approval from an engineer.

  • When building on a slope you may want an engineer to determine what it takes to keep your house in place. For example, foundation walls may require additional steel, or you may have to use a stronger type of concrete. Using an Engineer might seem a bit costly at times, but it will keep everything in the proper conditions and you may just end up with one of the happier houses in the neighborhood.
  • Any basement that has (backfilled) foundation walls higher then 7'-8' needs engineering.
10. Excavating: When the framer or the surveyor has marked where the house will be situated on the lot the excavator comes in and digs the hole for the foundation.
    Optional: Surveying
  • Although it may cost a bit more, in a tight situation you may want a surveyor to mark the corners of the house. Most areas require a survey to be done after the foundation is in. If you get them to come before you start with the footings it will cost only a little more but it could possibly save you a lot of money and frustration. Many a foundation has had to be moved or entirely redone because it was in the wrong spot.

11. Sand & Gravel: Depending on the excavated soil, you will need good sand, pitrun and drain rock.

  • All slabs should have a minimum of 6" of gravel fill under it.
  • In certain conditions you will have to bring in fill. Either to raise the level of dirt, or because of unstable dirt. This layer ( usually pitrun ) will have to be compacted and leveled. Do not be cheap with this; make sure you do a good job. Compacting equipment can be rented from a rental company. Just make sure that you get the proper size equipment for the job.
12. Foundation: Order the materials needed for the foundation from the lumber yard and the Forms from the Concrete company. When the materials arrive the framers can begin with the foundation.
  • Do not try to save money by ordering all the building materials at this time. You will be the one that will have to move it when it gets in the way. Lumber yards will split the materials up into two or three (or as many as you like) packages.

13. Plumbing, Heating and Electrical: Contact Plumbing, Heating and Electrical trades so that they can install anything that is needed before the concrete is poured.

  • Example: For Legal Suite the Electrician may have to lay a cable inside the concrete.
  • Try not to get too frustrated when waiting for any of these people. Some of the block outs are for their convenience. If they don't want to do them at this time they can dig them out later (but would you want to be the one digging? Ha Ha). Things happen, be nice.

14. Footings Inspection: When the framers have finished laying the footing contact City Hall and request a Footings Inspection.

  • Some framers will pour the concrete for the footings first and then the foundation, while others will prefer to pour the concrete for the footings and the foundations at the same time.
15. Concrete: If the footings are poured first the concrete truck will come twice, once to pour the footings and then again after the foundation has been built. Or if the foundation is built at the same time, the concrete can be poured for the footings and the foundation at the same time.
  • When pouring ( usually done by the framing crew ) make sure that there are enough people to do the job, especially when the temperature is below freezing.
  • Also, make sure that there is a vibrator on site.
  • The concrete company will usually arrange for a pump trunk if needed.
16. Strip Foundation: Usually the day after the concrete has been poured the foundation can be stripped. The Concrete company should be called to pick up their forms.  
  • Try to place the stripped materials in a place where they are out of the way and will stay straight and clean.
17. Damp Proofing: Water proofing is required on the part of the foundation where the slab or skim coat is below grade level.
  • Can be messy. Just lean against a sprayed wall.
18. Drain Tile: Drain Tile will have to be placed around the perimeter of your house whenever there is living space below grade level (ground level).  This includes storage or crawl space.
  • Rules concerning drainage depend on soil conditions, or type of house.  In most slab on grade situations (where the concrete floor is above grade level)  you may be able to eliminate drain tile. But it never hurts to install it.
  • This work is usually done by yourself, with good wheel barrows, shovels and lots of friends.
  • The top of the Drain Tile should be placed even with the footing/foundation joint.
  • In some municipalities with storm sewers you will not be allowed to hook your down pipes into the perimeter drain. The same goes if you have a drain installed in a well window. You will have to put in a second line and drain it into a gravel pit.
  • Make sure this job is done properly, it may just prevent you from getting a swimming pool in you basement.

19. Drain Tile Inspection: Inspector from City Hall.

20. Sewer & Water Hook-Ups: The plumber usually hooks up the sewer and water. When this is completed the Inspector from City Hall will be called for an inspection. Also, the local Water Company must inspect the water hook-up before it is covered. 

  • In case this wasn't done during the excavation.
  • Note: the gas company will install their own hookups to the gas meter.

21. Backfilling & Grading: After the drain tile has been inspected the backfilling and grading can be done in most cases.

  • Note: Again, although at times overlooked, a well prepared foundation for your house and drive way will be one of your best investments. As a builder you will be the one responsible for this. If you are not capable or willing to take this responsibility, hire an engineer or you may want to consider getting a General Contractor involved. Again it may cost a bit, I for one would not fool around with this part. In any case, use common sense and ask when in doubt.
  • Use good material for inside the foundation, garage, driveway, and side walks. Do not skimp on the compacting of these areas.
  • Steel will help with strengthening and keeping things in place. But due to settling, you will most likely end up with some cracks in your slab or garage floor with time. Most of the cracks can be fixed.

22. Slab or Skim Coat: Weather permitting your skim coat or slab could now be poured.

  • Slab or Skim Coat: consists of layer of gravel, poly (which must be sealed against Radon Gas), and then a layer of concrete.
  • A skim coat can be finished by yourself. But for a slab, hire a professional concrete finisher. Note: It is possible, with the exception of a tight crawl space, that the concrete work can be done after the framing is completed. The only difference being that you may get away with using a pump most of the time at this stage, not very likely at a later time.