8 Surefire Tips for Laying a Solid Foundation

Kristin Luna
Written by Kristin Luna
Updated January 12, 2022
The front of a stone house
Photo: Ivan Hunter / DigitalVision / Getty Images

A strong foundation can make or break the longevity of your house

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Laying a good foundation is far more involved than simply hiring an engineer and starting to dig into your property. There’s a lot of thought, research, and legwork that goes into the process before you start to pour concrete. How can you ensure your foundation is structurally sound?

We’re spilling the tea on why foundations are so important, as well as sharing tips on how to lay a good foundation and build the underlying structural support that you’ll need to host a home or garage.

1. Have Your Property Surveyed

The importance of laying a good foundation cannot be overstated, and while it may seem like one baby step after another in the beginning, your hard work will pay off and prevent foundation damage down the road. 

One of the first things you need to do for foundation work is bring in a local land surveyor to mark out the boundaries of your property. A land survey will determine your property lines, which is a critical metric for any exterior home remodel project that involves building a new structure.

2. Inspect the Soil Condition

Every foundation is tailored to the land it’s inhabiting. There are a lot of factors to consider, one of which is the soil type and condition, as well as the water tables. The primary soil categories are sand, silt, and clay, with the soil underneath your home often a mixture of the three. 

You might also need dirt compaction and an overlay of gravel, depending on how dense the existing soil is. On the flip side, your house might sit atop a layer of limestone, in which case you needn’t be concerned with the load-bearing qualities of the ground beneath your feet.

3. Check the Water Table

The water table, the boundary between the unsaturated and saturated zone in your soil, plays a key role in how deep you’ll need to dig before laying a good foundation. Groundwater will creep into all the spaces between the sediment and rock, meaning you’ll want to test the moisture of the ground before moving forward. 

A high-water content in the soil will require you to dig deeper and may trigger the need for additional mitigation measures against water intrusion.

4. Ensure Your Foundation Is Structurally Sound

A foundation inspection is imperative to determine if there’s any damage to your existing foundation. An inspector will analyze the data and give you a report that includes all findings and how you should proceed with your exterior home renovation project. 

You’ll also want to hire a local structural engineer early on to evaluate any weight-bearing issues, address potential earthquake and environmental hazards to consider, and mitigate any structural damage.

5. Clean Out Any Existing Landscaping or Rubble

The construction site of a house
Photo: Dan Reynolds Photography / Moment / Getty Images

Before you proceed with laying your foundation, walk the perimeter of your home and remove everything—sticks, rocks, pesky roots, excess mulch—that will interfere with digging into the ground and, eventually, pouring concrete. 

If the buildup surrounding your home is extensive, using hydraulics like an excavator will help the job go faster. You can rent one from your local equipment rental shop or hire a local excavation company that will already have the tools on hand. A yard clean-up company will also be able to do the dirty work for you.

6. Dig Solid Footings

Pouring a concrete slab is actually the last step in laying the foundation for your home. First, you’ll need to place the footings, which typically are concrete reinforcements installed in an excavated trench. They keep your house from settling and, ideally, prevent the need for foundation repair down the line. 

The foundation is at its most accessible when you’re building, so now is a good time to install waterproofing and sealing systems. Going the extra mile and truly making the foundation waterproof will ensure the home that’s built on top lasts for generations.

7. Install Proper Drainage

If you live in an area that has high precipitation, you’ll want to do a little more work preparing the area around the foundation for the large amounts of water that will come sheeting across the ground during a storm. 

Water damage, outside of insect damage, is the leading cause of home repairs and much of that moisture comes from up from beneath the foundation. Shaping the landscape for this water flow around your home will go far toward mitigating the effects of flooding and moisture intrusion.

8. Pour the Concrete

Every home needs a solid foundation, and pouring concrete supports will give your house the structural element it needs while also preventing water from seeping in. The climate where you live will determine what kind of a concrete foundation, monolithic or stem wall, you need. 

This is a project you won’t want to DIY and instead should call in a professional to tackle. There’s nothing worse than a botched concrete job, though, so do your due diligence in hiring the right concrete company for the job. This will ensure they lay a good foundation for your home.

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