Pier and Beam

What are Pier and Beam Foundations?

Pier and beam foundations, sometimes referred to as post and beam foundations, are a type of structural foundation that provides support for a building by using piers (vertical supports) and beams (horizontal supports). This foundation system is particularly common in our area of Texas in older homes and homes closer to rivers and streams, where flooding is more common. These foundations are easy to build and have been used for a long time. As with all foundations, they have advantages and disadvantages.

Components

Piers

Piers are the vertical components in pier and beam structures. They are most commonly made of concrete in North Texas, but they can be made from a variety of different materials, including wood, steel, or bricks. These piers generally extend from inside the earth upward. They are placed at specific points where the home will be built, including the edges of a home, corners, and along load-bearing walls. These piers support the weight of the building and provide the base for the beams to sit on.

Beams

Beams are horizontal supports that rest on the piers and carry the weight of the structure. Most of the time, the beams are made from 2 x 6 lumber, although they can be constructed from metal, engineered materials, or different sizes of lumber. The beams span across the piers and allow the weight of the entire structure to be transferred downward onto the piers. This ensures maximum stability across the foundation.

Crawl Space

Another unique characteristic of pier and beam foundations is the space between the ground and the floor of the building, which is created based on the height of the piers. The space is called a crawl space and allows access to the underside of a home. The crawl space makes repairs and updates to plumbing, electrical, HVAC, and other utilities much easier than they are when working on a slab foundation home.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Pier and Beam Foundations

Advantages

Pier and beam foundations offer several advantages. First, they are raised slightly off the ground, which can be a huge advantage in areas that are prone to flooding. Secondly, they offer easy access to utilities through the crawl space. Third, they are easier to work on when foundation repairs are needed. This generally makes them cheaper to repair than slabs. Lastly, the crawl space creates an insulation area between the home and the ground, which can reduce energy costs.

Disadvantages

Depending on how and where the foundation is built, pier and beam foundations can be more expensive than slab foundations to construct. They can also be prone to pest and moisture issues, so regular inspections are recommended. Pest removal services may be needed, and if moisture gets out of control, mold and mildew removal may be needed. However, both of these issues can be significantly reduced by pest control measures, and moisture barriers. Lastly, pier and beam foundations will likely need to be adjusted periodically by a foundation expert.

Maintenance

As mentioned previously, regular maintenance is necessary in order to prolong the life of a pier and beam foundation and prevent issues from happening. Inspecting for pests, checking for proper ventilation, looking for signs of moisture damage, and looking out for signs of settling or upheaval is necessary. Periodic leveling may also be necessary to maintain the building’s stability.

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