Foundations are commonly referred to in a philosophical
sense. They typically act as the point at which you are not willing to budge
ethically, morally, intellectually etc.
J.K. Rowling once said that “hitting rock bottom became the solid
foundation for which I rebuilt my life”. It’s a deep quote, but it all speaks
to the understanding that having a strong foundation is central to being a
well-developed person. Equally, having a strong foundation for your home is one
of the most important factors behind making a home that lasts. In this article,
I will walk you through some different ways that you can lay a
foundation for a modular/mini home and a unique foundation more are using that
seems …. better.
One way that you can provide a foundation is with a slab of
level concrete to support the home. You can also combine the level slab of
concrete with attached poured footings and concrete walls to provide a basement
or crawl space to set the home upon.
The Pro’s with this method are:
1) Tested & True: Concrete foundations are an
industry standard and the product has been in use for many years – this allows
you to benefit from a wealth of learning on the best ways to build with
2) Very Strong: Builders will combine concrete with
rebar, mixes and reinforcing elements to ensure a final product that will last
you for decades.
3) Efficient land use: By digging down into the
foundation with a partial daylight or full basement you to get more usable
space out of your build. You need to place the foundation either way, here you
are gaining useful storage, living space, hobby space or more.
4) Easily available: If you live in or populated
locations your access to contractors for the product will be easy.
The Con’s with this method are:
5) Slow installation: Putting concrete down
requires a lot of time investment and can take as much as a few days to be
completely laid and levelled, and requires decent weather to install.
6) Cannot carry weight immediately: Once the
concrete has been laid, it takes even more time to dry and solidify.
7) Environmental concerns: Lying concrete is
destructive to your land and requires a sizable investment to remove once laid.
8) Remote area access: Concrete requires
specialized transport that struggles to make it to remote areas.
This method involves laying concrete blocks around the
perimeter of the home then wooden blocks are places on top of the concrete to
separate the house from the rock. In many cases, the wood is held in place by
the weight of the house pinching the wood between the concrete and the home.
This is a method that is very common among mini homes and modular homes.
The Pro’s with this method
1) Economical: This method allows you to get into
your home in the most economical manner of time and cost to the owner,
requiring minimal materials, time and site disruption other than building the
2) Future changes: This method allows you to move
your home easily in the future – make changes like adding decks, additions or
elements easily to the original footprint.
3) Low Impact: This method is fairly low impact on
the environment – the elements needed can be removed years from now with very
little site impact, assuring those who want a small footprint on the earth.
The Con’s with this method
4) Frost heaving: this refers to the gentle
expanding and contracting that happens to land over the years. The changes in
temperature and moisture can cause the concrete blocks to crack, change shape
or move slightly. This can cause your home to experience a number of issues
5) Organic growth: The underside of your home is
not ‘sealed’ other than by a ground sheet, over time you will likely find
daisies and plants growing underneath your home, this encourages moisture.
6) Moisture and Temperature: This method places
your home closer to the elements, it can cause dampness in your home, and is
likely to increase your heating and cooling costs for the home unless very well
For this method, you get what you pay for. This is an easy
way to get your house up and running quickly. However, you should expect some
motion and eventually some infiltration under you home after an extended period. This method will require some maintenance in adjusting and checking
your moisture levels over time.
The Screw or Steel Pile Method is fast becoming an excellent foundation
for a modular or mini home. It involves screwing large steel poles into the
ground that then act as your foundation.
The Pro’s of this method
1) Rapid installation: It takes about 30-60 seconds
for one screw to be screwed in.
2) It can instantly carry a load: There is no
waiting period for the screws to dry, they are made with steel and ready to
carry the weight of your home right away
3) Environmentally friendly: You do not have to
destroy your land with this method. Each screw can be removed at any time.
4) Price friendly: Although steel isn’t cheap, the
savings from the rapid installation and the gaining popularity of this method
are making it a cost competitive option
5) Remote Access: The screws are highly
transportable and are a popular option for remote sites.
6) They do not suffer from any frost heaving: They
stay in the same place regardless of a cold winter or a lot of rain. This is
because the screws are put in much deeper than the frost line, keeping them
solidly in place. This means no bowed walls, no leaks, no risk of moisture, and
7) They can handle a high water table: Unlike other
foundations the screws are not bothered by water as the screws are coated in a
powerful rust proof coating.
8) Can be installed in a variety of soil types:
from lose clay to dense clay; loose sand to dense sand, this is the most
versatile foundation methods.
9) It can handle Rock: Although these screws cannot
screw into rock, there are many ways to make it work. The screws can be drilled
in diagonally to avoid a rock in the way. The screws can be modified in
the field to accommodate this due to their modular build.
10) Low Carbon footprint: Not only do you not
disturb your land, but there are also little to no fumes being emitted by the
transportation or the installation of the product.
The Con’s of this method
11) No foundation: This method does not allow you to
have a finished living space under your home.
12) Insurance & Financing hurdles: Like all new
products you may find yourself acting as an advocate for the product as well,
so plan on coming armed with data to educate your
13) Some assembly still required: You will still
likely want some method of finish, skirting or details around your home once it
is in place, similar to blocking there will be some type of finish required.
In short, this technology makes up for many
of the shortcomings of the other techniques. In speaking with Dan Smith – Owner
of Postech in Moncton he had the following to say. “Screw Piles are better
because it is guaranteed not to move once in place and they are backed by a
warranty unlike many foundations. They provide an instant foundation, no mess
and no site preparation. They can also be installed under existing foundations.
They are simply better than any other method”
things to know about Screw Pile in Canada
Although Screw Pile technology is the best
option for modular foundations, the fact remains that it is a relatively new
technique. Historically some people have run into trouble getting approved for
a mortgage on a house that uses a screw pile foundation. This is because each
mortgage in Canada is underwritten by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing
Corporation (CMHC). Given that the technology is so new, the CMHC’s stance on
the matter is that they have not proven the technology to be as safe as others
out there since this requires costly and time consuming tests that can take
years to prove completely. Also, the CMHC currently requires foundations to be
“fixed” and since screw pile is removable they perceive an issue with that as
well. Therefore, some find it difficult
to get approved for a mortgage on these grounds.
The good news is that it won’t be long
until the CMHC will accept screw pile as an acceptable foundation for a home.
Sources say that it is likely that the CMHC will approve it by the end of 2016.
If this is the case, then people all over the country will be in for thousands
of dollars in savings from cheaper costs to install the foundation to the lower
long term costs from having a strong foundation that will last a lifetime.
If you’d like to learn more about Screw
Piles head to www.postech-foundations.com for a great gallery of projects they
have done and lots of great information. You can reach the guys at Postech at
1-888-333-7453 if you’d like to have a chat about a Screw Pile foundation.
Until next time,