How to build a foundation for a small house

How to build a foundation for a small house – Small home foundation Guide


How to build a foundation for a small house? For a small house, the foundation will pretty much be laid in the same way as for a regular size house. Though the weight of the roof is much less when you compare the small house with a larger one, it is still recommended to lay the house on a strong base. The house needs a strong foundation as in the case of natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and any seismic activity or a landslide the house needs to support the roof appropriately so that it doesn’t collapse.

Types of house foundation

In a regular house the foundation can be one of seven main types:

  • Monolithic slab foundation
  • Stem wall slab foundation
  • Pier and beam foundation
  • Crawl space foundation
  • Basement foundation
  • Pillar foundation
  • DPC (Damp proof course) foundation
  • Wood foundation

All of these foundations have their pros and cons. Some foundations are recommended for certain structures where others would not work. For e.g. the pier beam and pillar foundations are recommended for building on the hillside. Similarly, for buildings on the shore such as piers, a wood foundation is often used. A basement foundation is only necessary if you want a basement or if the soil is not hardened enough at the surface to bear the weight of the house. All of these intricacies will be taken into consideration when you get structure approval from a permit engineer at your local housing authority. Your architect will mostly include these details into the structure map after consultation with a civil engineer so you need not worry about choosing the right one yourself.

How to build a foundation for a small house
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya

Recommended foundation for a small house

If you are building a small house cost will be the most important thing on your mind. So, when the cost becomes a consideration many of the fancier and more expensive types of foundations such as a Basement foundation and a Crawl space foundation will not be a wise choice. Most people will also not need to build a pillar or a pier and beam foundation if the small house they are building will be a single-story house, For a double story brick house for example a pillar or a pier and beam foundation will be a must to account for the weight of the structure.

But in my opinion, if you are building a small house it is best to keep it just a single story to reduce the costs. It is also a wise decision, in my opinion, to cover up the entire plot of land with the main building of the house. If it is a single-story house you can always make a garden on the roof of the house by making a roof deck with a stairway extending towards it. If you make just a single-story house you can also get away with easy permits for foundations.

Most housing authorities will allow a single-story small house to be built upon either a monolithic slab foundation or a DPC foundation. If the area where you are constructing your house is muddy then the authority may require you to build the house with both DPC underneath and the monolithic slab on top of the DPC. This is so that your foundation is not ruined by the muddy soil. Muddy soil has the tendency to get compressed under the weight of the house when it gets wet so a DPC foundation with crush and stones that aren’t compressible even under load will be required.

I have made the following table underneath for you to determine the type of foundation you should use while building your house.

Can be used for double story houseCan be used alone in muddy soilCan bear the weight of houses built from bricks and concreteIs cost-effectiveFoundation is allowed for small housesDoes not require digging trenches for the foundation
Monolithic slab foundationNoNoNoYesYesYes
Stem wall slab foundationNoNoNoYesYesYes
Pier and beam foundationYesYesYesNoYesNo
Crawl space foundationYesYesYesNoYesNo
Basement foundationYesYesYesNoYesNo
Pillar foundationYesYesYesNoYesNo
DPC (Damp proof course) foundationYesYes (but not recommended)YesYesYesNo
Wood foundationNoYesNo No (depends on lumbar pricing)YesNo

It is recommended to use this table as just a guide and follow the rules of your local housing authority mainly while building your house. The land and soil differ from one place to another so it is your local housing authority that will have the right knowledge regarding the exact area. I would also recommend you to go through my article on when to start building a house and How many bricks does it take to build a house? to learn more about house construction in general. If you want to discover more about small homes you can also visit this.

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