Wood vs Concrete Foundation
My husband and I are hoping to build a house next year. The builder we are currently working with recommends a southern yellow pine (treated) foundation to save money over concrete. The area is total sand, but in the woods. What are the pros/cons of this? Thanks!
When compared to the length of your lifetime, concrete will last forever.
Wood foundations, even the treated variety, might last longer than we do. Or might not. In general, the treatment will last 25 or 30 years. After that, longevity depends heavily on drainage, and the lack of bugs.
And a wood foundation will decrease the resale value when compared to concrete.
Unless you're the lead dog, the view just never changes.
Wood foundations used to have a pretty good warranty, provided by the Permanent Wood Foundation Foundation (or some such). However, I see that most of the warranties available now just cover materials, which is a trivial part of your repair costs should the foundation fail. (Well, at least they're not pro-rated like most shingle warranties.)
However, properly installed (an important factor) in a suitable location (not all sites are suitable) the foundation should last 50-100 years.
A "pro" of the wood foundation is that it's easier to insulate effectively (especially in a basement). It also is easier to deal with in remote sites, where hauling concrete, etc, is a challenge.
It is true that in some areas of the country it will impact your resale value. Around here I don't think the impact would be very great, since wood foundations have been in use for 20-30 years and have a fairly good track record. In other parts of the country, though, people are either unfamiliar with them or have had bad experiences, due to poor installation or trouble with soil conditions.
Location is a factor, but I'd never have a wood foundation on anything I wanted to last over 30 years.
Have sheds with wood foundations, but only expect them to last 30 years or until the developers raze the sheds anyway after we are dead.
A wood foundation would decrease resale value because many people would be suspicious of it.
50, even 100 years is not much of a life expectancy for a foundation. And who knows what liability problems will arise someday over the chemicals used in the treatment.
Wow, wood foundations are one of things that needs to be done right if you're going to do it. The better systems have the wood completely isolated from ground moisture of any kind. If done right, there is no reason it wouldn't last indefinitely--if done right. Did I mention that it really needs do be done right?
Finding horror-story examples of what not to do are easy. Once upon three years ago a local dentist had a super fantastic house built in along a hillside with everything a luxury home should have. Right now he doesn't even know that it's built on a foundation that won't last 50 years. The house is build in an area that doesn't enforce building codes (most of rural Wyoming).
Our crew drove past the construction of this house every day and finally stopped in to check it out just as they were finished with framing. The crew went on and on about how cool the wood foundation was and how much it saved, how thoughtful the architect was, blah, blah, blah, etc. They didn't know the difference between the grades of pressure treated (PT) wood that are suitable for wood foundations and those that would be good for playground equipment. I know where they purchased the PT wood and the person who sold it-- it wasn't the correct grade. Under the gravel footings they also installed a material that is not rated as a water barrier. They also did not feel it was necessary to use a drainage system on the uphill side of the house--in clay soil, with minimal grade going away from the foundation.
I'm pretty sure there will eventually be a lawsuit over the foundation in this house and it won't do any good. An incorporated contractor that leases all assets from another corporation (owned by guess who) has nothing that can be lost if there is a judgement against them.
Buyer beware of cheep foundations.