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Footing depth?


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By Marsha in Frankfort, KY on 5/22/2006


My husband and I are hoping to set our footing forms tonight, however he is now wondering about footing depth. We are using the Certainteed Form-a-Drain, so I guess the depth is 8". Do we need to be deeper than that? We visited a house this weekend to observe their ICF stuff, and their footers are 24" deep! I think that sounds like a lot - do we need to go deeper than the forms we have?

Thanks!
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By John in Erie, CO on 5/22/2006


Marsha,

I hope this gets to you before you get into problems. The Form-a-Drain is 8" thick, meaning your footings will be 8" thick, but they should be located deep in the ground. The exact depth will depend on your location, and is mandated by the local building departments. Generally, this depth is 24"-48", depending on how cold things get in your area. The idea is that moisture in the ground can freeze and cause a footing to heave, wrecking your house, unless the footing is buried deep enough. So the Form-a-Drain is correct, but you need to have dug down to put the Form-a-Drain in the ground.

Once the footings are poured, you will need to pour a cement or block wall to go from the footings to above grade, and then the framing (wood) portion of your house sits on this short wall, called a stem wall. Also, ICF walls are heavier, and may require thicker footings, although my ICF walls were formed up using Form-a-Drain. Generally the building department will want to inspect everything BEFORE you pour any concrete.
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By Marsha in Frankfort, KY on 5/22/2006


Thanks John!

So basically we need to be below the frost line? We are planning to dig down 24" for the daylight portion of the basement and then stepping up the footers for the rest of the basement. We are farmstead exempt, so the only inspections we will have are septic and electrical - makes me a little nervous, but we have several friends who are O-B's and my husband is on the local planning and zoning board so we have a lot of resources. May need to pay for an inspection just to make sure we get the footers right!
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 5/23/2006


Your footings need to be below the frost line to prevent heave, as John noted. Even though you are farmstead exempt from inspections (whatever than means, I really don't know but it is not necessary that I do know), there are still building practices that should be adhered to. The footings should also be sized depending on soil bearing capacity and the size and loads of the structure you are building - I realize that most people don't get a geotech analysis to size footings, but anything less is a guess. Proper sized footings are cheap insurance, fixing them later is very expensive.

For reference, in Kansas City they want to see the footings at least 36" below grade, although there are special exemptions if you have to excavate bedrock. I didn't do a geotech analysis, I just poured them big (24" wide, 12"-14" thick), but I also built ICF so I needed larger footings due to the increased mass. Although it wasn't necessary to pour them this thick, this allowed me to use the PT lumber I used for formwork as my window bucks, saving me some material cost.


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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 5/23/2006


Marsha,

  I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but the fact that you were preparing to set your footing forms without knowing how deep they should be located suggests that you aren't quite ready to build.   

  When it comes to building a house, learning things "the hard way" can be REALLY hard and REALLY expensive. It's much easier, and far cheaper, to learn from other people's mistakes. Basically, that's what the "best practices" and building codes are based on - big expensive mistakes that other people have made. Research the heck out of those practices and codes and you can probably avoid those big mistakes. People around here talk about "1,000 hours of planning." That might seem excessive, but it's the right idea. 

  If I were you, I'd also build my house to code even if I wasn't required to do so. Being a farmstead might get you around the county inspections, but there are no exemptions from Mother Nature or the laws of physics.

  There are several books in the "bookstore" of this site that may be helpful for you. I bought a small library of books before discovering this site. One of my favorites is "Do-It-Yourself Housebuilding: The Complete Handbook" by George Nash. I think it would be a very valuable resource for you.

amazon.com/gp/product/0806904240

   Best of luck and keep us informed!

Jon


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By Marsha in Frankfort, KY on 5/23/2006


Thanks Ken!

We are going 24" below grade (which is below frost line in our area) and 24" wide. We are also building ICF and our rep has been a great resource. We ordered all of our footing materials through him, so we are trusting that he knows what we need (although I'm obviously searching around to try and make sure we are doing it right!) In our county, if you have over 10 acres of land, you are exempt from inspections, excluding septic and electric. Not sure why that is, I think the inspectors are our friends as far as making sure everything is done correctly.

We have friends who built a 10,000 sq. ft home three years ago on 300 acres. They moved in two years ago with a subfloor, no drywall, no exterior finish on the house (only the Tyvek wrap!), no kitchen and only one functional bathroom and three kids! They have since finished the kitchen but nothing else! They passed the septic and electrical inspections, so they could move in because they were farmstead exempt! Amazing (or crazy!)
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By Marsha in Frankfort, KY on 5/23/2006


Thanks Jon! I don't think I took your post the wrong way, however it is too late for us not to build - ready or not!!! We do wish we had built another home prior to this one so we would have some experience, but too late for that too! Oh well! I appreciate any and all advice I can get and will gladly listen to any you have to offer! I'll definitely checking into the book you recommended! Thanks again!
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By Jon in Ellicott City, MD on 5/23/2006


Damn the torpedoes!

It sounds like you've got a good resource with your ICF rep. He should help you out a lot.

I used Form-A-Drain for my footers. You can use them to make footers that are more than 8" deep. If you're going 24" wide, I think you'll want to go thicker than 8"... maybe 12". There's a couple articles that might be interesting over at

jlconline.com

By the way - I have found a LOT of useful information at the Journal of Light Construction website. I think it's worth the price of the online subscription.


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