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Formwork for pouring a concrete footing for stone walls.

Footings and Foundations
Build a Sure-Footed House to Withstand the Test of Time

      The footings and foundation support a house and anchor it to the ground. It is well worth the investment up front to build a sure-footed house to withstand the test of time. But there are many different designs for footings and foundations and many cost variables, so how do you design a system that's best for your situation?

Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction       Standard footings are typically made as deep as the foundation wall is thick, and twice as wide. For example, a 6-inch-thick foundation wall has a footing 6 inches thick and 12 inches wide. An 8- inch foundation wall has a footing 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. Houses built on soft soils, including soft clay, fine sand, or soils deep and rich in organic matter, may need wider footings, especially in wet conditions. The footing must be wide enough for the house to "float" on the soft ground.

      In the photo here, we are building special formwork for extra wide footings to support a double stone wall, with insulation sandwiched in the core. The formwork is all built from recycled materials salvaged from a trailerhouse we dismanlted on the project site. Be sure to read Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction to learn about the various footing and foundation options, so that you can make an informed decision for your project.

Recommended Books & Videos

Working with Concrete - book cover.

For Pros By Pros
Working with Concrete
A comprehensive guide to building with concrete.
by Rick Arnold

      Whether you're pouring a concrete walkway or staking out the excavation for a basement foundation, doing the job right demands a thorough knowledge of concrete construction techniques. In Working with Concrete, veteran builder Rick Arnold explains everything from mix characteristics and formwork options to waterproofing details and repair procedures. You'll benefit from Arnold's years as a general contractor, framer, and foundation contractor as he offers time- and money-saving advice that comes from understanding the subject from all angles. Get the rock-solid results you're after with this comprehensive guide to building with concrete.

      This book will enable you to:

* prepare a site for excavation
* evaluate soil conditions
* lay out footings and foundation walls
* use site-made and manufactured forms
* install proper reinforcement in footings, walls, and flat work
* estimate and order ready-mix concrete
* test and evaluate concrete quality before the pour
* build walkways, patios, steps, and slabs from start to finish

      About the author: Based in Rhode Island, Rick Arnold has been a professional builder for over 20 years. A contributing editor to Fine Homebuilding magazine, Arnold has written numerous articles about construction and remodeling. He also conducts seminars for builders at trade shows and conferences across the country.

      Softcover, 8-1/2 x 11 in., 192 pages, with color photos and drawings. Published 2003, ISBN 1-56158-614-5

Foundations and Concrete Work - book cover.

For Pros By Pros
Foundations and Concrete Work
Essential information from builders, masons, and engineers.
From the Editors of Fine Homebuilding Magazine

      Foundation work is not the glamorous side of home building. It is hard, dirty work. But it's also the work upon which all other work rests, and so a good foundation is critical to every home," writes Fine Homebuilding editor-in-chief Kevin Ireton in the introduction to Foundations and Concrete Work. And whether you are planning to build a new foundation, shore up an old foundation, or pour a new driveway, this collection of articles from Fine Homebuilding magazine will provide you with the professional guidance you need to do the job right. Foundations and Concrete Work brings together contractors and builders from all over the country to provide the best advice on formwork, foundations, waterproofing, reinforcement, and related topics.

      Written by the pros who actually do the work, these articles will help you to:

* prepare a site for excavation and formwork
* avoid common mistakes when working with concrete and masonry
* cut, form, and install rebar correctly
* prepare forms properly
* evaluate insulated concrete form systems
* select and install drainage components
* repair problems in old foundations
* construct block foundations
* select the right waterproofing treatment

      Softcover, 8-1/2 x 11 in., 160 pages, with color photos and drawings. Published 2002, ISBN 1-56158-537-8.

Building a Monolithic Concrete Slab Foundation DVD
Hosted by Andrew Morrison

Building a Monolithic Concrete Slab Foundation DVD.

      Finally there's a video that explains how to properly build a concrete slab from start to finish! See the entire process step-by-step, from grading the site to polishing the perfect concrete slab.

      Slab-on-grade construction is popular in strawbale and frame house construction, and for numerous projects such as garages, guest cottages, outdoor patios, additions, workshops, and studios.

      This video includes up-to-date information to build your own concrete slab foundation to code. General contractor Andrew Morrison walks you through each stage of the concrete foundation building process. By following this simple how-to guide, you will be able to successfully build your own concrete foundation with no prior foundation or concrete experience. This video includes:

  • Details on four different types of foundations.
  • Proper site evaluation.
  • How to build around existing structures.
  • How to level the site.
  • Compacting a gravel base.
  • Building, setting, and squaring concrete forms.
  • Insulation placement options.
  • How to bring electrical and plumbing lines into the slab.
  • Pouring, leveling, and polishing concrete.
  • A list of tools needed for each step of the project.
  • Definitions and explanations of all the relevant terms.
  • Instruction suited to beginning builders as well as experienced hands.
  • Tons of tips and techniques to save you time and money.

      Learn how to set up "batter" boards to help establish perfectly square forms. Find out how to assess lumber for form boards for "crown" and "sway," and how to make the best use of natural variances in the wood. Learn how to brace your forms to keep the corners square when the concrete is poured. Learn the 3, 4, 5 technique to get perfectly square corners. Use concrete stakes to fine-tune level and square. Paying attention to these details will make your finished slab perfect!

      Learn to set up the concrete slab for interior and exterior stud walls, or how to alter the slab for straw bale construction, including details such as how to leave a notch in the foundation to keep an exterior plaster coat flush to the floor.

      Start the sub-slab development process right and eliminate headaches as you pour concrete. Learn what you need to do before you call in the concrete delivery truck, including what materials make up the sub-slab, what order they need to be in, the recommended thickness, and the techniques to use.

      Learn about different conditions that require a slightly different mix of concrete. Feel confident conversing with the driver of the concrete truck. Learn the best tools and techniques to float your concrete pad and find out how to finish up around the edges and around the anchor bolts.

New Information Added: The updated DVD includes: How to pour curved form concrete, how to install hydronic heat systems, and how to color and stamp concrete slabs for beautiful floors... an excellent added value to an already extensive instructional DVD! Total Run Time: 1 Hour, 46 minutes.

Living Homes:  Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.
See also: Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction.

      Looking for life-changing resources? Check out these books by Thomas J. Elpel:

Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams.
Roadmap to Reality: Consciousness, Worldviews, and the Blossoming of Human Spirit
to Reality
Living Homes: Stone Masonry, Log, and Strawbale Construction
Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.
in Nature
Foraging the Mountain West: Gourmet Edible Plants, Mushrooms, and Meat.
Foraging the
Mountain West
Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
in a Day
Shanleya's Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids

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