DIY Concrete Foundations??

​Is a Concrete Foundation a DIY Project?  We would have to say a hard No! 

When you ask builders what the most critical component of erecting a building or structure is, they will tell you it’s the foundation.  The building or structure’s stability is dependent on a sound, strong foundation. It doesn’t matter what the structure is, such as a commercial building, a residential home, a garage, or even a deck.  The foundation is a critical component on ensuring the overall structure does not shift, sink, or become compromised and damaged.
The required foundation of a structure is complex.  There are no simple, one-size fits all dimensions or applications.  There are variances based on the type of structure it is to support.  The foundation must also protect the structure from moisture and water damage.  It is critical to avoid issues such as cracking and water seepage.  This will damage the wood framework and cause rotting, mildew, and even mold.  Getting a sound, strong foundation is the first and most critical step of all construction.
Foundation also provides climate protection, sitting between the actual earth and the structure.  Even in summer, the ground beneath a building remains cold.  Concrete foundations actually provide insulation against the cold, by acting as a layer between it and the space found below surface level of the building.

It will also provide protection against movement.  You may think, a building isn’t going to move.  But it does.  And not just from an earthquake.  Have you ever felt the vibrations in a house that is close to train tracks, when the automotive comes by?  Vibration is found in all things around us, and it can cause movement, even if it is slight.  A strong foundation will protect walls, ceilings, doorways, etc. from movement and the resulting damage to the structure.

Is excavating a structural foundation something that DIYer’s should do?  We would have to say no.  This kind of thing is very complex and should be handled by experts.  It is also very dangerous.  First of all, excavating sites has many safety hazards that should be considered.  Underlying utilities are a huge concern.  All lines need to be identified and carefully excavated around so as not to damage the line or, worse, cause harm to the persons doing the excavating.  Also, trenching can be very dangerous due to the risk of cave ins. 

But let’s just assume that you are not concerned about the safety issues.  Setting footings and pouring concrete foundations is and has to be a precise project.  Measurements have to be spot on.  If not, the entire structure will be off and appearance will not be favorable. 

Soil conditions and moisture need to be considered in determining how stable the foundation will be once poured and cured.  There may need to be adjustments made in the density of the concrete to counter potential sinkage or shifting.  And what other factors may determine the overall weight the foundation is intended to support?  Are there any heavy features planned for the structure?  Remember the foundation is needed to support the structure.  So, all of this needs to be considered to ensure there are no errors when creating the foundation.

While there are many DIY projects that can be taken on in constructing a home or building, the foundation is just not something that should be undertaken.  There are just too many components that are all connected to each other, that will determine how sound and strong the foundation is.  If you are looking to save money, look at other areas where you may be better suited to take on the project.  Foundations are very critical to the overall structure.  Please leave this part of construction to professionals.