Friday, June 16, 2006
Home takes form with foundation, framing
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
We've checked in on our former-fraternity-house project several times now. The permits are in place, demolition has happened, and the reconstruction is moving along nicely. Currently two major phases are under way: concrete and framing. These are exciting phases in any project because what you've only seen on paper begins to take shape before your very eyes!
On our project, the concrete footings and foundation walls have been poured for the new garage. The home itself has only a small addition being built over an already existing space, so new footings or foundation are not necessary for the main house. However, if a remodel includes a main-floor addition, new footings and a foundation will be required.
Footings are the widened portion at the foot of the foundation walls. They must be placed below the frost line to prevent the building from moving as the ground expands and contracts during freeze/thaw cycles. In Salt Lake City, the frost line is 30 inches below ground. The footings will be placed lower if you are going to include a basement.
In Utah, the most common form of foundation is concrete poured between metal forms. When the concrete has cured, the forms are removed. A less-common alternative is Insulated concrete forms. The concrete is poured between polystyrene panels that snap together and remain permanently in place to provide insulation for the concrete foundation.
It is important that water be kept away from the foundation. Tar or rubber membranes can be applied to prevent water from permeating the concrete. It is also crucial to keep surface water away from the foundation by sloping the ground around the house and keeping all gutters and drainpipes clean and properly positioned to carry water away from the house.
With a foundation in place, now you can begin framing. This is an exciting step because a home is often hard to visualize on a set of construction plans, but as rooms are framed in, the space becomes three-dimensional and you get the feel of your new space. We are starting to see what our former fraternity house is becoming as the walls, rooms, and even some decorative archways have been framed in.
It is important at this point to make sure everything matches the plans and is being built correctly. At this stage different options may also occur to you. If there are any changes to be made, such as relocating a window to capture a specific view or expanding an opening between two rooms, this is the time to make the adjustment. Don't wait until after plumbing, wiring and sheetrock have been installed!
Roofs are generally framed with trusses pre-built at a factory. Installing trusses may involve a crane and will take only a day or two. It may take a longer if there are custom portions, such as a vaulted ceiling, that need to be framed piece by piece.
As the foundation is poured and the house framed in, the benefits of good planning and design become very apparent. Concrete is difficult and expensive to move, and changes to framing may require re-engineering. So time for another plug: Use a good architect and save yourself headaches and heartaches! As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.