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A shallow foundation is a type of foundation which transfers building loads to the earth very near the surface, rather than to a subsurface layer or a range of depths as does a deep foundation. Shallow foundations include spread footing foundations, mat-slab foundations, and slab-on-grade foundations

Contents

Spread footing foundation

In ground reinforced concrete foundation in cyclonic area, Northern Australia.
In ground reinforced concrete foundation in cyclonic area, Northern Australia.

Spread footing foundations consists of strips or pads of concrete (or other materials) which transfer the loads from walls and columns to the soil or bedrock. Embedment of spread footings is controlled by several factors, including development of lateral capacity, penetration of soft near-surface layers, and penetration through near-surface layers likely to change volume due to frost heave or shrink-swell.

These foundations are common in residential construction that includes a basement, and in many commercial structures.

Mat-slab foundations

Mat-slab foundations are used to distribute heavy column and wall loads across the entire building area, to lower the contact pressure compared to conventional spread footings. Mat-slab foundations can be constructed near the ground surface, or at the bottom of basements. In high-rise buildings, mat-slab foundations can be several meters thick, with extensive reinforcing to ensure relatively uniform load transfer.

Slab-on-grade foundation

Example of slab on grade foundation
Raft slab house foundation in cyclonic area, Northern Australia.
Raft slab house foundation in cyclonic area, Northern Australia.

Slab-on-grade foundations are a structural engineering practice whereby the concrete slab that is to serve as the foundation for the structure is formed from a mold set into the ground. The concrete is then placed into the mold, leaving no space between the ground and the structure. This type of construction is most often seen in warmer climates, where ground freezing and thawing is less of a concern and where there is no need for heat ducting underneath the floor.

The advantages of the slab technique are that it is cheap and sturdy, and is considered less vulnerable to termite infestation because there are no hollow spaces or wood channels leading from the ground to the structure (assuming wood siding, etc., is not carried all the way to the ground on the outer walls).

The disadvantages are the lack of access from below for utility lines, the potential for large heat losses where ground temperatures fall significantly below the interior temperature, and a very low elevation that exposes the building to flood damage in even moderate rains. Remodeling or extending such a structure may also be more difficult. Over the long term, ground settling (or subsidence) may be a problem, as a slab foundation cannot be readily jacked up to compensate; proper soil compaction prior to pour can minimize this. The slab can be decoupled from ground temperatures by insulation, with the concrete poured directly over insulation (for example, Styrofoam panels), or heating provisions (such as hydronic heating) can be built into the slab (an expensive installation, with associated running expenses).

Slab-on-grade foundations are commonly used in areas with expansive clay soil, particularly in California and Texas. While elevated structural slabs actually perform better on expansive clays, it is generally accepted by the engineering community that slab-on-grade foundations offer the greatest cost-to-performance ratio for tract homes. Elevated structural slabs are generally only found on custom homes or homes with basements.

Care must be taken with the provision of services through the slab. Copper piping, commonly used to carry natural gas and water, reacts with concrete over a long period, slowly degrading until the pipe fails. Copper pipes must be lagged, run through a conduit, or plumbed into the building above the slab. Electrical conduits through the slab need to be water-tight, as they extend below ground level and can potentially expose the wiring to groundwater.

See also

External links

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