foundation

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Water Tables and Basements

How to use geologic, soil, and historical maps to keep your basement dry

Posted on Oct 26 2017 by Peter Yost

When we bought our home (built in 1907), I called in a favor from an electrician friend of mine to upgrade the 60-amp to a 100-amp service. Having worked together in New Hampshire where many of our projects were on sites full of ledge, he smirked when he told me: “Here, you go try and drive this 12-foot copper grounding rod.”


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Image Credits:

  1. Image #1: U.S. Geological Survey
  2. Image #2: USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service
  3. Image #3: www.Old-Maps.com
  4. Image #4: Library of Congress
  5. Image #5: Basic Engineering for Builders by Max Schwartz

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Flatrock Passive: A Well Insulated Slab

To minimize heat loss, both the stem walls and the slab are insulated with rigid foam

Posted on Aug 28 2017 by David Goodyear

Editor's Note: This is one of a series of blogs by David Goodyear describing the construction of his new home in Flatrock, Newfoundland, the first in the province built to the Passive HouseA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. standard. The first installment of the GBAGreenBuildingAdvisor.com blog series was titled An Introduction to the Flatrock Passive House. For a list of Goodyear's earlier blogs on this site, see the "Related Articles" sidebar below; you'll find his complete blog here.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: David Goodyear

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Urban Rustic: Details for an Insulated Foundation

Footing sealer and a thick layer of insulation should keep the basement warm and dry

Posted on Jun 27 2017 by Eric Whetzel

Editor's note: This post is one of a series by Eric Whetzel about the design and construction of his house in Palatine, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. The first blog in his series was called An Introduction to a New Passive House Project. For more details, see Eric's blog, Kimchi & Kraut.


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Image Credits:

  1. Eric Whetzel

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Connecticut Lawmakers Consider Aid for Homeowners With Failing Foundations

Repair loans, state guarantees on municipal borrowing, and permit fee waivers are among proposals to help hundreds of homeowners

Posted on Mar 7 2017 by Scott Gibson

Connecticut state lawmakers are considering several ways of helping homeowners whose homes are threatened by failing concrete foundations.


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Image Credits:

  1. Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements

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There’s No Relief in Sight for Beleaguered Connecticut Homeowners

Failing concrete foundations render some homes worthless, with the total number of affected properties still unknown

Posted on Nov 17 2016 by Scott Gibson

Connecticut authorities continue to gather information about failing concrete foundations in hundreds and possibly thousands of homes in the eastern part of the state, but there is no financial relief in sight now for homeowners whose houses are essentially worthless.


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Image Credits:

  1. Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements

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Movin’ On Up

The foundation is in and framing is ready to start

Posted on Sep 5 2016 by Carl Seville

Carl Seville and his wife are building themselves a new home in Decatur, Georgia. The first blog in this series was titled The Third Time’s the Charm. Links to all of the blogs in this series can be found in the “Related Articles” sidebar below.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: Carl Seville

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Foundation Plan for a Snowy Climate

When building on a slab, how much distance should separate wood framing and grade to prevent rot?

Posted on Jan 18 2016 by Scott Gibson

Nathan Scaglione's central New York State building site gets plenty of snow and cold weather during the winter, and that's proving to be a sticking point in his plans for a new house.

He'd prefer a slab-on-grade foundation rather than a basement, even though a full basement would be a more typical choice in this part of the country. The foundation would consist of concrete-block stem walls extending to a footing below frost line. Exterior walls would be framed on top of the block walls, roughly 24 inches above grade. Inside the block walls, Scaglione will pour a concrete slab floor.


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Image Credits:

  1. Nathan Scaglione
  2. Steve Baczek

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Placing a Concrete Foundation on Rigid Foam Insulation

Careful coordination makes site prep and foundation work proceed smoothly at the Orchards at Orenco project in Oregon

Posted on Dec 23 2014 by Mike Steffen

It should go without saying that any high-performance building should be built on a solid foundation. So why would we set our building on a layer of foam insulation?

The answer, of course, is to limit thermal bridgingHeat flow that occurs across more conductive components in an otherwise well-insulated material, resulting in disproportionately significant heat loss. For example, steel studs in an insulated wall dramatically reduce the overall energy performance of the wall, because of thermal bridging through the steel. . Those bridging effects can cause a significant amount of heat loss through the mass structure at the base of the building. By thermally isolating the building foundation from the ground, building performance is improved, not only from an energy performance standpoint but also in terms of comfort and moisture management.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: Mike Steffen
  2. Architectural drawings: Ankrom Moisan Architects

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Placing Concrete for a Passivhaus Foundation

At the Potwine Passivhaus job site, contractors erected a tent to protect the fresh slab from cold temperatures

Posted on Sep 11 2014 by Alexi Arango

As they set out to build a single-family PassivhausA residential building construction standard requiring very low levels of air leakage, very high levels of insulation, and windows with a very low U-factor. Developed in the early 1990s by Bo Adamson and Wolfgang Feist, the standard is now promoted by the Passivhaus Institut in Darmstadt, Germany. To meet the standard, a home must have an infiltration rate no greater than 0.60 AC/H @ 50 pascals, a maximum annual heating energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (4,755 Btu per square foot), a maximum annual cooling energy use of 15 kWh per square meter (1.39 kWh per square foot), and maximum source energy use for all purposes of 120 kWh per square meter (11.1 kWh per square foot). The standard recommends, but does not require, a maximum design heating load of 10 W per square meter and windows with a maximum U-factor of 0.14. The Passivhaus standard was developed for buildings in central and northern Europe; efforts are underway to clarify the best techniques to achieve the standard for buildings in hot climates. on Potwine Lane in Amherst, Massachusetts, Alexi Arango and LeeAnn Kim asked themselves, “Is it possible to live without burning fossil fuels?” One measure of success would be meeting their goal of net-zero energyProducing as much energy on an annual basis as one consumes on site, usually with renewable energy sources such as photovoltaics or small-scale wind turbines. performance. This is the third blog in a planned series.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: Alexi Arango

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An Old House Gets a New Thermomass Basement

After jacking up this house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we installed a new energy-efficient foundation

Posted on Jul 21 2014 by Brian Butler

To prepare our bid for a comprehensive renovation project in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we visited the old house several times. On one of the walk-throughs, we realized that the foundation was failing in many places. We therefore proposed to raise the house and replace the entire foundation.

Raising this house was a challenging process, given the tight space and the existing condition of the house.


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Image Credits:

  1. All photos: Brian Butler

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