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Community and Q&A

Calculating Investment in Foundation

canada_deck | Posted in General Questions on

Will buyers pay a premium for improved footing/foundation details? I’m in British Columbia.  The provincial housing authority has published a very informative guide on best practices for footings/foundations.

They point out a number of areas where the recommended best practice exceeds the minimum code requirements. If I was buying a home that I wanted to own for a long time, I would personally pay a premium for these extra details given the consequences of water issues in the basement and the difficulty of making repairs down the road. However, I think I may be an exception. I’m in the process of planning to build a new home that I will sell after living in for a year or two. Will other buyers pay more for a house if they know the builders paid attention to these details?  How much extra does it make sense to invest? Or will the market generally assume that the building code is adequate and be much more concerned about countertops?

Some examples:
– Use gravel for all of the backfill
– 6″ PVC for the footing drain pipes
– Rough in piping for radon evacuation, even if not required by local code
– Apply Non-Tankable Waterproofing vs Damproofing and use a product that can bridge medium size cracks
– Capillary break between footing and foundation walls
– Strength (wider footings than the bare minimum, etc.)

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  1. paul_wiedefeld | | #1

    Look at the typical new house in your area and that should give you the answer.

    I'd wager nobody values it - people move!

    1. canada_deck | | #7

      Yeah that is probably true. Spoke to someone who just went through the process of building and selling a house. No one asked about the foundation.

  2. Expert Member


    Another great guide put out by BC Housing.

    Unfortunately, there is no evidence that these types of upgrades affect real estate values. There isn't even a niche market for re-selling high performance houses in BC.

    1. canada_deck | | #8

      Such a shame given our history of problems in the province.

      1. Expert Member
        MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #11


        Despite the Condo Crisis I don't think there was any real appetite among the home-buying public for much improvement beyond ensuring that their houses didn't deteriorate quickly. I think BC Housing and the industry in general responded quite well. It forced a complete re-thinking of the neglected regulatory regime, and the resulting changes mean a code compliant house built now has most of the features of what we would call a pretty good house.

        I'm not sure I see much point in building above code minimum here, beyond to address site specific issues.

        1. canada_deck | | #13

          I'm a little less confident TBH, especially with respect to Part 3 MURBs.

  3. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #3

    Most buyers will only pay extra for things they can see. That means things like fancy countertops, fresh paint, other finish details like that. If you watch any of those "house flipping" shows, you'll see that those finishes are about the only things they ever touch unless they have a problem. It's all about design, which tends to be all about visual impact.

    Most buyers won't pay extra for things they can't see. I have pointed out to my wife in the past when doing work at home that all the time goes into things you can't see (like fixing problems with the framing or electrical work), but those are the things that tend to really matter in terms of the longevity of the structure. You MIGHT find a buyer willing to pay extra for those kinds of upgrades, but in my experience, the only buyers willing to pay extra for things like foundation details are others in the trades who understand, and some technical people that want things to last.

    As Malcolm mentioned, even high performance things that can save you money over time, like extra insulation, tend not to really do much to increase the value of the home to other buyers.


    1. Expert Member
      DCcontrarian | | #4

      It's actually worse than that: most people assume that the things they can't see are all the same. Most people have no idea that houses are hand-built, and every one is different.

    2. canada_deck | | #9

      Yeah this is a good reality check for me.

  4. afinishedspace | | #5

    1. There is not a major cost increase to add some of the recommended items, such as 6" PVC or a radon pipe, particularly if it is your own home to be built. If you plan to have a finished basement, many of the recommendations are persuasive because the cost of flooding damage can be significant (i.e. consider the cost of disaster vs the cost of some of these preventative steps).

    2. We see some buyers becoming somewhat better educated on the custom home side. It is probably a small minority and happening slowly, but there is far more information available today about good residential construction than even a few years ago. The chance of a prospective custom home buyer caring about this stuff enough to assign a value to it is rising. Also building codes are gradually requiring more of the builders. We can anticipate that some of the recommendations by the BC housing authority and similar US departments will be adopted by states/municipalities later. You might find yourself implementing recommendations in a year or two that merely "meet code" in a decade or so.

    1. canada_deck | | #10

      Agreed with all of that. Interesting to see how quickly code is changing in some respects. Things are moving very quickly in BC with respect to energy efficiency.

  5. walta100 | | #6

    “I’m in the process of planning to build a new home that I will sell after living in for a year or two. “

    To my ear this sounds like a very risky idea.

    Basically, your plan is to build a speculation home and live in it for a short amount of time and sell it without losing money. Pro builders play this game generally they get a couple of small wins and the market takes a turn and they find themselves making payments on a house that they are unable to sell for a profit at some point it sells at a loss and they say never again.

    If you want to play this game go visit some of the production builder’s models. Look at their pricing and their list of upgrades. That list of upgrades is exactly what your local market is looking for and what they will pay for them. If there was a dime to be made selling better than code foundations you would find it on the options menu and it is not there.

    My guess is you will not be able to write a budget for this custom home you are planning for less than 2x what the production builders are selling in dollars per square foot terms.

    Generally, in most markets it does not make sense to buy an existing home unless you plan on staying 3 or 4 years.


    1. canada_deck | | #12

      Thanks Walta. As I dive deeper into the numbers, I am realizing there may be more risk here than I originally hoped (on both sides of the equation.)

  6. BrunoF | | #14

    How much does it really cost to make a footing a little bigger than code? I’m planning to do exactly what you propose but not for short term resale, for my family to live in and hopefully have fewer problems down the road.

    1. Expert Member
      MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #15


      How much bigger? 10%? 50%? double the size? The problem is that when you move away from using calculations to size a structure, you end up just guessing, and have no way of knowing if it makes a difference, or is just wasting money and materials.

      1. paul_wiedefeld | | #16

        There are easier ways to insure a building! That's what you'd be attempting.

      2. BrunoF | | #17

        Footings are allowed to be 20” wide x 10” here; my builder and I prefer 24” x 12”

        1. Expert Member
          MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #18


          Not to belabor the point, but based on what? Loads, soil bearing capacity, or just preference?

          1. Expert Member
            Michael Maines | | #20

            I have never personally seen a failure due to undersized footings. In fact we just tore down a 2-story house plus full walkout basement built in the 1950s and the 12" foundation walls had no footings at all, with no apparent ill effects. Unfortunately building codes require that we add footings, so the foundation had to go, and the code-compliant new footings are 8" x 20," based on building size and soil type. For many homes I spec 6"x16" footings, or whatever the least allowed by code, as the extra cost and carbon emissions do nothing important for the building.

  7. plumb_bob | | #19

    Some things are cheap and easy, such as a radon rough-in. I do not see how a 6" foundation drainage pipe is of any benefit, 4" pipes can handle ample volume. Upgraded damp proofing is also not a huge money item if you already have to do it. Footings, as Malcolm stated, are designed as per the conditions dictate, and making bigger footings is a waste of money if not required.
    For reference, a BC code compliant footing (with conditions) for a single floor Pt9 house can be 8" wide x 4" deep without rebar. This is with an assumed soil bearing capacity of 75kPa. Sounds crazy as most local builders us 20"x8" reinforced footings as standard.

  8. Deleted | | #21


  9. tdbaugha | | #22

    Many of the recommendations are just to safeguard against problems. I’m a broker and buyers don’t pay a premium for useless overkill, but they also won’t pay market price for a house that has cracked foundation walls, high radon, damp basement, etc. So is it worth it? Well it can be if you end up with any of the things I mentioned by cutting every corner in the book. I’ve seen so many spec home inspections with mold, water leaks, etc. Yes those homes met code minimum but they’re a basket case of problems and they don’t sell for anywhere near where they should. I bet those builders wished they laid the extra $1000 up front to do it a better way in the beginning. For what it’s worth.

  10. BirchwoodBill | | #23

    I would inspect the soil during excavation, and determine how much organic material may be decomposing. We had a footing settle and 30 years later I fix the cracks in the drywall. I know several contractors who deliberately over size the footings to avoid problems with settling.

  11. MaddyFar | | #24

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  12. RashidaMuhammad | | #25

    Your strategic approach to building, incorporating the guidelines from the provincial housing authority, sets a high standard. It not only aligns with best practices but also communicates a commitment to excellence.

  13. Spirullon | | #26

    Your dedication to exceeding standard building codes with these foundation details is truly noteworthy. Investing in alternatives , as you're contemplating, could potentially appeal to discerning buyers who value the long-term benefits of a solid foundation. While not everyone might immediately recognize the importance of these features, those who do could be willing to pay a premium for the assurance of a well-constructed home.

    In the real estate market, where trends often focus on aesthetics, highlighting the durability and thoughtfulness in your construction choices may be a unique selling point. Quality construction, often underappreciated, could be a significant factor in attracting buyers seeking a home that stands out not just in appearance but in fundamental strength.

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