Pre-cast concrete foundation sections during construction (C) Daniel Friedman]Pre-Cast Foundation defects of occurrence: damaged pre-fab building foundations

  • CONCRETE PRE-CAST FOUNDATION DEFECTS - CONTENTS: Pre-Cast Concrete Foundation Defects listed, described & explained. Foundation defects of occurrence: things that happen that cause damage to building foundation walls or slabs. Photographs of pre-fab or pre-cast foundation damage patterns and types
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Pre-cast concrete foundations:

This article explains How to Inspect & Diagnose Problems in Pre-Cast Concrete (Modular) Foundations - pre-fab foundation wall sections such as pre-cast "superior wall" foundations, precast concrete walls, how they are placed, how pre-cast concrete foundation walls are sealed, footing alternatives for pre-cast or modular foundations, and concerns for proper caulking or sealing between precast concrete foundation or wall sections.

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Inspecting Pre-Cast Concrete Foundation Walls

Examples of both acceptable and questionable structural details & other failures in Pre-Cast Concrete (Modular) Foundations

Prefab concrete foundation walls set along Vassar Road, Poughkeepsie NY (C) Daniel Friedman

Pre-cast foundation walls such as the Superior Walls R-5 ™ or Xi ™ (extra insulation) systems provide sections of concrete foundation walls which are lifted into place and bolted together, often sitting on a simple gravel footing-base, or properly installed, on crushed stone footings [2009 IRC section 403.4.1].

Photograph of a pre cast concrete and wood modular foundation

Most of the photographs of pre-cast concrete foundation walls shown here were taken more than a decade ago during construction of a Poughkeepsie, New York home. I must add that more than a decade later, by casual inspection from the street (owners haven't invited me in) I have not seen any evidence of movement in this structure even though the conditions photographed just above made me a bit nervous.

Pre-cast concrete foundation walls, possibly by Superior Wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Superior Walls technical director Robert Hare points out that Superior Walls panels use specially formulated polyurethane sealant to seal these joints.

From some manufacturers, (not Superior Walls) the wall sections are sealed, typically with gaskets or caulk or both.

These are excellent building products with a proven track record, but as with any building material or procedure it's important that the precast concrete wall sections are properly transported, stored, installed, connected, and sealed, and that they are supported properly on footings or gravel properly prepared.

The defects we've observed were in pre-cast concrete foundation wall installation and did not involve evidence of structural failures.

Photograph of a pre cast concrete and wood modular foundation

Support for intermediate non-load-bearing pre-cast concrete foundation walls (C) Daniel Friedman

Note: the "floating" foundation wall shown above is supported at its left-end by a bracket set into the structural foundation wall of this Poughkeepsie home. The more-shallow right-hand wall was selected to be deep enough to be below the frost line and marks the entry to a garage.

I doubt that the design engineers consider this construction anything but fine. However soft backfill below the garage slab and entry may lead to later settlement problems in the driveway or garage floor.

Corner connecting bolts at a pre-cast concrete foundation wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Photograph of a pre cast concrete and wood modular foundation

Construction debris tossed into backfill at a pre-cast foundation wall (C) Daniel Friedman

Reputable manufacturers of precast foundation wall products, including Superior Walls of America, supply their customers with site prep and construction details and that these are a great resource for inspectors.  Superior Walls provides these details in Builder Guideline Booklet MAN 42-9000 [local copy] which is available on-line, free of charge.  This booklet includes a series of checklists, including one for Code Inspectors.

Pre-cast concrete foundation may be mistaken for wood when viewed from inside (C) Daniel Friedman & Carson Dunlop Associates Toronto

Watch out: As we also warn at WOOD FOUNDATION DEFECTS, a novice inspector may have trouble distinguishing between a completely-wood foundation and a pre-cast concrete foundation wall such as the structure shown above. If the sills and studs in this wall are concrete then it's almost certainly a pre-cast concrete foundation even though you may see plywood or OSB on the inside surface of the foundation cavity wall.

Pre-Fab Foundation Research & Sources


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