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Benefits of a Pier Foundation

Learn about the uses of a pier-and-beam, or pier foundation, and the pros and cons to building this construction style.


 Photo by James Ray Spahn


What Is a Pier Foundation? 

If you’ve ever visited a beach community, chances are you’ve seen a house or two built on stilts. Most of these homes have a pier, or pier-and-beam, foundation—a construction style similar to a wood deck. Basically, it is a series of vertical pillars or piles that transfer the building load to the soil. Beams are then built on top of these columns. Pier foundations work really well in sites where it might be difficult to dig a traditional foundation, such as around trees or complex root systems. They’re also ideal for settings close to the ocean, because they raise a house up to protect it from rising tides.


The Pros of a Pier Foundation

  • Ideal for settings where it might be difficult to put in a full-slab foundation (because of soil conditions, tree roots, water or steep slope).

  • May cost less than other types of foundations.

  • Eliminates worries about surface water coming in direct contact with the primary structure.

  • Provides a built-in crawl space for easier access to plumbing, wiring and ductwork.

  • Air circulates under the house, so mildew and rot are uncommon.


The Cons of a Pier Foundation

  • Floors must be heavily, heavily insulated and protected from critters.

  • The under-floor must be protected from the elements.

  • If one post or pier is damaged, it can lead to significant damage of the overall foundation.

  • Can be energy-inefficient if not insulated properly.


Is It Cheaper to Build on a Slab or Pier Foundation?

Naturally it all depends on your region, your site and who you work with, but typically a pier foundation will cost more upfront. However, when it comes to repairs, a slab foundation can be much more expensive to fix, adding to its overall costs over time.


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