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Building a Solid Foundation

Did you ever wonder why there are different types of foundations used in new home construction?  Or maybe, you never gave it any consideration, but is there really a difference?  There are two major types of foundations used in the Florida and South Georgia markets.  Since the local conditions in these areas preclude the feasibility of a below grade basement, the two main types of foundation used are the “monolithic” and “stem-wall “ foundations.

Monolithic Foundation- This is the most common type of foundation used in new home construction.  This type of foundation is popular with builders for several reasons, but the biggest reason for the popularity of this type of foundation is its reduced construction time and somewhat lower cost of installation.  The monolithic foundation is basically where the slab and the footings are installed at the same time in one (mono) continuous pour, resulting in quicker construction time and thus less cost.  Where this type of foundation does have its merits, it also has a few draw-backs, especially when used in concrete block construction.  As previously stated, the monolithic foundation is placed in one pour, and the walls of the new home are placed directly on top of the slab.

Stem-wall Foundation- This type of foundation involves the placement of a concrete footing below grade, a concrete block “stem-wall” to just above grade, and then the slab is placed on compacted fill dirt, inside the perimeter of the foundation wall.  This type of foundation, when used in concrete block construction, allows the exterior structural walls to extend all the way from the footing to the top of the wall.

Why is this distinction important? For those who remember the major tropical storms and hurricanes that went across the state of Florida in a few years ago, this distinction is crucial.  During these unusual storm events, many people living across the state experienced water intrusion into their homes, most of which had never previously seen this problem.  This was basically due to the fact that the state of Florida, for the most part, is a concrete block home market.  Most of these homes were constructed using the monolithic foundation design.  Since the block walls are placed directly on top of the slab, wind-driven rain from these storms was pushed through the normal “hair-line” cracks in the exterior walls of many homes, resulting in water intrusion into the living space of the home.

Several major studies were done to investigate not only the cause of this water intrusion, but to make recommendations for changes that would eliminate future occurrences.  Some conclusions derived from  these studies were, either step up normal maintenance on these types of homes by inspecting, sealing cracks, and re-painting on a regular schedule per the manufacturer’s specifications, or redesign the home.  One redesign option included the construction of a stem-wall foundation, that would allow any water that may penetrate walls due to a lack of maintenance to flow out of the home through the stem wall, thus leaving the living space dry.

Of course, these two options differed in their emphasis, the first emphasized increased responsibility on the homeowner, and the second placed an emphasis on the building itself.  Since this redesign concept increased the cost of construction and lengthened the building process, most builders, chose the first recommendation, and increased their documentation, and disclosures relating to regular home maintenance. 

Maronda Homes chose to redesign all of their homes so they could continue to deliver “an easily observable better value”.  This redesign, allowed Maronda to continue to delivery homes that provide families the peace of mind to know that their largest investment was safe and would protect their families from lost related to water intrusion during storms.  Of course, this redesign does not eliminate the need for regular maintenance of their homes, but it does provide another level of protection, since no one knows when the next storm will occur.

The Hartford by Maronda HomesMaronda Homes has been providing Florida home buyers with an affordable quality alternative when purchasing a new home since 1972.  These homes have not only delivered a low maintenance affordable choice, but have always been on the cutting edge of design and energy efficiency.  Even in areas of North Florida and South Georgia where “stick-built” wood frame construction is the norm, Maronda Homes builds only these energy efficient block homes.  According to the insurance industry, block homes offer superior resistance to storm damage, resulting in lower homeowner’s insurance premium.  Block homes are also 16% more energy efficient than a comparable wood frame home.  They also provide protection from another major peril common in the Florida and Georgia environment, termites.  Since termites actually cause more damage each year that storms, fires, and all other perils combined, Maronda’s concrete block homes with their structural block walls deliver even more value at the same price or lower than their wood frame competitors.

Maronda Homes builds these quality concrete block homes in communities located in the South Georgia, North Florida, Southeast Florida, Central Florida and Southwest Florida areas.

About Jim Marshall

Jim is a construction professional who has been involved in the new home building industry for over 30 years. He is a Certified General Contractor and Certified Home Inspector, and was associated with Maronda Homes for 16 years before embarking on new adventures in the Jacksonvile area in Florida.

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One comment

  1. Although full basements can be found in many areas, homeowners in the Northeast tend to expect them. A full basement typically consists of footings placed deep below the region’s frost depth and eight-foot-high walls that enclose a four-inch-thick poured concrete slab. This creates an underground room that can be used as a storage and mechanical space, and/or finished to create a living area.

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