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Wood foundations


gtblum
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Got one coming up on monday. So far I've been through the pdf from the library twice and dug into the old posts here. I made my client and her dad fully aware that I've never worked on or seen one of these systems but, I would do my homework and if they were comfortable with that I'll do it. If not, that's fine too. They are.

At this point I'm confident that by Monday I'll have drilled most of the installation "what to look for" into my head and be armed with a print out of the pdf.

What I'd like from you guys is the "make sure you check because this is what happens over time" stuff. And maybe more specifically to pipe penetrations. They're telling me they suspect a problem with one.

Thanks

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I don't know if anyone is truly expert because there just aren't enough of them out there to develop a skillset for looking at them.

That said, I built a couple 30 years ago, and have seen a few more. All the stuff you'd imagine related to drainage, water, site planning, etc. If you've looked at the .pdf, you've got some basis for making determinations.

Take a lot of pictures and report back; it'd be great to get some data on wood foundations in upstate NY.

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Thanks gentlemen,

Take a lot of pictures and report back; it'd be great to get some data on wood foundations in upstate NY.

Will do Kurt.

Don't want to talk myself into anything before I see it but, if there's a visible problem at a pipe penetration from the interior, do you think it would be safe to say, (between us haha) that it's likely that the cavity of that wall may be, well let's just say real wet?

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Well, I'd say any penetration in a wood foundation is inviting problems. They're something that requires absolute adherence to a set of specifications, and we all know how often that happens.

Water will have it's way. It always wins. Unless there is complete and total moisture control (we also know how often that happens), wood foundations are a problem.

There's just no good argument for them, imho.

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I've had the misfortune of working on a couple of them, both about 15 - 20 years old. The water barrier materials on the exterior were shot. They both smelled like wet sneakers, presumably a combination of several wetting and drying cycles and the fact that some part of it is always wet. Both had lots of rot, and the plywood was culing and pulling out (or through) the fasteners at every opening. One was a walkout with a double door and only one side of the opening was supporting anything, the other side you could push the wall in and out a couple of inches at the base.

I know a guy that recently retired from the lumber business who was a huge proponent of wood foundations, and probably still is. His favorite argument was that no special skills were needed to construct one and that they could even be built by homeowners themselves. I guess that explains why they're crap.

Tom

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I was able to see down through only two of the wall cavitys. Luckily they happened to be in the area of most concern. I got a little invasive and took the inside panel off to get a better look. The first thing I noticed was, it looked like the the poly had been wrapped completely around the footing plate instead of being draped over the outside edge like every illustration in the pdf.

That makes me wonder if after 20 years of sliding around on the gravel under it, It wore through and is now holding moisture against the bottom of the plate.

The rotted wet wood you see is the form for the pad. It's wicking water from below and it's saturated. The walls, insulation and bottom plate were not wet other than at the very bottom. The windows had plastic wrapped to the inside and everything was bone dry.

It's really a pretty cool system but, if it was my house, It would be on a solid concrete footer.

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I came across this topic late, and have only seen one home on a wooden foundation. It is one of my parent's neighbor's homes on PEI in Canada.

Haven't we concluded that 'wood in dirt don't work' yet? I sure have.

In PEI, they get 9 months of winter, and three months of very poor sledding. Worse than that, they have the least pourous soil I have ever seen. This foundation leaks like a man after prostate surgery.

The heartwood is even deteriorating, and it's only been >15 years. Disposable foundations? I'd rather not.

Looking forward to hearing what you found,

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So, what'd you say about it to the customer?

At time with dad on my shoulder, pretty much what I've written here so far and that although there was very little water it's not going to get better by itself. We've had a whole week of heavy soaking rain around here. Couldn't have picked a better time to look at it. I honestly think the biggest problem is that the poly is deteriorating at the bottom.

There was so much I couldn't see because most of the basement had finished walls. It was very frustrating. The house sits on a small hill and should have no issues if everything you can't see was done properly. I looked at aerial photos and topo maps of the area ahead of time. There's one pond about a mile up the road. Every thing around the house is lower and dry. Christmas decorations and most of the other stuff I saw was stored on the floor not on pallets.

Starting the report in the morning. I'll write what I saw.

At least I had a heads up on what I was walking into this time.

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Yeah, it's probably not totally screwed right now, but it's going to be totally screwed in a decade or so.

All the little leaks, poly failure, and soaking conditions eventually force it into a slow death.

I'm with Jimmy. It's a disposable foundation, which would be just fine if all that house wasn't sitting on top of it.

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I'm with Jimmy. It's a disposable foundation

Yes and no. It really looks like it could work as well as any other as long as it's protected by something more than a sheet of plastic. That alone has got to be the biggest down fall of the system. Even if it's installed perfectly, the very first load of gravel dumped is going to damage it. Seems to me if the same methods of water proofing a conventional foundation were applied, there might be some advantages to building with wood. Wood doesn't step crack.

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