Types of Foundations Used for Commercial Buildings

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Commercial foundations are similar to residential foundations when it comes to the types of issues they’ll face when it comes to water erosion, soil problems, and drainage problems, to name a few. However, the types of foundations commercial foundations utilize are different because the load support for commercial buildings is much more important.

The main thing to remember with commercial buildings is that they will either have a shallow foundation or a deep foundation, and basements will be rare. There are different types of shallow foundations, just as there are different types of deep foundations. The differences usually boil down to the type of foundation technique or design employed – i.e., does the deep foundation use piers or caissons? The choice of piers or caissons doesn’t change the fact that the building has a deep foundation.

Whether a commercial building has a shallow or deep foundation is usually based on how heavy the load needs to be, how deep the ground is, how much the soil shifts, how high winds are, and whether the ground is prone to freezing. In other words, commercial foundations aren’t selected based solely on how much they cost, although the cost is a sizable factor to consider.

Shallow Foundations

Shallow foundations are exactly what they sound like. The foundation transfers the load at a depth that doesn’t rely on the support of deep bedrock or strata. Because the foundation doesn’t require structural support at great depth, the cost is cheaper, easier to construct, and it requires less time.

The drawback of shallow foundations is that they’re not preferred for heavy loads or in areas where soil shifts a lot. These types of foundations are more prone to issues with settling, erosion, and climate factors like wind. Because they have issues with shifting soil and high winds, they’re not ideal for lateral loads.

Any foundation name that sounds like it’s floating (Mat or Raft) and uses the word “footing” or “slab” is almost always a shallow foundation.

Shallow Foundation Types:

  • Slab-on-Grade
  • Individual Footing
  • Combined Footing
  • Mat (or Raft) Foundation
  • Spread or Strip Footing

Deep Foundations

Deep foundations, like shallow foundations, are essentially what their name implies. Unlike a shallow foundation, deep foundations transfer their load at deep depth, usually at bedrock or appropriate load-bearing strata for the weight of the building. Because the foundation is deep, the buildings they support are almost never light. However, they’re a perfect alternative for light buildings if shallow foundations aren’t an option. They also cost more, take longer to construct, and are more labor intensive.

Because deep foundations are technically more structurally sound, they are ideal for areas where shifting soil is an issue. They also perform well in places where flooding, heavy rain, wind, and soil erosion are a constant battle. They’re also well-suited for lateral loads, not only heavy compression loads.

Any foundation that uses the words “piers,” or “piles” or “caissons” is a deep foundation type. Also, any design that implies wall support – like retaining walls or seawalls – usually uses deep foundation products like helical piers. The exception is a cantilever wall, which redirects the load back into a shallow foundation, vice transferring it away laterally into the soil.

Deep Foundation Types:

Warning Signs for Repair

Commercial buildings can vary from restaurants to warehouses, from office buildings to machinery plant. The type of foundation issues they can all have is the same, though. If you have a commercial building and are concerned about the foundation or want to know the types of warning signs to be aware of, common tell-tale problems include:

  • Visible cracks in the foundation, both interior, and exterior
  • Visible cracks in structure walls, both inside and outside
  • Visible gaps around windows and doors
  • Misaligned windows and doors
  • Sagging or cracked floors

If caught early, commercial foundation repair work can be done quickly without impacting your business greatly. However, the longer needed repairs are put off, the more severe the damage may become and the more expensive and time-consuming it’ll take to repair.

This is why we highly recommend taking advantage of the free inspection and estimate Bluebird CFW offers for any building and foundation. Our professionals can act quickly to provide you with recommendations that will ensure the stability of your structure and your business for years to come.

If you’re in Michigan and have any questions about commercial buildings, and their foundations, or if you’d like more information on the commercial foundation repair services we offer, contact us today! Bluebird CFW is ready to help you with all of your foundation needs!

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