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Newsletter #240

House Construction Concrete Basics

October 2005 Home Page
New House Building : Money Saving Strategies, Peace of Mind Advice,
Tools to get the job done!

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Dear Subscriber,

With winter rapidly approaching in the northern half of the U.S. this issue addresses how to deal with the problems of cold weather and pouring foundations. With many good precast concrete products available, you no longer need to wait on the weather - you can simply have your basement built in a factory and shipped to your site.

Secondly, I would like to draw your attention to a new mortgage prequalification tool we have recently developed. It will assist you in determining if you will qualify for a loan, if not – why not, and if so, for how much you will qualify – all without having to talk to bank. It’s a great little tool for anyone considering building house and needing to borrow money. Take a look.


James Todd .
October, 2005



  1. Definitions
  2. Concrete Basics
  3. Poured Concrete - Winter Construction
  4. Precast Concrete Walls
  5. In conclusion
  6. Thought for the Day
  7. Subscriptions/Removal Instructions



1. Definitions:

Masonry Wall Construction: basement walls are built with masonry block units that are usually hollow and can be filled with reinforced concrete to provide a strong wall. In some construction sites the hollow portion will be filled with re-enforcing bars and concrete poured into the hollow areas. They must be sealed to prevent seepage through the many joints.

Poured Concrete Walls: basement walls are poured in place into forms that have been built for the purpose. The forms are moved from basement to basement and are removed once the concrete has hardened.

Precast Panel Basements: are poured concrete panels that are poured in a factory, transported to the construction site and lifted into place with the use of a crane. Joints must be sealed and weather is usually not a factor.

Tilt-up Concrete: Wall panels, including door and window openings, are cast in forms on the floor slab and simply tilted into position. The walls are tied together with cast-in-place concrete columns or other fastening devices. This system is cost-effective as long as the home features mostly right angles and weather conditions permit.

Some Useful Links:

Concrete Network : Types of basements

Panel Systems and Precast

Superior Walls


2.0 Concrete Basics

Concrete must cure properly over a 28-day period to gain proper strength characteristics. The curing cycle is the same whether it is in the summer or winter, however the cold winter months present special problems for curing and maintaining minimum temperatures. Builders must ensure that the concrete does not freeze and also does not dry too quickly during the cold dry winter months.

If the proper building construction techniques are not followed, concrete will not cure properly causing potential problems later on such as cracking and dusting to name two concerns as well as a lower strength.

In order for concrete to cure properly, temperature minimums and moisture levels must be managed during the curing cycle to ensure proper 28-day strength characteristics are achieved. The links we have included in this section discuss in great detail about the mixing of concrete and also the hardening process.

Concrete must harden in the same manner whether it is at a factory in the case of pre-cast slabs or whether the concrete is poured on site at the location of the construction of the home or building. The basic differences are ease of access to the construction site and management of the environment while the concrete is hardening. Temperature and humidity levels need to be managed so that the concrete hardens at the desired rates regardless of whether it is completed inside a factory or outside at the site.

Some useful links to check out

About Concrete


Basement Construction Checklist


3.0 Poured Concrete – Winter Construction

Builders who plan to pour concrete in the cold winter months on location must plan for proper equipment, manpower, weather protection, and appropriate concrete mix with accelerating admixtures and heated mixtures to help develop early hardening. All snow an ice must be removed from concrete forms and the sub base prior to pouring concrete and The concrete should not come in contact with construction forms etc that are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Special Requirements

The cost of winter construction with the additional requirements identified below must be compared to delays until warmer spring or summer temperatures. It is generally considered to be more expensive in the winter to pour concrete outdoors due to the extra cost of maintaining the concrete at the desired temperature. However during wet fall weather and early spring, entry to construction sites can be difficult due to access roads not supporting the heavy equipment that is required to pour concrete resulting in additional delays.

Special attention must be given to the following:

  • Ensure concrete has cured and do not allow concrete to prematurely dry out
  • Keep Ice from forming, which stops hydration and seriously impairs strength
  • Use insulation blankets or heaters
  • Build enclosures around the area were the concrete is to be poured to maintain appropriate temperatures and avoid significant moisture during wet spring or fall conditions
  • Avoid direct contact with heaters, that may cause soft dusting
  • Ensure heaters do not run out of fuel and avoid fire hazards
  • Remove heat protection in a manner that prevents rapid cooling of concrete
  • Triple insulation at corners and edges of walls
  • Leave forms in place as long as possible to prevent rapid drying
  • Delays due to inclement wet weather in the spring and fall may prevent access and / or proper drying and hardening of the concrete.


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Municipal Code Requirements

Many municipalities or state agencies have specified technical requirements for cold weather masonry construction covering temperature conditions below specific temperatures, often at 41 degrees F, or 5 degrees C. Your concrete subcontractor should be well aware of these requirements and should be able to demonstrate to you the steps they will take to ensure that these requirements will be met.

Useful Web Links

Cold Weather Curing

Cold Weather Concrete Tips

Cold Weather Concreting


4.0 Precast Concrete Walls

Precast insulated panels are formed in a factory-controlled setting and delivered to the new home job site, where the panels are lifted onto the footings and carefully locked together and permanently sealed. The walls can be custom-designed and built to any architectural style with window and door openings.

Precast panels that are created in a factory can adhere to much better and consistent standards in terms if drying and maximum strength characteristics since the environmental conditions are maintained at optimum levels. Some manufacturers will also provide a built-in concrete footer that rests on a sub-footer of clean crushed stone. Since the concrete is poured in environmentally controlled conditions, the manufacturer can focus on managing increased strength characteristics instead of drying times and temperature control in the field. Heated mixtures and accelerants do not need to be added to help manage drying and temperature control of the concrete.

Additional details can be included such as pre-engineered wiring access holes and furring strips for easy drywall installation. Since external conditions can be managed, the concrete walls are often better quality. Although builders must contend with wet weather making access to the construction site difficult, precast foundations can be installed in just five hours. Actually winter conditions are often preferred to spring and fall since the frozen ground will support heavy equipment.

Precast concrete walls can be designed for everything from elaborate mansions to cozy log cabins. Many manufacturers will also add in insulated panels right at the factory as well which provides a higher quality level and better insulation characteristics.

Once the cranes have lowered the precast walls onto a bed of clean crushed stone, and fixed into place by specially trained crews, the joints are sealed to provide a watertight seal. Building can usually begin immediately, either later in the day or the following day. Construction time of a new home can be reduced by up to 30% in many cases.

Useful Web Links

Superior Walls

Concrete Homes

Technology Inventory


5.0 In Conclusion

There are lots of pros and cons for precast concrete construction vs. in place poured concrete construction of foundations for homes of all sizes. For many it comes down to cost, time and quality of the construction. Balancing these three items can be difficult, however if you make a mistake on quality, your new home can have many future problems, which will be very expensive. Repairs to cracked foundations and leaking basements are not inexpensive.

If you are comparing the two different construction techniques, here are some of the major variables that you may want to consider. Details can be found on the various web sites that we have provided as references in the earlier sections of the newsletter.

Decision Criteria

  • Time of year
  • Moisture conditions i.e. wet spring or fall conditions
  • Cold weather and freezing situations
  • Construction schedule and timeline of your home
  • Potential construction delays
  • Availability of precast in your area
  • Cost estimates of winter construction vs precast
  • Delays caused by winter construction and heating requirements
  • Concern about the long term load bearing capabilities of the foundation
  • Custom design requirements of your foundation
  • Availability of concrete forms and tradesmen
  • Availability of appropriate equipment
  • Access to the construction site by heavy equipment
  • Need for enclosures to maintain temperature and working conditions
  • Pre-engineered wiring access and furring strips
  • Overall cost in your area of precast vs. in place concrete poured foundations

Each builder must assess the situation and the environment they are building in and make their own decision based on the variables that they are dealing with. Precast construction is becoming a more popular way to deal with cold winter conditions, wet spring and fall conditions and also overall quality of the foundation for many new homes.


6.0 Thought For The Day

Never does the human soul appear stronger than when it forgoes revenge and dares to forgive an injury.


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