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Newsletter #235

Poured Precast Basement

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

James Todd
Welcome, Spring!

All past newsletters are archived online at:



  1. Building on slab vs. crawl space vs. basement? Advantages / disadvantage
  2. Poured versus cement block versus pre-cast walls
  3. Asphalt or Fibreglass Shingles
  4. Thought for the Day
  5. Subscription Information
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1. Building on slab vs. crawl space vs. basement? Advantages / disadvantage

There are many different issues to consider when it comes to the choice of a basement, crawl space, or a slab foundation for your new home. We will cover a few of the issues here and as usual refer you to a number of web sites were you can find more detail to help with your decision.

In many parts of the country full basements will be the norm, while others will have slab foundations and still others will have crawl spaces. One of the fundamental items is what do your neighbours have? If you are planning a crawl space, and all of your neighbours have basements, your house may be more difficult to sell unless you are prepared to lower the price. This is simply a value / price perception issue since many people feel that having a full basement gives them more room even if it is used only for storage purposes. And of course, the potential is always there for someone to finish the basement and add extra living space at some time in the future.

Basements tend to be cooler which can be important in hot climates, they add value to the home and provide more room whether finished or not. Consumers can add a family room or use them for workshops and storage. Basements tend to be more expensive due to the footings and walls that must go below the frost line in many states and provinces.
Drainage is very important for basements and crawl spaces – as you don’t want water in these areas. Related to drainage, proper footings will avoid future cracks which, not only allow water to leak in, they can also allow gas such as radon to leak in to the home.

Slabs and crawl spaces are generally less expensive than full basements to build, especially in conditions were there is a great deal of rock to be removed. In some locations it is almost impossible to install a basement without the large expense of removing solid rock.

Crawl spaces need to be insulated and protected from the elements in the colder climates. Warm climates tend to have semi-open crawl spaces, which are a place for moisture, mould and rodents to collect. There are a number of health issues that can be aggravated by moisture and mold. Homes with crawl spaces are difficult to sell if most other homes have full basements.

If you are the type of person that needs a lot of storage or likes to have a basement workspace, then a crawl space or a slab is definitely not the type of foundation that you should consider.

Slabs are very popular in warm climates and also in areas with lots of rock. If there is no basement, the wiring and the plumbing will be in the walls or in the ceilings. Space will also be required for the furnace and the water heater within the house. Water pipes must be insulated especially if they are in the attic.

One major advantage of slab foundations is that there is little chance for water and outside gases to leak in providing a healthier environment. Also slabs are lower to the ground as a rule and they have fewer steps to go up which can be an advantage for older seniors or people who have difficulty in climbing stairs.

There are several potential drawbacks to slab foundations. Any cracks can cause long-term problems and are more difficult to repair. Soil movement, tree roots can lead to cracks in the slab. Slabs homes are also more prone to insect problems.

We have provided a number of web sites for you to review and find additional information for all of these foundation types.

Some Useful Links

Crawl Space vs. Slab Foundation

Basements and Crawl Spaces

Do it Yourself Forum

Foundations overview

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The New House Building Guide – Learn How To Save Thousands Building Your New Home

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Owner Builder Financing and Construction Support
Are you considering being an owner-builder, but are intimidated by the challenge of managing the process and finding financing. If you have the time, commitment and dedication to be an owner builder then you should definitely contact us. We offer 100% financing, a one-time close, no points, no interest payments during the building process, and construction support while you build. And best of all, when you are done, you will have earned, through your hard work, 25,000 - $75,000 of equity in your new home. For a no cost consultation, please complete the form found on our website, and someone contact you about this exciting opportunity.

2. Poured versus cement block versus pre-cast walls

In areas of the country that have basements, poured concrete walls appear to be the most popular choice for many builders. There are advantages and disadvantages for having a poured concrete wall vs. a cement block wall vs. a pre-cast wall that is poured off site and delivered on a flat bed truck. We will review these advantages and disadvantages briefly in this short article. Cracks in any of the basement walls allows water and gases to leak in causing any number of unhealthy problems. The stronger and better built basement walls will protect your family from these two problems.

The main advantage of Cement Block Walls is that the basement walls will be plumb and they will also be square making later construction of the home easier as well as finishing the basement with drywall an easier task. Block walls are held in place with mortar that is typically mixed on the site, as it is needed. The mortar plays a critical part in the strength of the wall. Too much water in the mortar can weaken the wall. Cement block walls are weaker than traditional poured walls since the blocks are hollow. This may not be an issue for many homes, unless there will be excessive weight from a larger home. You should discuss your cement block wall with your builder. Placing re-enforcing bars in the hollow portions and pouring cement into the hollows can also strengthen these walls. If you intend to finish the basement you will have to add an interior wood frame, insulation and moisture barrier and drywall.

Poured Concrete Walls are the traditional means of construction concrete walls. Poured concrete walls are usually poured to a strength rating of 3500 PSI, are poured on a footer and do not have re-enforcing bars. Poured concrete walls may not always be plumb and the top may not be level if the forms are not adequately supported during the pouring of the concrete. If there are delays in the pouring, cold seams can develop which can also cause cracks later on. Weather such as heavy rain or extreme cold and extreme heat can delay pouring of the concrete and even weaken the walls if the walls are not allowed to cure properly. From beginning to end of the pouring, a poured concrete wall will require up to a week to complete by the time you pour the footings, let them set, install the forms in place, pour the concrete and allow it to set properly. Finished basements require vapour barriers, studded walls, insulation and drywall to be added later.

Precast Concrete Walls are becoming popular and have a number of advantages that are attracting many builders and homeowners. The walls come with a footer that is precast and the walls are set on a base of crushed stone, which can be adjusted in depth based on the strength of the surrounding soil. The walls are poured in controlled factory conditions to maintain pouring standards at 5000 PSI strength ratings with re-enforcing bars in the concrete. The precast walls come with insulation and lumber nailers already in place so that you can nail the drywall to the wall without adding a lumber stud wall to hold the drywall. The best part is that the basement wall can be erected in one day, bolted together and the joints sealed to avoid any water leakage.

Precast walls have another advantages in cold winter climates. Since they are poured in a climate controlled factory, basements can be installed during the winter, even in the coldest part of the year, without worrying about the appropriate curing of the concrete.

If you feel that strength of the load bearing concrete wall be important in your home due to excessive weight you can consider re-enforcing both the cement block wall or the poured concrete wall to increase the vertical and lateral strength. Your builder will be the best person to discuss this with.

As we mentioned at the beginning, this is a brief summary of the various types of concrete walls that can be sued in home construction. The web sites we list below can provide you with additional information

Some useful links to check out

Superior Walls

Poured Wall Basements

Precast Concrete Foundation Walls

Poured Concrete vs. Concrete Block Walls

Pre-cast Foundation Walls

3. Asphalt or Fibreglass Shingles

This month’s article on asphalt or fibreglass shingles will review a few of the reasons why you may want to consider asphalt only shingles vs. fibreglass shingles for your new home. We will also cover some of the signs that your existing shingles have deteriorated and have reached the stage were they need to be replaced if you are purchasing a rebuilt home. We will also briefly review some of the alternatives to shingles such as metal and slate coverings.

Asphalt shingles and fibreglass shingles can be purchased to last from 15 to 30 years, however a variety of external factors will affect the actual life of the shingles. The following are some of the environmental issues that can affect their life:

Debris on the roof such as leaves that builds up causing rotting
Excessive heat in the summer
Baking from the attic if the attic is poorly ventilated
Excessive traffic on the roof
High winds; and,
Installation in cold temperatures

Signs of severe wear on your shingles include: cracking of the shingles, holes were the nails are, missing shingles, surface granules worn off, and curling at the ends indicates excessive heat. High wind can damage or blow away shingles and objects such as branches from nearby trees can damage the roof. Snow and ice build-up in the winter can cause damage and also ice dams leading to water leakage inside the building. If you see any of these items on your new roof, quick action can prevent long term damage.

When you purchase your new home, the builder will usually include the minimum quality shingle on your home unless otherwise directed by you. Fifteen year shingles are possible and some builders will use them. Consumers should consider 20 or 25-year shingles to maximize the protection on their roof and avoid near term roof problems.

Asphalt shingles consist of a felt base, coated with asphalt and covered with a thick layer of ceramic granules to protect the shingle from the elements. Fibreglass shingles have a fibreglass matt coated with asphalt to provide strength and support to the shingle in addition to the ceramic granules.

The advantages of a fibreglass shingle over a pure asphalt shingle include increased resistance to rotting from over damp conditions, warping and curling from excessive heat and an increased resistance to fire. A major disadvantage to fibreglass shingles is that they have a tendency to crack in cold temperatures when they are not handled properly. The spring and the fall are the best times to apply fibreglass shingles. The advantage of fibreglass shingles when they are applied properly to your roof is that they provide long lasting protection to your roof from the superior strength they receive from the fibreglass mat.

Metal roofs can be installed although the drawbacks may be a serious concern to many customers. Metal is typically more expensive and has a number of safety and operation issues. A Metal roof is heavier than asphalt; the roof is more difficult to work on due to slipperiness especially when it is wet, denting from walking on it or debris being blown against it as well. In addition some fire marshals will not allow their men to be on a metal roof during a fire due to safety issues. Asphalt shingles are much quieter during a heavy rain than a metal roof.

We have briefly covered some of the issues associated with asphalt shingles, fibreglass shingles and metal roofs. As usual there are also several links that you can refer to find additional information.

Useful Web Links

Asphalt Shingles

Professional Roofers

Asphalt Fibreglass Roofing Shingles

Roofing Options

4. Thought For The Day

Integrity is accepting responsibility when you have made a mistake.

5. Subscription Information

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