Fieldstone Has been Around for a Long

Time, but can be troublesome.

In New England, most homes have basements.  In many areas of the country, this is not so, but here, basements have been deemed desirable and are important features on a property.  But you can't have a basement without having a foundation.  There are three common types found, and for the folks new to buying homes, I'd thought I'd spotlight each in turn.

Fieldstone Foundations

Typically, you'll find fieldstone in many homes before 1935 or so.  Before the advent of concrete, this was the defacto choice for a homes foundation.  Fieldstone, is, of course, "stones found in the field" or plain old rocks, stacked up and occasionally mortared until you can build a house on it.  When placed on a good base and solid earth, fieldstone can be a fine foundation.  After all,

 

 

 

 

the homes it's holding up are usually 100 years old or more!  But it does have drawbacks, and that's why it isn't used anymore as a foundation of choice.  It lacks the water resilience of poured concrete, and that means more water in the basement.  I have seen dry fieldstone basements, but not many.  Also, it is susceptible to "bowing" which is when the wall bends in or out (typically in), if there is structural weakness in the wall, or if there's pressure outside pushing in.  Although it provides great vertical strength, it's horizontal strength is not as good, which means if it's not on a good solid platform, (like sand) it won't hold up very well.

Concrete Cinder Block Foundations

A major advance in foundation technology arrived with the Cinder block, or concrete block. Much cheaper and faster than building fieldstone. Very strong vertically, and the modular nature of it made it a natural for home building.  It has better (but still not great) ability to keep water out of your basement.  But cinder block does have some issues, which has limited its usefulness today.  First, it is similar to fieldstone in that it's horizontal strength is limited, and cracks in cinder block walls, typically seen as "step cracks", can highlight potential shifting or weaknesses in the surrounding ground.  Also, Cinder blocks are hollow, mostly, and this hollowness can allow insect infestations from ground borne insects to go undetected for some time.  This reason, although a rare occurrence, in New England, is likely why most town building codes no longer permit Cinder block for dwellings.

Poured Concrete Foundations

The standard for todays foundations, poured concrete has vertical and horizontal strength, very good water protection (but it is still porous, and as we all know will not prevent flooding), and when poured 18 inches or more above the outside grade, provides excellent insect protection.  Predominant by the 1960's, most homes will have this type of foundation.  Newer structures typically have the concrete go much higher above grade than in original applications, to help with insect repellent. Hope this is a useful summary.

 


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