Building Modern on a Budget: Ep. 2 | Foundation & Pad

Saturday, May 16, 2020 -

*This post is sponsored by Simpson Strong-Tie and The Home Depot. This post contains affiliate links. 

We are full steam ahead on the new modern house! We have been working our tails off and making good progress. I just shared the newest video, episode 2 of the Building Modern on a Budget. I'm talking all about getting the site prepared, building the pad, and pouring the concrete foundation. 

 Have you been following along with the series?

Although we are trying to DIY as much of the house as possible, we knew there were certain trades we didn't feel comfortable tackling ourselves. Our foundation was something we figured was best to leave to the professionals. 

Wait a minute. I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we could even think about the foundation, we had to prepare the site. I talk more about our 1 acre lot in this blog post as well as Episode 1

Our lot is nice and flat (read: easy to build on) but we want to avoid future drainage and flooding issues. Our building permit requires we build an elevated building pad at least 18" above the adjacent grade. 

Although our house is within Mesa city limits, we are technically inside a county island. We don't have access to some city utilities like gas or water. Thankfully, our lot has access to an existing shared well. When our plumber initially came out to hook up our supply line to the well, we had a big problem. No water.

After a morning of digging and exploration, we finally found where the well connection was supposed to be. The supply ran all the way to the junction to our lot, but was capped and never connected. Thankfully our plumber was able to connect the two lines and we magically had water.

Floating slab foundations are SUPER common in our area. In fact, it's hard to find a contractor who will build on anything other than a slab. Slabs definitely aren't the most common type of foundation in the rest of the world, so it's no surprise I've received LOTS of questions about it.

I made a simple diagram to give you and idea of how a slab foundation works. I go into way more detail in the video, and even explain other foundation types.

Before I knew anything about foundations I thought the flat slab you see was the actual foundation. In actuality, almost all the weight of the house sits on a stem wall, supported by solid concrete footings.

The stem and footings are strengthened with steel rebar.

Something I'm discovering about building a house for the first time is the fact you have to be thinking 3 steps ahead. For example, while the concrete contractor was pouring the concrete stem, we needed to embed Strap Tie Hold Downs around the perimeter. They won't come into play for several weeks, while we're framing, but that's something we needed to know ahead of time.

The Simpson Stong-Tie STHD anchors we used are made from thick, 14 gauge steel and will help make a super strong connection between the concrete foundation and the framed wood, exterior walls.

Once the footings and stems were poured, it was time for the star of the show, the slab.

Both my husband Bryce and myself love the look of concrete floors. If money was no option, I'd have perfectly ground and polished concrete. That faux terrazzo look makes my heart sing!

 We looked into grinding and polishing the floors ourselves, but to get the best results, an extra aggregate layer is added on top of the smooth slab to control the size and density of stones exposed once ground. That wasn't really an option since we needed a perfectly smooth slab to build our wood walls on top of. Thankfully, we talked to our concrete contractor and let him know we wanted to use the concrete as our finished floors.

Knowing this, they spent extra effort into making sure our slab was as smooth and even as glass. I'll be honest. It's the prettiest concrete I think I've ever seen. Bryce and I decided it was so pretty, we are going to simply clean and seal it and call it a day.

The last step of the concrete foundation process was to make several deliberate relief cuts. Since our slab is going to be our finished floors, we laid out a wide, diagonal pattern that (hopefully) looks intentional. The relief cuts are more functional than aesthetic. The idea is, if the slab shifts because of temperature, moisture, or settling, the cracks will form down the cut lines instead of the middle of the slab. At least that's the idea.

I know a concrete slab is not the most glamorous step of the building process, but we are thrilled with what we got. Don't worry, the next episode is all about framing! Our comfort zone. And the action gets real. Wanna see a sneak peak?

Curious about the rest of the build? Make sure you're following me on Instagram, where I share day-to-day stories and updates.

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