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Home Inspections Blog

Monthly Archives: February 2018

Misconceptions About Permanent Wood Foundations (PWFs)

Misconceptions About Permanent Wood Foundations (PWFs)

(By: Comfort Home Inspections owner Keith Hoaglund)

This post is designed to be a casual discussion about wood foundations in general using real-world examples and is not to be considered a technically exhaustive or comprehensive review, description, or classification of this particular type of foundation construction. I actually find myself technically exhausted after having to add this statement.

Prior to my career as a home inspector, I was a general contractor and was involved in the design, construction, and installation of many foundations constructed of concrete block, poured Insulated Concrete Form (ICF), and of course Permanent Wood Foundations (PWFs).

permanent wood foundationI generally choose PWFs whenever possible for my projects. Below, I’ll address a number of common misconceptions about wood foundations that I heard then and still hear frequently today.

“I had a twenty-year-old treated wood deck on my house and it rotted away. How could treated wood last underground?”

The simple answer to this concern is it’s not the same product. Typical treated deck boards are treated and designed for use above ground only, and are not designed for contact with water or moisture. What about when it rains? Exactly. It’s wood. It’s outside. It will get wet.

Still, most treated lumber purchased at home centers and used for outdoor construction projects isn’t rated to stay wet. Intermittent wetting is acceptable and painting or staining your exterior treated wood structure will help but eventually will require replacement.

This type of wood is treated to 0.4 pounds per cubic foot (PCF) of retention and is not considered permanent, while wood foundations use lumber that has been treated to 0.6 PCF. In addition, the wood in PWFs is rated for ground and water contact, and is considered to be totally useless as a food source for any little critters including termites and other creatures that can facilitate deterioration to wet or dry wood, thus giving this lumber product a very long life. It’s considered permanent. Hence the name, Permanent Wood Foundation.

“A wood foundation isn’t strong enough to hold up my two-story house.”

A foundation is designed to support the vertical load of the house above it and the horizontal load of the soil pushing against it. Generally, the soil pushing against it is a much bigger concern. Properly designed vertical stacked wood stud walls will support a great deal.

Take a drive around any suburban area and look at the commercial construction projects going on. Generally you will see several multi-floor hotels or apartment buildings being constructed out of standard 2×6 stud walls with 7/16” sheathing that are three or four stories or more. I can assure you these structures are much heavier than your home and demonstrate the load carrying capacity of wood stud walls.

PWF is also built to withstand the force of the soil pushing horizontally as well, so are actually generally much stronger than a standard 2×6 stud wall 16” on center with 7/16” sheathing. An average PWF wall panel consists of 2×8 studs 16” or 12” on center and 5/8” to 3/4” sheathing. This makes for an extremely strong stud wall panel.

“If there is groundwater or moisture, I want to have a concrete wall protecting me.”

Next time you find yourself in Nevada, take the hardhat tour of Hoover Dam and see how well the largest, thickest concrete wall on the planet holds back water. Spoiler alert: it leaks. Internal passages have wet walls with water literally running out of them.

Remember for a moment how we all got to this continent: on ships. They crossed the ocean, the ocean is made of water, and ships were made of wood! Those who tried crossing in a concrete ship haven’t been heard from. A well-designed wood foundation will remain warm and dry regardless of the groundwater issues.

In conclusion, if you are looking at a home and find it has a wood foundation, there’s no need to panic. There are some things we need to check, however, so always call Comfort Home Inspections, Inc. so we can evaluate the foundation and let you know if the correct lumber was used and if the design is consistent with current standards of practice.

Remember, a properly designed wood foundation will provide a warm, dry, inviting living space and is nothing to be concerned about.

Learn more about Permanent Wood Foundations here.

Exploring Your Surroundings Before Buying A Home

Exploring Your Surroundings Before Buying A Home

A lot goes into deciding which home to buy, with location being one of the most important factors. Homebuyers should look into what’s around their home, neighborhood and general area to make sure their new home is worth spending a few years – or the rest of their lives – in.

Around Your Home

Most people spend two-thirds of their time in and around their home during the week, and likely even longer on the weekends. You’ll want to know if you, your family, and your guests are comfortable in your immediate surroundings. Consider these:

Busy streets. Popular roads can create a lot of noise. A home right next to a highway may be convenient, but you’ll constantly be hearing noises from engines, car accidents and roadwork. Plus, busy roads are dangerous for young kids who want to explore.

Paths, parks and playgrounds. Are you a walker? Do you have a dog? Does your child need somewhere to play? Think about what you’ll be doing on your day off when the weather is 75° and sunny.

Bodies of water. Lakes, ponds and streams can be beautiful to look at and listen to, but don’t forget about the downsides: they pose safety issues for kids and pets, mosquitoes use water to breed, and popular lakes bring noisy water-lovers.

Bus or train routes. Are you driving a car or using other transportation to get around? Find your local bus and train stations not only for your access, but to see where strangers will be gathering relative to your house.

Parking for guests. Check to see if you have access to street parking for guests and if they’re allowed to park there overnight. Many cities have a 2 am to 6 am no-parking ordinance unless you give notice. Also consider if your driveway is big enough for how many guests you expect to have, or if there is nearby guest parking within the neighborhood.

Your new neighbors. Take a look at who you’d live next to. Do you have young adults nearby who look like party-weekend-every-weekend type of people? Not a fan of the yard décor across the street? Also keep an eye out for barking dogs, on-the-brink-of-breakup shouting couples, and motorcyclists who seem to have forgotten to install mufflers.

Seasonal

Your new home and neighborhood may look perfect in one season, but think about the others. Different seasons bring different elements – some welcoming, others frustrating.

Winter. Drive around to find steep hills that may be tough to traverse after a fresh snowfall. Also think about which way you’ll be driving to work. If it’s with traffic, expect to occasionally double the drive time in the snow.

Spring. Houses in valleys and at the bottom of hills can see more flooding than others. Melting snow and spring showers can bring a lot of water. At least make sure your foundation is secure!

Summer. If you’re near a pond, you may see more mosquitoes in the hot months, or wildfires if you’re near wooded or brush areas. You should also think about where the Fourth of July firework show is held and if your family (or your jumpy dog) are a fan of loud and bright explosions.

Fall. Your neighbor’s tree may look big and beautiful in the summer, but come fall, a mighty wind can cover your yard with a layer of leaves.

3-Mile Radius

Draw a three-mile radius around your home. Does it have enough within that area to keep you from driving far every time you need to pick up eggs or get gas?

Shopping and restaurants. If you love your shopping days or going out for a bite to eat, take a look at what stores and restaurants are nearby.

Gas stations. Gas stations are called convenience stores for a reason, but if you need to set aside 30 minutes just to fuel up or grab a gallon of milk, they’re less accessible than they’re meant to be.

Schools and work. Not a fan of a long commute? See if there are any available homes near your job. Also be sure to check out which schools are nearby and if you want to send your kids there.

Friends and family. Maybe you like your space from family and time apart from friends, but if you’re expecting visits and hang-outs, consider how long it’ll take for them or you to drive.