Quality Foundation Repair San Antonio

Pros and Cons of Using Pier and Beam Foundations

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If you’re building a home, a crucial decision will be to choose the right foundation to rest it on. This seems obvious, but it’s essential to understand how important foundations are. They will keep your house in place when the ground shifts, keep moisture out, ensure the building stays level, and offer insulation.

Builders typically choose the foundation by considering the price, humidity levels, surrounding soil conditions, the house’s location, and climate.

Typically, a pier and beam foundation is a popular choice for home builders. Whereas concrete and basement foundations will have the house sitting on the ground, you can elevate it to reduce the risk of floods, which is one reason to love beam foundations. Pier and beam foundations could be a great solution.

Today, you’ll learn about the pros and cons of pier and beam foundations and how they compare to other types of foundations. Let’s get started!

What’s a Pier and Beam Foundation?

A pier and beam foundation is one of many foundation types that supports the home’s or building’s structural integrity. It’s often built with concrete beams and rebar, which is driven into the ground until it hits bedrock. Then, additional beams are included to extend between the piers to add support for the floor joists and flooring above.

Modern homes don’t use the pier and beam foundation because they’re usually more expensive to build than a slab foundation. Ultimately, the pier and beam system sits about 24 inches off the ground, but a slab foundation is directly on the ground.

Pier and Beam Foundation – Pros and Cons

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of pier and beam foundations:

Advantages of Pier and Beam Foundations

The advantages of having a pier and beam foundation include:

Foundation Repair Costs

While pier and beam foundation repair costs will vary depending on the damage done, these systems are often cheaper and easier to fix because you can isolate one section of the foundation and replace it. Overall, pier and beam foundation repair is faster because the home is elevated above the ground!

Flooding Protection

Most homeowners are less likely to have flooding inside the home because pier and beam foundations provide elevation. The structure sits above the ground.

More Mobility

Most homeowners won’t build or buy houses with the plan to move it elsewhere, but the pier and beam system will offer them the opportunity. When a home is elevated above the ground, they have easier access to what’s underneath, too.

Easy Access to Wiring and Pipes

A pier and beam foundation will create a crawl space underneath. This makes it easier to handle modifications and repairs. Typically, concrete slabs set the plumbing and electrical lines directly into the concrete, but pier and beam foundations will leave the pipes and wires in accessible spaces.

Lower Excavation Costs

Pier and beam foundations require less excavation than basement foundations because the home is elevated off the ground. Therefore, construction crews won’t have to dig deep into the soil.

Flexibility for Uneven Land

Housing development is expanding into the countryside, so the land isn’t easy to build on. Therefore, pier and beam foundations create much more flexibility to put homes on uneven slopes. Alternatively, concrete foundations often have more foundation issues when the site isn’t level.

Drawbacks for Pier and Beam Foundations

It’s also important to understand the drawbacks these foundations have, which include:

Heating Expenses

Homeowners in colder climates should understand that the cold air will enter the crawl space underneath the pier and beam foundation. This can affect the temperature inside the house. Subflooring is a great way to offset this problem.

Earthquake Risk

If you’re in an area susceptible to earthquakes, it might be wise to anchor or bolt the beams to the posts and also to the foundation piers. Otherwise, the home could shift off the foundation during seismic activity. It would be expensive to repair this type of damage.

Higher Risk of Infestation

The crawl space created by your pier and beam foundation is a haven for insects, termites, and rodents that could infest your home. However, that shouldn’t be a deterrent because there are various DIY pest solutions and pest control companies available.


Dampness in the foundation is often a minor problem. However, after you fix the damp issue, you’ll have to deal with the wood beams rotting. This could cause the home’s structural integrity to falter, so you’ll spend more on repairs.

Increased Dampness

The space beneath the pier and beam foundation could get quite damp, depending on the structure and location of the home. Though the house might not flood because of the elevation, you’ll have to eliminate dampness by using the appropriate steps.

Pier and Beam Foundation Repair

Pier and beam foundation repair could be easy or challenging to fix, depending on the situation. Here are a few things to consider:

Shifting Beams and Sagging Floors

If the floors or house starts to settle or shift, many issues could develop that threaten the home’s structure. Sagging and sinking happen when the piers at the base of the perimeter beam shift because of soil movement or extra moisture.

Building Problems and Tilting Piers

If the piers start to tilt, the home may not be structurally sound anymore because the beams might move. Typically, these problems are caused by dampness or moisture in the crawl space, shifting soil, and infestations. Foundation repair could be quite expensive in this case.

Cracking Exterior Piers

One of the most common pier and beam foundation repairs is a cracked pier. Cracked exterior piers can cause door frames to become off-kilter. Such problems aren’t severe and are often fixed quickly and cheaply.

Moldy Beams

Mold can easily eat away at the foundation beams until they’re too weak to support the home’s weight. It happens for many reasons, but moisture and standing water are the main culprits. Therefore, it’s wise to focus on mold remediation and then tackle your foundation repair needs.

Damp Crawl Space

It’s common for the crawl space of your pier and beam home to have moisture problems. Luckily, it’s not time-consuming or expensive to fix, as long as the foundation isn’t fully flooded.

Poor Construction

The best way to solve poor construction issues is to raise the floor joists and foundation. However, this type of foundation repair is significant, so you’ll need a professional contractor to help you.

Pier and Beam Foundations vs. Others

Here is a look at the pier and beam system compared to other options:

Pier and Beam Foundations vs. Wood

Wood might not be the first thing you think of for a home’s foundation, but it’s a popular option for most builders. To ensure that the wood won’t rot, you’ll need treated wood. In fact, it’s less labor-intensive and cheaper to install.

You might doubt wood’s durability, but archaeologists have discovered 6,000-year-old wooden beams from the Egyptian pyramids. Ultimately, your home can handle it, but you might consider concrete if you’re that worried.

Pier and Beam Foundations vs. Concrete Slab Foundations

A concrete slab foundation is often called a monoslab or monolithic foundation. It’s made using a flat concrete slab that rests on the ground and comes in one piece. Typically, slab foundations are faster and less expensive to build.

It’s easy to install a concrete slab foundation. In layman’s terms, you’d lay the concrete beam 2 feet deep around the slab’s perimeter, using steel bars and wire mesh to reinforce the slab foundation. Since there is no crawl space, you don’t have to deal with dampness, mold, and infestations.

The downside to slab foundations is that they could crack in a cold climate, and you may have problems with your drainage pipes. This means cutting into the slab to get to the pipes.

Pier and Beam Foundations vs. Crawl Spaces

A crawl space stem wall foundation is a short foundation that features stem walls forming the home’s foundation or walls on concrete footings. Ultimately, you create the crawl space, which is slightly elevated below the house. It gives you just enough room to crawl into it and put your furnace or store items.

Though pier and beam foundations have crawl spaces, the crawl space stem wall foundation will also protect you from flooding and is less expensive to build than a basement.

This foundation type is very popular throughout the US, especially in areas prone to earthquakes. The sturdiness offered by the crawl space stem wall foundation is a huge benefit. Still, it’s prone to mold and other problems.

newly constructed home foundation

Pier and Beam Foundations vs. Basement Foundations

A basement foundation is built about 8 feet below the ground to offer homeowners extra living space. Typically, the structural foundation walls are put on concrete footings running the full perimeter of the space. They are placed roughly 12 inches under the frost line into the soil. Your basement takes its shape as you’re pouring beams, putting in the foundation walls, and more.

Typically, the basement foundation is the most expensive option, and it’s not ideal for areas prone to flooding. Ultimately, a pier and beam system might be the best solution because it elevates the house off the ground and costs less to build.

Should You Choose a Pier and Beam Foundation?

Foundations are essential because they keep the house in place, prevent moisture issues, and ensure the house stays level. This article explained the pros and cons of pier and beam foundations, which should help you determine why these foundation types are so popular.

If you have a pier and beam foundation and require repairs, Quality Foundation Repair San Antonio is here to help. Please call (210) 888-0118 to request your free estimate today!


A pier and beam foundation is one of the best choices for areas where flooding is a concern. However, they also work well when the frost line is many feet underground because they use more supportive soil that doesn’t expand or freeze.

On average, a pier and beam foundation will last about 75 years. However, differing circumstances could affect the lifespan of your foundation. For example, the soil around the home, the type of materials used, and construction quality all come into play.

Usually, a concrete slab foundation will cost $4 to $14 per square foot, which is about $4,000 to $14,000 in total. On the other hand, pier and beam foundations typically cost $6 to $15 per square foot or $6,000 to $15,000 in total. Therefore, they are slightly more expensive.

While pier and beam foundations are often stable, damage can happen in time. The three main causes of problems include worn-out or poor-quality materials, prolonged exposure to moisture, and foundation settlement.