Our general contractor was walking through the budget items for our Barden Home, and mentioned some options for our basement walls.  We had always planned to do a poured concrete basement, but I wanted to find out if that was the best option. He explained some benefits/drawbacks to each:

 

block-foundation Good Old Block Foundation

While you don’t see it much anymore, the block foundation has it’s advantages.  The biggest advantage is that it’s a bit warmer than a poured concrete wall.  My GC explained that it’s generally warmer because of the pockets inside of cinder blocks.  They can be insulated to make a warmer wall.  Another advantage is that it’s cheaper.  One big disadvantage is that over time, there are many more vulnerable areas for cracking.

 

poured-foundation Poured Concrete Wall Foundation

One of the biggest benefits of poured concrete foundations is the strength you get over a block foundation.  They are much more solid and durable.  They dramatically reduce basement water with the reduced number of joints in the walls.  Poured walls are said to be much more fire resistant than block foundations as well because of the hollow core of block foundations.  Poured walls are virtually maintenance free as well.

 

precast-foundation Precast Wall Foundation

The newest technique/product for constructing a basement is precast walls.  Precast foundation walls are supposed to simplify basement construction, produce warmer and drier basements, and save time and money.  Made of individual concrete panels manufactured in a controlled environment, it is much easier to produce a consistent product, that has cured at ideal temperatures.  Precast foundation walls also use a very strong, dense concrete to ensure they produce a solid solution. The concrete panels are attached to either solid concrete or steel studs for support and a solid concrete footing.  Some precast products also include a layer of insulation for added warmth. 

If you are planning a walkout basement, or custom windows and doors, precast foundations can be tailored to your needs.  Often, precast walls have predrilled holes for small plumbing and electrical.  They are a great choice if you are planning on finishing your basement at some point, because the studs can be fit with wood or steel nailers for easy drywall installation.

My Take On Precast Walls

I’m no expert, but they seem like a great solution if they are budget-friendly.  Because they are manufactured in a controlled environment instead of onsite, they would seem to be better-cured.  The wall panels are said to harden to 5000 psi, twice as strong as the 2500 psi of most poured wall foundations.  They would also eliminate the need for weather delays. 

Many of the sites I’ve researched on say typical construction time is 4-5 hours for precast walls, versus 20-30 hours for poured concrete.  The quicker installation should reduce labor costs and offset the increased cost for the product. 

Precast foundations do not require a footer, which caught me off guard at first, but I like the idea now.  Instead, they use a very heavily compacted gravel that is 4-12” deep.  It should save some concrete cost.

I really like this option, but I will have to see what the cost difference is to make a final decision.  It will either be poured concrete or precast.  Our budget will make the decision for us! :)