What Is the Best Foundation for a House? Top 4 Revealed

man doing finishing work for a house foundation

When a new home is being built, the question of what is the best foundation for a house will be answered by the homebuilder in consultation with the architect and homeowner. That decision will be based on the geographic location of the home, the style of the home, the project budget and healthy construction considerations. It is also determined by weather conditions, including rainfall and temperature variations and the quality of the soil where the foundation will be placed, among other factors.

What Is the Best Foundation

for a House?

The best foundation, first, must be the one that has adequate strength to support the walls, roof and floors of the planned structure for the expected lifetime of the home. Over the lifetime of a home, it is not uncommon to replace the roof, the siding, windows and doors. While these are major home projects, they are part of keeping a home up to date and habitable over many years.

Replacing the foundation is a project no one wants to face. The foundation needs to be constructed to last. The best one also will be the one best suited to the soil conditions and climate where the home will be located. Also, the best foundation will be one that promotes a healthy existence in the home.

1. What Is the Best Foundation for a House in Cold Climates?

2. What Is the Best Foundation for a House in Warm Climates?

3. What Is the Best Foundation for a House for Health?

How We Reviewed

What is the best foundation for a house? No one foundation style is right for every home. However, we examined the most commonly used foundation styles in today’s construction industry to identify the situations in which each style is the best. Much of the decision about the right foundation is made based on the location of the home, the quality of the soil, the structure of the lot and weather factors. The four styles we reviewed handle these challenges in varying degrees of success.

Overall Price Range

Foundations are priced depending on materials and the size of the house. Pricing is also affected by other factors. Additional costs may be incurred by challenging properties that require considerable grading work. The preparation for the foundation is critical to construction of a strong, level base that will support the home built upon it for the life of the home.

What We Reviewed

  • Basement Foundations
  • Crawl Space Foundations
  • Slab Foundations
  • Pier Foundations​​​​
  • Basement Foundations

    man standing thinking When a new home is being built, the question of what is the best foundation for a house will be answered by the homebuilder in consultation with the architect and homeowner.


    Basement foundations are most common in the northern parts of the country although they may be found in any location. They are especially suited for cold climates because they provide additional insulation from the elements as well as space for heating equipment. Basement foundations may be full basements or partial basements depending on the slope of the lot. Homes built on an incline, such as a hillside or on a lot that slopes toward the water, may have a basement that is partially enclosed and below ground and partially open and above ground.

    Windows and doors may be constructed within the structure of the basement walls. Often the basement space provides additional living space as well as storage space and room for the mechanical systems of the house, such as the furnace, water heater and air conditioning. The footings are installed deep in the ground. In cold climates, this depth should be below the frost line.


    • Provides additional living and storage space for the home
    • Helps to provide insulation
    • Adds value to the home


    • More expensive than crawl space and slab foundations


    Constructing a basement foundation for a new home can cost from around $18,000 to around $30,000. Much of the expense is the cost of excavating and grading. It is important that the ground is level. Tree removal and soil preparation may add to the costs. Choice of materials affects the costs as well. Cinder block walls will cost less than poured concrete, but they are less durable. Insulation, waterproofing, sealers and installation of drainage systems, such as sump pump systems, all will impact the total cost of completing a basement.

    Duration (How Long It Typically Lasts before Maintenance Is Needed)

    Poured footings and foundations which are used in construction of commercial buildings have a life expectancy of as much as 200 years. Concrete blocks should last 100 years. Concrete can be expected to last around 50 years. Waterproofing and sealing coatings may last around 10 years. Termite proofing applications may last around five years, depending on the humidity of the climate. It is important to inspect foundations regularly so that cracks can be repaired while they are still small and repairs can be made on an ongoing basis.

    Crawl Space Foundations

    crawl space and When a new home is being built, the question of what is the best foundation for a house will be answered by the homebuilder in consultation with the architect and homeowner.


    Crawl Space foundations are found throughout the country in a variety of terrains and are the most common of the foundation styles. The name itself describes the space created by the construction of this type of foundation. In some cases, the space is short enough that moving within the foundation would require people to crawl on their belly.  Typically the crawl space is four feet tall or less.

    This foundation requires only limited excavation and is built with short foundation walls that stand on concrete footings. The walls usually are made from poured concrete or mortared concrete blocks although treated wood may be used in some cases. The Crawl Space design involves perimeter foundation walls with a girder system and floor joists built on top to create a complete foundation system.

    For most home construction, the space will be adequate enough to allow for access to service the mechanical, electrical and plumbing elements of the home.There may be room for heating and air conditioning equipment within the crawl space, and the space can even be used as storage space. The crawl space is usually unheated and may have some vents cut into the foundation walls to provide ventilation in the space and help control humidity.


    • Less expensive than full basements
    • Can be suitable for any climate or terrain
    • Requires less excavation and fewer materials than full basement construction
    • Space may be suitable for storage


    • May require installation of a dehumidifier, insulation and vapor barriers to prevent mold
    • Doesn’t provide any additional living space to the home


    The cost of constructing a crawl space foundation is around $7 per square foot or a range of around $8,000 to $21,000, depending on the size of the home. Where insulation is needed, the additional cost may range from around $1 to $3 per square foot. Vapor barrier costs range from around $.05 to $1.30 per square foot. Installation of a dehumidifier in the crawl space will depend on the humidity of the environment and size of the space and can range anywhere from around $70 to around $1300.

    Duration (How Long It Typically Lasts before Maintenance Is Needed)

    Poured concrete foundations have a life expectancy of 200 years. Concrete blocks may last 100 years or more.

    Slab Foundations

    building the When a new home is being built, the question of what is the best foundation for a house will be answered by the homebuilder in consultation with the architect and homeowner.


    Slab foundations are a good choice where the soil condition or terrain of the building lot does not allow for a full basement or crawl space foundation. The soil is graded to create a level surface. Perimeter footings are dug. The slab foundation is formed by pouring concrete directly on the soil over the footings and framework. This type of foundation is common in housing developments where a number of homes are built with similar designs.

    Slab foundations are an economical construction style and can be installed on properties not suitable for deeper foundations. These foundations are usually used where the ground doesn’t freeze. Freezing and thawing can cause shifts in the ground that may affect the stability of a foundation. Water and drainage pipes may be installed directly into a slab foundation. This can be an efficiency on one hand but may require expensive repairs if problems occur.

    A variation of the slab foundation, called the Stem Wall foundation, may be installed where changes in soil stability or temperatures might affect the foundation. This foundation has footings that are concrete pads extending into the ground. Usually, the concrete is reinforced with rebar. This style involves more excavation than the standard slab as well as additional labor and material costs. It does offer the attractive option of running heating pipes through the concrete to provide comfortable, even heat in the home.


    • Economical to build
    • Simple preparation compared to foundations requiring excavation
    • May be a good foundation style to prevent termite infestation in damp climates


    • Less suitable for cold climates
    • Plumbing pipes running through the slabs (may eventually require repair)


    The Stem Wall style of slab foundation may range from around $7,000 to around $21,000, while the standard slab may be in the range of around $4,500 to around $12,000.

    Duration (How Long It Typically Lasts before Maintenance Is Needed)

    The range for poured concrete should be between 50 and 200 years. The standard slab with plumbing pipes running through it may require more maintenance than plumbing systems in full basement or crawl space foundations.

    Pier Foundations


    Pier foundations were a common foundation type at one time, especially before improvements in concrete technology were made in the 1960s. These foundations are still seen in oceanfront properties where their open structure accommodates changing tides and high winds.

    Pier foundations are made up of short and wide supporting blocks usually made from concrete or other masonry material which are secured in the ground to hold the weight of the house structure. Long, slender posts made of concrete, wood or steel are driven deep into the ground below the piers to provide extra reinforcement in the soil. This is especially important for large-scale projects or in areas where the soil is loose at the depth of the piers. Grade beams made of either wood or concrete run along the bottom of the structure horizontally.

    This kind of foundation elevates the home and makes it easy to access plumbing and electrical components. The elevation keeps the house away from moisture which is important in rainy areas and at the beach. Since the house structure itself is lifted off the ground, it has no direct contact with the ground. This eliminates problems of radon exposure, termites and mold growth which may be of greater concern with other foundation types. Proper grading of the site is essential to provide for efficient drainage and minimize the health issues from possible standing water under the home.


    • Reasonably priced option for smaller homes where this style meets zoning restrictions
    • Has a charming cottage appearance
    • Reduces the danger of radon exposure
    • Easy access to plumbing and electrical parts


    • Mostly limited to high water areas and beachfront properties
    • Requires small fencing and ground cover for cosmetic effect


    Pier and beam foundations run at about $5 per square foot, averaging from around $8,000 to around $15,000. The space underneath the house will need some maintenance. Gravel or other ground cover will help to minimize weeds and maintain an attractive appearance under the home. This will require some ongoing expense.

    Duration (How Long It Typically Lasts before Maintenance Is Needed)

    The components of this kind of system have excellent longevity. The location of homes with pier foundations is usually in areas with water. The possibility of stormy weather and the impact of water exposure will impact parts of this kind of foundation, but they are quite accessible and relatively easy to repair compared to the more enclosed foundation types.

    Consult the Professionals

    engineer on a construction site

    The answer to the question of what is the best foundation for a house starts with the location of the house itself and then moves into the design and size of the house. In most areas, structural engineers will have been working with builders and architects to identify what is the best foundation for a house in their location. Reputable builders will know the challenges in their location and the best ways to meet them.

    This kind of professional guidance is very important to assure the homeowners that their new home is built to last a lifetime on a firm foundation that is just right for the climate where they live and for the soil conditions on their building lot.

    The Verdict

    men on a construction site

    What is the best foundation for a house? It depends.

    Full basements, the most expensive and involved construction of the four foundations, offer increased home value in many locations. In places with very cold weather, the full basement provides excellent insulation under the first floor of the home as well as provides a place for the furnace, water heater and air conditioning units. A full basement is not necessary in moderate climates or even desirable in modestly priced homes that don’t need that kind of foundation.

    Crawl space foundations provide an adequate foundation in areas of more moderate climate and for smaller homes. Both full basements and crawl space foundations need to be designed to handle the kind of humidity they will face. In very temperate climates with high humidity and rainfall, the slab foundation eliminates the areas underneath the house where mold, mildew and other moisture damage can occur.

    The full basement is the most substantial foundation. It forms a deep and solid base for the entire house as well as providing additional living and storage space. While not all homes require a full basement, this foundation style does answer the question of what is the best foundation for a house. It is the most complete solution of the four options.


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