Poured Concrete vs. Concrete Block Foundation

Your choice of foundation material is crucial to protect your new home investment. Today, we’ll discuss the two most common types of foundation. In certain situations, one foundation option will make more sense than the other. The fact remains, however; either concrete blocks or poured concrete can make a fine foundation, provided you work with an expert home builder here in WV. Here are the factors that will affect your final foundation decision.

Choosing the Right Foundation for Your New Custom Home

For both types of concrete-based foundations, steel is the second critical ingredient for a strong build. Although concrete alone is strong, it has strength primarily when compressed. Concrete’s compression strength is great, but it lacks lateral strength. Concrete cannot bend and stretch (or expand and contract) as the earth below it does, without cracking (and making your home unstable). Concrete, used alone in a foundation, fails in the lateral strength department. Without reinforcement in key areas using steel rods, along with properly configured and placed concrete footers, your concrete foundation would fail. That is true whether your foundation starts out with concrete blocks or poured concrete.

What is a Poured Concrete Foundation?

Also called a cast concrete foundation, this option uses wet concrete, trucked in and poured into place. The wet cement flows over and around an already-built framework of steel rods and is left to harden or “cure” on site. Poured foundations are the most popular type used today.

Why Choose This Option?

Poured concrete over steel rebar foundations are best due to their:

  • Strength: This method of foundation construction can have more lateral strength, holding up better against the expanding/contracting forces of ground soil and water pressure over the years.
  • Water resistance: Poured foundations are simpler to waterproof, since there are no joints (like stacked cinder blocks have).
  • Versatility: You can create any shape wall or foundation with poured concrete.
  • Adaptability: While concrete is drying/curing, you have time to adjust or make last-minute changes to perfect the foundation.
  • Efficiency: It’s typically quicker to pour a foundation than build with cinderblocks, so you could save time, and save money on labor. One exception might be if the building site is far from the cement plant, which can raise costs.

What is a Concrete Cinder Block Foundation?

With this foundation, you start with concrete blocks, rather than wet concrete. Steel rods must be run horizontally and vertically, woven into the spaces that come “built in” with concrete cinder blocks. The rest of the space is filled with concrete gravel. This type of masonry foundation can carry significant weight to support heavy building materials and/or many stories rising above the foundation. The concrete block foundation was prevalent in the 1970s and before.

When Should You Consider This Option?

A steel-reinforced, masonry (concrete block) foundation may be better when these factors are in play:

  • Distance: If trucking in wet concrete is logistically difficult, time-consuming and/or costly, cinder blocks make sense.
  • Risk of curing problems: While curing, a poured concrete foundation can lose some strength due to possible spalling (where the concrete surface peels, crumbles or flakes off).

NOTE: Curing problems are preventable with careful planning and construction skill. Contractors must ensure the right, relatively dry, concrete mix with the correct amount of water, monitor weather conditions during construction and allow for sufficient curing time. If needed, air-entrained concrete may be used. This concrete mix has minuscule air pockets within it, to allow for frozen water expansion without weakening the concrete.

Which Foundation is Right for Your New Build?

Protect yourself against the chance of foundation failure by remembering that your home’s foundation requires 3 important ingredients for success:

  1. Concrete (wet or in cinder block form)
  2. Steel reinforcement
  3. Experienced contractors to design and build the foundation properly

At Miller’s Residential Creations, we can design and build your custom home, rock solid, from the ground up. Count on us to create a concrete foundation that provides long term stability and safety for your home. Contact us to discuss your new custom home today.

Brian Miller is the owner of Miller's Residential Creations, a custom home builder and remodeling company servicing Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan Counties of West Virginia since 2004.
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