Houston General Industrial Construction Services Contractor - Commercial Design Build

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Different Commercial Steel Building Foundations

Posted on March 26, 2014 by Chelsey

Erecting a steel building in Houston is not a “do-it-yourself” type of project, especially when it comes to laying the foundation. The foundation is the most critical part of most steel buildings, and no one type can be called the best for all buildings, grades and soils. However, an experienced general contractor, either on his own or in conjunction with an engineer and surveyor, can advise on the most suitable foundation for the project.

A number of factors must be evaluated before determining the best foundation, especially on a build to suit job. Typically, the first step is a site survey to determine grade, soil quality, drainage patterns and wind exposure. The next factor that must be considered is the building’s intended use. If heavy equipment will be driven inside the building routinely, the specifications for the foundation will not be the same as those for a foundation that will bear only lighter weights. A contractor offering general construction services can provide the initial evaluation if they have personnel with the proper training and extensive experience with foundations for steel buildings.

There are three basic types of steel building foundations. Floating slabs, also called floating foundations, use a concrete slab that is poured over a continuous grade beam with deeper concrete around the support columns and edges. This is the most popular foundation used for steel buildings designed for industrial or commercial purposes, and it is often the least expensive option. It is frequently the best choice for sites that have softer soils and lie in coastal regions like Houston. Floating foundations are less prone to the sinking problems that can occur in these areas.

Pier, footing and grade beam foundations are a common choice for steel buildings used for agricultural purposes. Piers are installed that rest on footings that feature a grade beam wall. The foundation rests atop the piers. Depending on the building and the site specifics, it is sometimes possible to eliminate the footing and use drilled piers, but this normally works better if the site features dry soil. This type of foundation offers both better versatility and greater reliability.

For buildings that must be moved periodically, a portable foundation is the normal solution. These foundations have a concrete perimeter that is bolted to an industrial plate. This type of foundation offers a greater range of site locations, allowing a building to be relocated to different landscapes. This option is normally the fastest and easiest to construct, and typically, it is also the most economical choice for buildings that must remain portable.

Satisfaction with a steel building relies heavily on the foundation, and there are design and construction aspects to the foundation that must be met. Some soils are so poor that a steel building is likely to sink or shift, regardless of how well designed the foundation might be. Although it is possible to design a custom foundation to counteract the soil quality, it is normally much less expensive to excavate the site and bring in replacement soil.

The quality of the foundation can also help the building withstand horizontal forces, such as strong winds that have been known to overturn steel buildings or make them slide off a foundation. A well-designed foundation can help combat high winds by redistributing the stress or reinforcing the strength of the horizontal support columns. The foundation can also be crucial in mitigating uplift, which can occur when strong winds create a suction that can raise the building, sometimes lifting it completely from the foundation.

Steel buildings can provide many years of use at an economical price. However, long-term satisfaction cannot be achieved without a properly engineered and professionally installed foundation. To achieve this, engineers may customize any of the three basic types of foundations to meet the demands that a specific building or site may require. Most often, customizations are relatively minor adjustments to a basic foundation design.