It is widely speculated that a compromised foundation is among the worst structural problems a homeowner may face.
This is because the foundation of a house is the base on which the building load will be transmitted safely to the ground and as such it plays a crucial role during construction.
The foundation of a house must therefore be formidable.
Different buildings may need different foundations depending on varying circumstances.
Nevertheless, there are some basic factors that have to be considered to ensure the foundation of your new home is solid enough to serve you for a lifetime.
Mr Jacob N’gon’ga, the CEO of Jongonga Constructions was able to share some information on some of these factors.
Before commencement of any construction, it is important to ensure that the building’s floor plan is approved by the necessary authorities.
“The three fundamental bodies that should approve of your floor plan are the city or county council, the National Construction Authority and the National Environment Management Authority,” says Mr N’gon’ga.
“This ensures that the building you want to put up is in accordance with the regulations in the construction industry thus avoiding any future issues.”
One must also ensure that a qualified land surveyor present before the construction of the foundation begins. “A land surveyor is able to give precise measurements as to the boundaries of the area covered by the foundation. They are also responsible for determining the proper depths required for building different foundations,” informs Mr N’gon’ga.
In an attempt to minimise their workload, some Kenyan builders may opt to begin construction on unprepared land.
This is dangerous because if the ground is unprepared, then it may not have the capacity to support the structure being raised from it. Before the foundation is laid, an adequate layer of firm topsoil must be put to act as a building pad for the house being constructed. Mr N’gon’ga says that most people assume that this building pad is of little significance and choose to begin construction without it which is not in order.
TYPE OF SOIL
The type of soil found in an area has a great influence on the type of building that one can put up.
Different soils vary in strength and as a result, some soils can support large buildings while others cannot. “It is important before laying your house’s foundation to ensure that samples of the soil in the area are taken to the laboratory for testing,” notes Mr N’gon’ga.
“The results of such tests enlighten on the soil’s physical properties such as its structure.
The better the soil structure the more stable it is.” He adds that the stability of the soil during both wet and dry conditions should be observed before one begins. Once all this is considered then the foundation for the building can be laid.
It is important that a structural engineer ensures that the columns laid in the foundation are supported and reinforced using deformed bars as instructed during construction.
“Reinforcement of the foundation is important as it ensured continuity of the building to be raised from it,” enlightens Mr N’gon’ga.
“This is especially important in areas where the ground is considered to be ‘bad’, meaning that it carries negative bearing characteristics such as unstructured soils.”
The more floors a building has the stronger the reinforcement of the foundation columns should be.
He adds that it is important to note that the concrete and steel bars used should be of sufficient quality that follow proper building codes to avoid future issues such as weakening of the foundation after a short period of time.
MIND THE WATER
Water is one of the main causes of foundation problems as it often results in dampness which may lead to mould growth which is a health hazard.
Wet soil particles, as a result of excessive rain or watering, may also swell thus causing shifting underneath the foundation as a result of excessive pressure from the particles.
“During construction, one should add drainage systems such as gutters that will be used to channel excessive water away from the building thus ensuring minimal water damage,” opines Mr N’gon’ga.
“The contractor should also ensure that there are no plumbing leaks are the foundation is laid. Such leaks are hard to detect and therefore need attention to detail during construction.”
While people go to different measures to ensure that their homes’ compounds are aesthetically appealing, it is important to ensure that such landscaping does not interfere with the home’s foundation.
“It is advised to leave some space, preferably a few feet, between the house and landscape enhancers such as trees, flowers and bushes,” warns Mr N’gon’ga.
“This is as such plants grow older, their roots may spread further in search of water. If the plants are near the house, they may cause the soil beneath the home to lose moisture to them thus leading to a change in soil particles and eventual damage to the foundation.”
He adds that some roots may spread too wide and damage the foundation as they seek more room to spread.