stem wall with slab foundation

August 14, 2019

Hello. We are in early stages of planning to build a new home. I am trying to gain some knowledge on this sort of foundation.
We live in Northern Minnesota where we have freeze thaw conditions. Our lot is flat where we want to build, there is a slope down to the lake but it is closer to the shore. A portion of the area we want to build on is wooded , we are in the process of clearing this area and removing stumps and grading this may result in a slight slope but not enough for a daylight basement which I would have liked to have if we did have a sloped lot.
Anyway I found a bit of information on stem wall foundation and I like the way the homes look a bit elevated compared to slab on grade.
Has anyone built a home this type of foundation? Any benefits to having a stem wall in a colder climate or just benefits in general to having a stem wall as opposed to just having a slab on grade?

Thank you!

Comments (11)

  • PRO

    You will be required to excavate so much to get below the frost line that a traditional basement will be your best choice. You aren’t in a warm, unfreezing, climate. That is where slab foundations are common because the need for excavation below frost is minimal.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    A concrete or CMU stem wall foundation would rest on a perimeter footing 6 ft below grade and would have either a crawlspace or a basement.

    A slab on grade would not have a basement or crawlspace but would need a similar perimeter foundation to a depth of 5 ft below grade to support the exterior walls.

    If you want the floor to be 20" or more above grade, you can do that with either design.

    What you need to decide is what you want below your house. A basement would be an inexpensive option since the foundation in your area is required to be so deep and you might be able to install windows on the downhill side.

    I suspect a basement is a common feature in your area as it is in northern New England.

  • PRO

    Foundation type is generally determined first by climate, soil conditions, potential for flooding, slope etc.

    The house may be elevated using any type of foundation.

    Do you understand why basements and crawl spaces (stem wall) are used where it's colder, and slab on grade is used in warmer climates?

  • functionthenlook

    SW PA our foundations must be

    36 inches deep because of the freeze thaw. Everyone just builds basements. Since you are close to the lake you might have a problem with the water table and how deep you can go.

  • Rachael

    Thank you for all the responses. So it sounds like I need to look more specifically at our climate. Yes basements are common here and I don’t like them. I would have liked a walkout as I said but a traditional basement not so much. Growing up with them all they have been used for is storage and laundry, I want my laundry on main floor. Dark stinky and cold is what most here are like that I have been in unless they were walkouts, granted they are mostly older homes.
    There are a handful of recent builds on our lake that have used a slab foundation but must have walkout basements as they are on sloping lots. Our lot slopes but it’s closer to the road, we have a very long lot compared to most on our lake.
    I don’t need the space of a basement for storage so I don’t really think I would use it.

  • Rachael

    Thank you PPF.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    The air freezing index for northern Minnesota might be between 3,000 and 4,000 FDDs. I recommend consulting an architect or engineer.

  • functionthenlook

    I can understand you don't like basements, but will you have an alternative area to store all your lake toys in the winter. Paddle boards, floats, fishing stuff, etc all take a large storage area. Friends have a walkout basement on their lake house. It is finished with a bar, bathroom, and stained concrete floor. In the summer it is used for parties and running into to use the bathroom wet from the lake . In the winter it is storage.

  • Rachael

    Yes we will have a Morton building for storage. I would love to have a walkout basement but with our lot I don’t think it’s possible, very little Slope

  • Rachael

    It looks flat where it’s cleared , with a slight slope where we are clearing trees now

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