Pier and Beam foundation; Inherently flawed?

I’m a wannabe first-time home buyer. In my area and price range, I keep seeing listings for pier and beam houses. I lived in houses like this as a kid, but we were dirt poor. I have always though that this is a “cheap” method of construction. These listings are in the same price range as Slab foundation houses.

Am I all wet in refusing to consider P&B?

Pier and beam is the standard construction. Slabs suck – they’re cheaper for the builder, but, they insulate poorly, they drain poorly, and they crack. You can only get away with slabs in southern states, where you don’t see much freezing. Having a crawl space under the house gives you better access to plumbing and other utilities, and you can even store stuff under there.

There’s NOTHING wrong with P-B foundations.

The thing about a PB foundation that makes it different from a slab is that a PB foundation is a maintenance item, just like the HVAC system or the plumbing. You’ll eventually have to spend a little money on the thing.

However, this is a good thing, because if a slab fails you’ll have to spend a lot more money than you’ll spend on PB maintenance. So, the ability to be maintained so as to thwart failure is a benefit over just having to wait for the foundation to fail and then spending tons of money on it.

TaxGuy - what kind of maintenance is required on P&B foundations? Just last summer I built two huge decks using this construction technique, and I would appreciate any advice you could give me. I was under the impression that this method was pretty much “set and forget.” I am planning to build two more decks the same way this summer; they will be much closer to the ground, in the manner of building construction that I think you are referring to.

Another problem with slab foundations: they can allow (in areas prone to such problems) radon gas into your home. Any kind of construction that involves a crawlspace allows radon to vent to the outside before it has a chance to go inside the house.

And as for the fun of trying to deal with a burst water pipe under a slab? Don’t get me started!

Hmmmm wow. I talked to some other home owners today, and a friend who is in construction. I guess the houses I lived in as a kid were just poorly maintained. I’ll reconsider some of the houses I’ve seen.


There is so little information out there about Pier and Beam Foundations, it’s crazy. I can’t believe I found this little gem of a post from 2001!

I also love Straight Dope, this site is great to find people who know what they’re talking about.

Anyway, I’m glad to see that almost everyone agreed that pier and beam foundations are seriously better than concrete slab.