Block foundations vs. poured concrete stem walls – facts from builders

09/22/2016, 4:00 pm Jared Nanke Block Foundations vs. Poured Concrete Stem Walls Sometimes, either method is suitable, if constructed correctly by a knowledgeable and experienced contractor. Why the concern? Recently, someone brought the growing concern of homes built on block foundations to our attention. With our family’s extensive background in masonry, we are partial towards building homes on block foundations, a technique we have integrated for nearly 70 years. These homes that our grandfathers built are still standing in exceptional condition today, so why the growing concern from potential homeowners? The vast misinformation online about masonry block foundations While our team may favor block foundations given our background and experience, we must admit the reality that either method of building a foundation will yield a quality home as long as it’s done correctly by a knowledgeable contractor.


However, a brief online search for information about block foundations leads to a number of articles and videos with skewed information. Many videos we found with contractors saying poured concrete stem walls are superior to block foundations were often filled with generalized statements, featuring no concrete facts – no pun intended. Block Foundation in progress on a recent Nanke Signature Group home The Facts What is a masonry block? A masonry block, or concrete masonry unit, is a cast concrete block made from Portland cement and aggregate (usually sand and fine gravel) used in the construction of residential and commercial buildings for the purpose of supporting load-bearing walls. The most common concrete masonry units in the United States measure 16 in. x 8 in. x 8 in. with a compressive strength varying from 1,000 psi to 5,000 psi depending on the type of concrete used in manufacturing. What is the proper way to build a block foundation? Seemingly, this is the issue creating such concern online for people looking to build custom homes. While masonry block can yield a perfectly good foundation for your home, there is a right and wrong way to do it. Most articles you will find online mention that, unlike a poured concrete stem wall, block foundations are hollow and not reinforced with steel. If this is how other builders out there are doing their block foundations, we are appalled, and you should be, too. Properly constructed block foundation on a recent Nanke home Block Foundations executed correctly

As you can see, when you complete a block foundation correctly, you effectively end up with a concrete wall reinforced with steel, just like a poured concrete stem wall. The only difference being, one uses concrete blocks instead of a form. So which is the superior foundation? As we said earlier, both methods yield a perfectly good foundation for a home. Often times, the decision comes down to the contractor’s personal preference, typically determined by what they have the most experience doing. While a contractor with masonry experience may prefer block foundations, a contractor whose background is in carpentry may prefer, or be more familiar with, a poured concrete stem wall. The most important thing is to always hire a knowledgeable contractor, as either method can have serious consequences if not executed correctly. Block foundation of a recent Nanke Signature home