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What Are the Common Types of Foundations Found in Construction Projects

Bottom view of building with balconies

Modern times have introduced modern architectural masterpieces to the world. These days, especially in large cities, almost every urban establishment is a full-fledged building with a solid foundation and all the other features related to such projects. Whether building a skyscraper, superstructure, or just a single-family home, picking the right type of foundation is critical.

This serves two functions: it distributes the load of the pivoting walls to the bedrock or soil beneath and keeps soil moisture or groundwater out. The sort of foundation that is suitable for your construction project is determined by the geology, pedology, and topography of your construction site, as well as the size of your building and other aspects such as the method of construction. The purpose of this article is to describe the most common foundation types that are being implemented these days to help you choose the right one when you do.

Types of Foundations

The fact that land can consist of anything ranging from soils and stones to sediments and mud – engineers need to figure out how the ground type would impact the process of construction and the overall integrity of the intended structure. Broadly speaking, constructional foundations can be classified into two main categories: deep foundations and shallow foundations. The following sections explain what they mean and their functionalities and uses.

Deep Foundation

When constructing on delicate ground types, like soft soil or sand, deep foundations are required so that the entire weight of the building can be absorbed and the structure can be supported. 

This ensures that the structure is in contact with relatively tougher layers of the earth – even if it means going through dirt, mud, or even water. Deep foundation work often requires a significant amount of piling to be done. Take a look at a piling project carried out by professionals so that you can get a firm idea of how these projects work and eventually play out.

A deep foundation is mandatory for building structures like piers, dams, and bridges. That is because these architectural pieces are built over the water. Thus, to reach suitable land beneath the water, a considerable amount of drilling is needed. Because of their sizes, deep foundations are also needed on mega projects like skyscrapers or stadiums.

Shallow Foundation

A shallow foundation is, in simple terms, a typical foundation that has a wide body but does not penetrate the ground significantly from below. It is not deep but very extensive in shape. A shallow foundation is also known as open or spread footing.

This type of foundational work does not cost as much as digging deeper foundations. Here, all that is needed is a little digging for the materials to go in the ground, which is why shallow foundations are the most common in regular construction projects.

Most standard-sized buildings tend to use a shallow foundation simply because a deep foundation is not required. Small structures that are not too heavy can easily stand strong on a properly laid shallow foundation for decades.

Examples of Shallow Foundations

In general, four major types of shallow foundations are heavily used in construction projects these days. Each of them is structurally unique and has a variety of use cases.

 Bottom view of building with pillars

Individual Footing

Individual footings are some of the most common types of shallow foundations; in fact, they may be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a foundation. These are generally rectangular, square, or cuboidal blocks of solid concrete that withstand the pressure of a single pillar or column. The heavier the above-ground structure is, the wider the individual footings would need to be, considering the capacity of the soil as well.

Combined Footing

Combined footings are the same as individual footings, except for the fact that these have a single base that disseminates the force of two concrete columns instead of one. Apart from this structural difference, the rest are the same. If not built right, combined footings can begin to collapse over time. Thus, if you ever witness foundation damage in your home, make sure you contact engineers or professionals to take a look.

Stem Wall Foundation

Stem wall foundations or wall footings run the whole length of a pivoting wall, unlike the ones mentioned above. Strip footings are typically twice or three times the breadth of the wall underneath which the foundation is planned for. Such foundation types are ideal for buildings that rely on load-bearing walls instead of pillars or columns.

Mat Foundation

Mat foundations are extremely broad in size as they take advantage of the entirety of the ground where the building would go on. In many cases, the basement acts as the load-bearing foundation. Any building that requires weight to be spread out on a large surface needs a mat foundation due to soil issues.

Examples of Deep Foundations

As mentioned above, deep foundations are mostly used for large, heavy structures. Let us take a look at the two fundamental forms of deep foundations.

Pile Foundation

When you see sturdy, colossal beams being drilled into the ground, chances are, you are witnessing a pile foundation being developed. This can be done in one of two ways: friction piles and end-bearing piles.

The former is when an exchange of pressure is triggered with the ground surrounding the beam. The surface of the column is fully utilized, and no boring down on rocks is required at all. Friction piles are usually made of concrete or steel; however, do not be surprised to see wood being used as well.

On the other hand, end-bearing piles are simply used in sites where the ground soil is way too soft, and construction can only be done if the substrata of bedrock can be reached.

Caisson Foundation

The latter of the pile foundation types is quite similar to a caisson foundation in the sense that, in both formats, the bedrock is located and penetrated for laying the foundation. Caisson foundations are used in building piers, bridges, as well as mountain-side homes, overpasses, and many more. These foundations can be fabricated in a different location and brought in separately for placement.


Foundation defects can begin to arise after years of durability and consistency. The issue can escalate fast if left unattended. We hope you will understand the significance of foundations in general after reading this article. You will have no problems selecting the right foundation for future projects if you follow this guideline. Choosing the right type is crucial, and quite rightfully so.