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About the House: Ask Matt: Foundation Caps

Friday May 18, 2007

Hi Matt: Enjoyed your excellent article on foundation capping.One thing that I sometimes mention to my clients is that the faulty grade problem may sometimes be solved by simply digging away the dirt and debris that has accumulated against the foundation. This of course is the most economical solution when a complete foundation replacement isn’t needed for structural reasons! Do you think this is an okay observation to make?  

—Betsy Thagard  

Absolutely Betsy,  

As I often say to folks who write me with valid point regarding the subject of the article, if I weren’t limited to about 1000 words, I’d probably have said just what you mentioned. 

Caps are often “technically” required by the Structural Pest Control Act but, in fact, silly and largely unnecessary. Soil has often built up on the outside (and sometimes on the inside due to later work such as basement development) and simply needs to be cut away. 

The trick is to first dig a pit next the foundation to see the total depth in one spot prior to digging out along a long stretch. 

As long as you’re not undermining the foundation and there are at least a few inches left, it’s fine to cut back the soil and create a two-four-inch gap. It’s also a good idea to make sure that client know not to mulch or plant right along this boundary and to keep it clear. 

Six-inches is code but not really required. Some very short footings (10 inches or so) are not good candidates for this technique but replacement of a good solid unrotated footing of solid concrete is usually unnecessary and capping does very little for any of us. All that said, a new inverted T is a nice improvement that adds value in several ways. 

You Harvard grads are so smart!