Looking for accurate cost information related to foundation installation?
Perfect, you’re in the right spot. In this guide, you’ll learn:
- Average cost of installing different foundation types
- Cost breakdown of foundation installation
- Average square foot cost of installing a foundation
- How to save money on home foundation installation
When you’re planning on building a home, the foundation is one of the most critical pieces of construction, as it supports your entire house and provides a flat, level surface on which to build.
Many homeowners and individuals in the planning phase often wonder what the total cost of installing a foundation is. Depending on the type of foundation you’re planning and the soil underneath, the pricing can vary significantly.
In this article, I will break down the cost of the most popular types of house foundations on a square foot basis, and this should give you a good snapshot of an estimated price. I’ll also get into what’s involved with foundation installation, the cost of replacing a foundation, and some additional information you need before you break ground.
How Much Does a New Foundation Cost To Install?
On average, the cost to install a new foundation for a standard 1,200 square foot home ranges from around $4,500 all the way up to approximately $40,000, with the national average being about $10,000. For a 2,400 square foot home, prices range from $12,000 to $80,000, with an average cost of around $27,000.
I’m providing very rough numbers here in an effort to give you a baseline for your home, but of course, the final cost estimate will depend on your home’s square footage, foundation type, and some other environmental factors. I’ll break down these averages further by foundation type first.
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Concrete Slab Cost
Concrete slabs are generally the cheapest type of foundation to install. Because they're built slab-on-grade, they don’t require much excavating or ongoing maintenance, and they typically don’t promote moisture problems. However, they can make home improvement - like repairs to embedded plumbing lines - more costly, and they aren’t suitable for areas with deep frost lines.
There are two main types of slab foundations, and I’ll break down the average price of both below.
A monolithic slab is constructed in a single pour, with both the slab and the footings being established at the same time.
These foundations typically cost between $4,500 and $20,000 depending on the size and soil conditions, with an average cost of $9,000.
A stem wall is very similar to a monolithic slab, but the footings and foundation walls are established first, and then the area is backfilled and tamped before the slab is poured. They’re more expensive than monolithic slabs, as they require an additional step and labor costs. This video below will give you a visual of how they are constructed:
A stem wall foundation typically costs between $7,000 and $21,000, with an average cost of $12,000.
Pier and Beam Foundation Cost
A pier and beam foundation consists of a number of leveled and anchored piers that support the beams on which your house is built. These are ideal for lots that aren’t level and areas where flooding or earthquakes can be issues. They allow for a crawl space under your home for storage, but this area is often prone to moisture build-up and can lead to mold formation.
The price of a pier and beam foundation generally ranges from $7,500 to about $21,000, with an average cost of around $11,000.
This price depends on a few factors, including your home’s size and the number of piers required. Piers are set 5-10 feet apart, but additional footings for bump-outs or based on soil condition will increase the price quite a bit.
Crawl Space Foundation Cost
Crawl space foundations involve the excavation of a large area of earth and construction of a space under your home that’s between 18” and 4’ deep. The perimeter of the foundation is built up to support your house, and there are often columns throughout the space to add support.
A crawl space foundation can include a vapor barrier, making it better protected from moisture and mold growth than a pier and beam foundation. However, it doesn’t offer as much vertical space as a walkout or daylight basement.
The price of a crawl space foundation ranges from $8,000 to $21,000, with an average cost of around $14,000. If you’re planning on including a vapor barrier, you should expect to add about $1,200 to $4,000 depending on your foundation’s size.
Full basements are constructed similarly to crawl space foundations, but more excavation is required to get the full 8’ depth of an average basement. The block foundation is constructed around the perimeter, and large columns usually run through the middle of the basement to support the weight of the house above.
Basement foundations usually include a vapor barrier to protect against moisture build-up and mold growth. This added cost and the additional labor required for massive excavation and backfilling makes this foundation type the most expensive.
The average price of a full basement foundation installation is around $40,000, with prices ranging from $25,000 all the way up to $80,000 depending on the size. If you plan on installing a finished basement, you can expect to add between $7,000 and $20,000 depending on square footage and fit and finish.
What Goes Into The Cost of New Foundations?
With the cost of a new foundation ranging from $4,500 all the way up to $80,000, you may be wondering why there is such a large variance in price. To give you a better idea of where these ranges come from, I think it’s best to discuss the different factors that add to the overall price.
Planning is your first step to building a foundation, and it will be your first expense. You need to conform to the local building code, which involves pulling building permits. Getting the proper permitting is essential for legal construction, and your municipality will charge anywhere from $500 to $2,000 just to get your permits opened.
You’ll also need to ensure that the foundation you’re constructing is safe, which most often involves a soil report and other considerations. Your builder will need to know the type of soil, compaction, and frost line depth to determine and construct the safest foundation for your area. Testing typically costs around $1,000, and you can add $800 or so if you need flood or seismic reports as well.
Next, you’ll need to have your foundation inspected by a structural engineer to ensure that it’s structurally sound. The cost of a foundation inspection averages around $500 but can cost as much as $1,800. This inspection is another essential step, and construction should not proceed until an engineer signs off on your foundation.
A large portion of your foundation cost will, of course, be the materials, including the cost of concrete. Depending on the type of foundation you’re having installed, you’ll have thousands of pounds of concrete or concrete blocks installed to support your house. The foundation also requires rebar reinforcement and molding, both of which will add to the cost.
If you’re planning on insulating your foundation, you can expect to add around $2,000 depending on the type of foundation and insulation material used.
Whether you install a slab or a full basement, moisture build-up around your foundation can cause significant water damage and can even lead to foundation failure. Proper drainage is a necessity when installing a foundation.
Simple drainage systems like grading or installing a sump pump can be relatively inexpensive and cost between $1,000 and $5,000. More expensive drainage systems like French drains cost between $6,000 and $15,000 on average.
You’ll also need to consider how your home will be heated and how your heating system will affect your foundation. If you’re planning on installing radiant heat, you can expect the cost to be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on your foundation type.
Additional project costs may also apply to slab foundations if you have some other form of hot water heating system, as lines will need to be run through the concrete slab. Repair costs in the future will also generally be higher.
Lastly, you’ll need to consider the cost of waterproofing your foundation. In most areas, I recommend a vapor barrier on all foundation types, including slabs. Vapor barriers help block moisture from getting into your crawl space, basement, or first floor. They will cost an average of $3,000 but can range from $2,000 to $5,000 depending on your foundation type and size.
It should be noted that vapor barriers are more expensive - but also more critical - in crawl space and basement foundations, given that the vertical concrete walls will also need to be treated.
Concrete Foundation Cost Calculator by Project & Square Foot
It may be helpful to see a cost guide based on your proposed foundation style as well as the square footage of your new foundation. Below, I’ll go over the average price per square foot of the different types of foundations and some factors that can affect these estimates.
By Square Foot
Concrete Slab (Monolithic)
You can expect a monolithic concrete slab foundation to cost around $4 per square foot. Bump-outs, the addition of radiant heat, and sealing with a vapor barrier can increase this cost.
Concrete Slab (Stem Wall)
A stem wall involves more labor than a monolithic slab, so the average cost per square foot is slightly higher at $5. Bump-outs, radiant heat, and sealing also increase this cost.
Pier and Beam Foundation
Pier and beam foundations generally cost around $5 per square foot as well. The cost often increases if you have bump-outs, require additional piers based on the soil composition, or need additional excavation to anchor your piers below a deep frost line.
Installing insulation and a vapor barrier will also increase this cost significantly, as will proper drainage if required.
Crawl Space Foundation
The average cost of a crawl space foundation is around $7 per square foot. This cost generally increases if insulation and a vapor barrier are also installed, and these can be DIY projects after installation depending on how handy you are. Sump pumps will increase the price slightly, and a French drain can increase the cost significantly.
Full basements are the most expensive foundation type averaging $18 per square foot. Adding insulation and a vapor barrier is strongly recommended, as is a French drain, which adds to the cost as well. Finishing your basement alone can very easily double your price per square foot, bringing the average cost to around $40 per square foot.
How Much Does it Cost To Lift A House And Replace a Foundation?
If foundation repair isn't possible or you’re looking to install a new foundation, your entire home will need to be lifted and supported while the existing foundation is removed and replaced. The average cost of raising a 1,200 square foot home and replacing the foundation is around $30,000, but it can cost up to about $100,000 depending on a few key factors.
If the ground beneath your foundation is unstable, jacking up the house will cost significantly more. The price can also increase if additional excavation or inspections are required. Lastly, your cost will be significantly higher if you raise your home due to location in a flood area, as you’ll need to follow FEMA’s specifications.
How To Save Money With Foundation Installation?
Foundations are a critical part of your home’s construction, and while you certainly don’t want to skimp on the cost, I also understand that you may want to save money on the installation, if possible. Below, I’m going over the most significant cost-saving methods for each type of foundation to help you cut costs when it’s reasonable to do so.
Saving Money With Concrete Slab
The easiest way to save money on a concrete slab is to choose a monolithic slab rather than a stem wall, saving you about $1 per square foot. You can also opt not to add a vapor barrier. Most slab foundations don’t have major problems with moisture or rot, especially if you’re in a relatively dry climate, and this can save upward of $1,000 on your installation.
Pier and Beam Foundation Cost
Pier and beam foundation costs tend to increase as you add more piers, so the best way to save money on the installation is to stick with a perfectly rectangular home. The lack of bump-outs will limit the number of piers needed, which will bring your overall cost down significantly.
Crawl Space Foundation Cost
The most significant savings you’ll get with a crawl space foundation installation is by avoiding a vapor barrier. This isn’t recommended unless you live in an arid climate and aren’t at all prone to flooding. You can combat minor water build-up with proper drainage outside and a sump pump inside, but you should note that moisture will still find its way in!
While you won’t save money and will actually end up spending more, one of the best ways to get more for your money is to install a full basement instead. Your return on investment is higher, and your living space will be significantly increased.
Full basement installations are the most expensive, so this is where you may want to save the most money. Avoiding a vapor barrier will save a few thousand dollars, but not installing one has the same pitfalls as a crawl space installation.
The best way to save money on a full basement installation is to leave it unfinished. Not finishing your basement will likely more than halve the price.
Red Flags When Installing a New Foundation?
In the planning and initial construction phases of installing a foundation for a new home, there are a few things you’ll want to look out for that can be indicators of additional trouble or cost in the future.
First, if your local contractor doesn’t request or recommend a soil test, this is a good indicator that they’re not considering the best and safest type of foundation for your lot and climate. Soil conditions can significantly affect the efficacy and structural integrity of different types of foundations and play a major role in the styles that should be installed.
Second, your contractor may suggest that an inspection by a structural engineer before the foundation is set isn’t required. You should always get two assessments - one before and one after your foundation is installed - as an engineer will be able to point out potential issues and best practices based on your soil and climate.
Lastly, you should always make sure your contractor discusses proper drainage before ground is broken. Knowledgeable professionals will know the area and the potential for damage from saturated soil, so inquire about the type of drainage before you begin installation so that you aren’t surprised by additional costs later.