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Frost Protected Shallow Concrete Foundations

A resource efficient design for concrete foundations in all U.S. climates.

Casting concrete footings for a frost protected shallow concrete foundation provides protection against frost damage without the need for excavating below the frost line. Frost protected shallow concrete foundations have insulation placed strategically around the outside of a concrete foundation to direct heat loss from the building toward the foundation, and also to use the earth's natural geothermal energy.

Traditionally, concrete foundations are protected from frost-heaving damage by placing the footing below the frost line. Because frost protected shallow concrete foundations are protected from freezing by thermal insulation, bottoms of concrete footings can be just twelve to sixteen inches below grade. This reduces excavation costs, making this an economical alternative for protecting concrete foundations against frost damage.

Insulated concrete footings have been used as early as the 1930s by Frank Lloyd Wright in the Chicago area. There are now over one million homes in Norway, Sweden, and Finland with insulated shallow concrete footings, recognized by their building codes as standard practice. It is estimated that there are over 5,000 buildings in the United States that have successfully used frost protected shallow concrete foundations.

Frost protected shallow concrete foundations are similar to conventional foundations except for insulation placement and footing depth. Bottoms of frost protected shallow concrete foundation footings are placed about 12 to 16 inches below grade. Frost protected shallow concrete foundations have vertical insulation placed at the outside edge of the foundation extending from above grade to the bottom of the footing. When required in colder climates, "Wing" insulation extends outward horizontally from the concrete footing. The colder the climate, the further the wing insulation is extended. Wing insulation is unnecessary in moderate climates.

The insulation used in frost protected shallow concrete foundations is commonly rigid expanded or extruded polystyrene foam suitable for below grade applications, and it must be in compliance with ASTM C 578 Standard. Frost protected shallow concrete foundations can be used for both heated and unheated portions of a building.

Article courtesy of:
NAHB Research Center
http://www.nahbrc.org
and
http://www.toolbase.org

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