April 21, 2017

Dan's Workshop: Footer or Piers?

Footer or piers? Footer or piers? The first step to any building is the foundation and this question has been under consideration for some time: piers, a footer, or maybe simply a pole barn like Pa Mac? In the end Dan decided on piers. Here's why.


If we'd had cedars to work with, a pole barn would have been an excellent option. As it is, we have pine, which especially untreated like ours, will quickly rot in the ground. No good.


A footer would have required digging a trench. Tree roots and heavy clay were a deterrent to doing it by hand, which meant we'd have to rent equipment to dig it.


The next step would have been to build a form for the footer. That would have meant more materials, although some just pour the concrete directly into the trench.


Being able to mix and pour all that concrete was another consideration. Ideally the entire footer should be poured at the same time, but our little mixer wouldn't be able to do that. The other option would be having someone deliver and pour what we needed.


Piers meant working with smaller, more manageable batches.


With a footer, the entire surface would have to be leveled. With piers, the posts can be cut to the length required.


Because we're using untreated homegrown, home-milled lumber, Dan wanted to keep it as far from the ground as possible. Moisture and termites do not promote longevity.


This way the posts can be set on top of the pier, but the plywood siding (which is treated) can come closer to the ground.

And of course he had an audience.

Interested onlookers.

Now on to the next step, "Timber Joints."

27 comments:

Dawn McHugh said...

Good choice, never seen piers done before I dont think we use them in the UK well not I have come across them, its all footings.

Leigh said...

Funny, though, how one can deliberate over something in a seemingly indecisive way. Then once the decision is made, it seems like it was the only obvious choice!

Ron Rogers said...

as the only obvi

Leigh said...

So far so good!

Ed said...

I don't think I will ever build another pole barn. Back in the day it was fine because cedar poles could last as long as the barn. These days with modern materials, barns will out last the poles by a magnitude of years. Pole barns that we put up 40 years ago using industrial creosote treated poles have had all the poles replaced probably a decade back. We do have some cedar fence posts that are maybe 40 years old but up here, getting those long/straight enough for a pole barn is impossible.

Either piers or a footer are acceptable. The only reason I lean towards a footer despite the extra work and materials you mentioned is for rodent prevention in the building once it is built. With a footer, we can keep our out buildings rodent free but it is much harder with piers. With piers, we pour a floating slab inside and then use landscape wire mesh and small limestone chips that can be packed to fill up the area between the slab and around the piers. Still once a season we have to go around the outside and fill in all the places where animals are trying to get in so it requires maintenance. With a footer, it is maintenance free.

Can't wait to see the rest of your progress!

Rain said...

Hi Leigh! :) I love the photo of the peanut gallery lol!!! So curious! Thank you for posting this progress. We don't know too much about building things, I love to see real people doing it. I mean, we watch "This Old House" but those guys have all the tools and money they need to make a tv show! The footers look great! I'm staying tuned... :)

9658 Textiles said...

Oh, my gosh! we have been deliberating over the very same decision! we also have home milled lumber. I am going to show this to the DH. I think we have a winner. Thank you for sharing in such a simple easy to understand way!

Fiona said...

Have considered using a Bluestone dip to treat your pine? We hade pine trees, fir and poplar. Cut green then set in a barrel of the bluestone. It soaks up the post. Those home treated lasted well.

Leigh said...

Interesting comment Ed, I always learn something from your experience. Good point about rodent-proofing!

Leigh said...

We used to watch "This Old House" too! :)

Dan would probably recommend Carpentry and Building Construction by Feirer, Hutchings, and Feirer. He has an older edition but it's his go-to book for any kind of building or repair job. This particular edition is actually a school textbook so it has a career chapter, but the techniques are well illustrated and well explained.

Leigh said...

How funny! Glad we can be of help!

Leigh said...

You mean copper treatment? No, didn't even know about it. Of course now our lumber is no longer green, but I'll pass the information on to Dan. Thanks!

Theresa said...

Yup piers are the way to go. We did our deck with them since the land drops off at one end quite steeply. They are big, deep and needed equally large square treated lumber. The deck itself may be light but the snow load it carries over a mountain winter is very heavy. Most things up here are built to carry between 80-120 psf and decks are no different, flat too so no shedding.

Old School said...

I love the audience. Does Dan stop periodically and explain his plan to them? Do they comment?

Leigh said...

Good point about slopes, especially steep ones. Piers are definitely more practical there! In your case, snow is a huge consideration as well.

Leigh said...

LOL. Comments are usually in the form of wanting something else to eat other than what they've got at the moment. :)

Farmer Barb said...

So interesting. We have frost lines up here to worry about. We HAVE to dig at least 4 feet down to have our piers stay in with frost heaving. So much fun to dig...by hand. With rocks.

Rain said...

Thank you for the book reference!!

Farmer Liz said...

We have a feed shed to build and exactly the same decisions have prevented us starting it! Love the audience :)

Goatldi said...

Laughing at the peanut gallery 😊 Goats must be on the forefront of every project within their view. I sometimes think all goats were building contractors in their last existence. Excited to see the project on its way!

Leigh said...

Yes, frost lines like that would be a huge factor in the whole process. That's a lot of digging!

Leigh said...

Liz, we've been having the piers versus footer discussion for years now! Probably for as long as we've been making barn plans. The indecision is part of the reason we never started until now. :)

Leigh said...

They are the most curious creatures! And always underfoot if possible. When Dan built a shelter in our front pasture, our pygmy buck would come running (as best as pygmies can run, that is) as soon as he saw Dan coming with the wheelbarrow loaded with tools. Then he'd keep knocking the wheelbarrow over, LOL. It didn't matter how many times he got chased off, he'd bounce right back.

Goatldi said...

How goat of him (grin)

Leigh said...

In spite of that he was Dan's all-time favorite goat.

Sam I Am...... said...

Good for Dan! Thanks for the book tip also. The goats are so cute and curious! Who doesn't love an audience? Such meticulous craftsmanship....it must require great patience which I might be a little short of in the building area but I guess if I had to I would. At my age it would take me so long the cement would probably be hard by the time I got to pouring it! LOL! So interesting!

Leigh said...

I'm not much of a builder either, but I'm always ready to be gopher as required!