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1.0 Foundations
1.1 Function
The foundations of houses must carry the dead loads (weight of the structure) of the
walls; roof and floors etc., together with the imposed loads of occupants and furniture, and
transmit them safely into the ground. They must be designed so that settlement is sufficiently
controlled to keep any distortion (and possibly cracking) to within acceptable limits.
1.2 Introduction to foundation types
The three paragraphs below provide a brief introduction to the main foundation types in the
UK. The strip foundation is by far the most common and, in most cases, the cheapest. It has
been used, in one form or another, for hundreds of years and, for low rise housing, is suitable
for the majority of ground conditions likely to be found. The other two foundation types are
more likely to be used where sites and ground conditions are more complex.

The strip foundation is basically a strip, or ribbon, of insitu
concrete running under all the loadbearing walls. This will normally
include all the external walls and possibly some, or all, of the internal
walls. The depth and width of the strip depends on the building load
and the nature of the ground. In many cases these foundations do not
need specialist design, the foundation size can be determined by
referring to the Building Regulations.

Piled foundations can be of various types. They can be used to
transmit the loads from the foundations through weak,
compressible, or unstable strata, to firmer ground beneath (end
bearing piles). In clay and other cohesive soils piles can be
used to distribute the loads into the ground through the friction
forces along the length of the pile sides. Piles are usually made
from insitu or precast concrete but can also be steel and timber.
In housing built from load bearing brickwork, a reinforced
concrete beam bridges the piles and directly supports the


Rafts are an expensive form of construction, probably
the most expensive of the three, and are used where only a very
low load can be applied, for example, on soft or variable
ground. They are also used where differential settlement is
likely or where there is a risk of subsidence (they are common
in mining areas). The raft is a rigid slab of concrete, reinforced
with steel, which spreads the building load over the whole
ground floor area.


2.0 Site Investigation
Before foundation design can begin there are a number of preliminary stages. These,
separate stages, are generally referred to as Site Investigation.
Site Investigation normally involves three basic stages:

 A desk study which takes into account existing information about the site. This
information will
 Come from a variety of sources and will include such diverse matters as the history of
the site, its
 Topography, geology, vegetation etc.
 A walk-over survey which is a direct inspection of the site giving the
engineer/designer the
 Opportunity to identify the nature of the ground and the nature of any hazardous
 A physical exploration and inspection, of the ground by means of boreholes or trial
pits. This third
 Stage is sometimes called the ground investigation.

The desk study is the first stage in the site investigation. Essentially, it comprises the
collection and analysis of existing information about the site. The information will come
from a variety of sources and, and, once analysed, will form the basis for the second stage,
the walk-over survey. The desk study has two main objectives:
 To determine the nature, past use, and condition of the site.
 To determine whether this has any implications for the proposed building and its

A sensible starting point is to consult large scale maps of the proposed site and check site
boundaries, building lines, existing buildings and other man-made, or natural, features which
will affect the future buildings. A comparison with older maps may give some clues to
determine former use and, therefore, potential hazards. Geological maps, other written
records, and local knowledge will help identify the likely nature of the subsoil and determine
the extent of difficult ground conditions. Most subsoil, including firm and stiff clays,
compact sands, gravels and rocks will easily support the relatively low loads of two and three

storey housing using simple strip foundations. However, soft cohesive soils, peaty soils, and
of course, fill, pose problems. A site that has been mined also needs treating with caution -
foundation solutions can be costly. Large scale historical maps, often held at city and county
libraries, show the extent of former mining. Thousands of old shafts and tunnels still exist.
Other items which should come to light during the desk study include the likelihood of:
 filled or contaminated ground
 quarrying or mining
 rights of way
 ponds, watercourses, ground water levels and the risk of flooding
 utility services (drains, electricity, gas, telephone, optical cables etc - see left-hand
 previous vegetation (ie large felled trees)
 landslip
 naturally occurring aggressive chemicals (eg sulfates), harmful gases (radon) and
landfill gases
 (Methane and CO2).
 A walk-over survey is the second stage in the site investigation. It's a detailed site
inspection which:
 enables much of the material discovered in the desk study to be confirmed or further
 identifies other potential hazards
 enables the surveyor to collect photographic records
 gives the surveyor/engineer the opportunity to make detailed drawings of all those
items (trees,
 existing buildings, watercourses, etc) which will have implications for the building
A direct ground investigation is the third stage in the site investigation. As far as low rise
housing is concerned its main objective is to determine whether strip foundations will be
suitable and, assuming they are, whether they can be designed in accordance with the simple
'rule of thumb' approach contained in the Building Regulations. The ground investigation will
provide detailed information on:
 nature and thickness of made up ground/top soil above the subsoil
 nature, thickness and stratum depth of subsoil
 an assessment of allowable bearing pressure
 Ground water levels, chemicals in the ground etc.
 existing structures or hazards in the ground

2.1 Trial pits
For low rise housing, on green-field sites, machine-dug trial pits are probably the
most common method of ground investigation. The pits do not normally need to be deeper
than 4-5 metres unless specific problems are encountered. Trial pits should be excavated
close to the proposed foundation, but not so close as to affect its actual construction. The

number of pits is usually a matter for Judgment and will depend on the size of the proposed
development, the nature of the site, and the consistency of the soil across the site.
2.2 Concrete
House foundations are invariably formed in concrete. It is available in a range of
strengths and is usually brought onto site ready-mixed as, and when, required.

What is concrete?
The word concrete is derived from the latin word concretus, meaning grown together.
It is a mixture of several constituents which behaves as a single material. In its simplest form
concrete comprises cement, aggregate and water. The major constituent by weight in
concrete is aggregate - stone with a range of particle size from 40mm down to 0.1mm. The
aggregate is a mixture of:
 Coarse aggregate - naturally occurring gravel or crushed rock
 Fine aggregate - sand or crushed rock.
The aggregate is bound together by cement paste, a mixture of cement and water.
The properties of the cement paste are extremely important and largely determine the
properties of the concrete:
it must be fluid enough for some time after mixing to allow the concrete to be placed and
Compacted into its final shape
 it must then set and gain strength so that it binds the aggregates together to make a
strong Material.
 The mechanism by which cement sets and hardens depends on the type of cement,
usually due To a chemical reaction between the cement and the mixing water (eg
Portland cement)
2.3 Uses
The great advantage of concrete as a construction material is that after mixing it is a
fluid (plastic) material which can be compacted into any shaped mould or formwork. This
may be done on site (in situ concrete), or for very high quality finishes, under factory
conditions (precast concrete). When the cement paste solidifies due to the hydration reaction
between cement and water it becomes a structural material.
Concrete is very strong in compression. Its compressive strength makes concrete an
ideal material for foundations and floor slabs and other structural elements that are mainly
loaded in compression. However, the tensile strength of concrete is relatively low, about one
tenth of the compressive strength. Therefore in structural elements such as beams, which,

when loaded, are in compression at the top and tension at the bottom, it is necessary to use
reinforced concrete.
Reinforced concrete contains steel reinforcing rods, usually 20-
30mm in diameter. These rods are positioned where the principal
tensile stresses will occur in the structure, and then the concrete is
poured and compacted around the reinforcement. Reinforced concrete
is therefore a composite material, where the concrete takes the
compressive forces and the reinforcing steel takes the tensile forces.

3.0 Strip Foundations
In the latter part of the 19th century it was common to find the external walls of
houses built directly on the ground. Legislation towards the end of the 19th century required
concrete foundations under the walls. Then, as now, the depth of the foundation would
depend on local conditions.

A typical house from the
1900s or so would have a thin
strip of concrete under all the
loadbearing walls. Prior to this
walls were often built directly
onto the levelled ground;
sometimes there might be a bed
of stone or ashes to provide an
even surface.
Nowadays, the design of foundations is controlled by national Building Regulations. Strip
foundations, the most common form, can either be 'traditional' or trench-fill (see below).
They are usually 500 to 700mm wide and as deep as necessary for the type of ground. In
clays for example they are usually at least 1 metre deep to avoid problems of ground
movement caused by seasonable change in moisture content. In very dry conditions, for
example, clays will shrink slightly as the clay loses water. In very wet conditions the clay will
swell. In weaker ground the foundation has to be wider than 700mm to spread the building
load over an adequate area of ground.


Foundations must conform to certain standards explicit in the Regulations, or be designed by
someone competent in structural calculation. Either way, the design requires approval before
work can commence.
The loads from two storey houses are fairly modest and in most ground types and conditions
traditional strip foundations or trench fill foundations are more than adequate. In principle
they are very similar; they differ in that the concrete in trench fill foundations is deeper, with
the result that there are savings in brickwork and block work.

Reasons for choosing traditional strip foundations:
 Proven method, most builders are familiar with traditional strip foundations
 Mistakes (eg, setting out) are not too expensive to rectify once concrete is poured
 Builder may want work to keep bricklayer occupied
 Services will mostly cross the wall above the concrete - so not an immediate problem
 Cheaper than trench fill for wider foundations

3.1 BUT
 Working space for bricklayers required
 Walls easily damaged during backfill
 Deep trenches require planking and strutting AND CAN BE DANGEROUS
 Reasons for trench fill foundations
 Foundations are completed fairly quickly
 Clay soils less likely to swell or shrink because trenches can be completed speedily
 Reduced need for planking and strutting - considerable cost savings
 No need for people to work at base of trench - much safer, especially in deep
 No risk of trenches collapsing (after concrete is placed) and damaging block work
 Will bridge minor soft spots in base of trench

 Service entry ducts need to be carefully placed
 Good access for concrete lorry required; (or concrete pump needed)
 Expensive if foundations have to be wide (or become wide)

The photos above show a trenchfill foundation for a new two storey house. The trenches are
just over 1 metre deep and about 500mm wide. They are filled with concrete to a level about
300mm or so below finished ground level. The drawing below shows a typical foundation
plan. The foundation runs under all the external walls and under the internal loadbearing

3.2 Requirements for strip foundations
The Building Regulations set out a number of requirements for strip foundations. Their width
is determined by a table in the Regulations which takes into account building load and the
nature of the ground. Their depth depends on site conditions and the nature of the soil – at
least 1000mm is normal in clays. The Regulations also contain requirements regarding
thickness of the concrete, position of the wall relative to the foundation, minimum depths
near drains and so on.

In some situations strip foundations are not suitable, or are not cost effective. These include
for example:
 where large trees are present in clay soils
 where trees in clay soils have recently been removed
 in very weak or unstable soils

 where strip foundations would have to be very deep to reach firm ground
 where subsidence is likely (i.e. in mining areas)

4.0 Piling
4.1 Definition of piling?
Piles can be made from steel or timber although in most housing work piles are made
from insitu or pre-cast reinforced concrete. They are used either to transmit loads from the
building through soft or compressible ground to firmer strata below (end bearing pile), or to
distribute loads into the subsoil along the length of the pile (friction pile). In housing, a
concrete beam across the top of the piles distributes the load from the loadbearing brickwork
into the piles themselves.
There are a number of different piling systems. Some, (replacement piles), bore out
the ground and then replace the void with concrete. A reinforcement cage is lowered into the
wet concrete to resist any lateral forces in the ground which might fracture the pile, and to
provide a connection for the ground beam which will support the walls. Others,
(displacement piles) are forced into the ground, pushing it out of the way as the piles are
driven home.

When the piles are in position a reinforced ground
beam (insitu concrete or pre-cast) is positioned over
the top. This takes the load from the walls and
distributes it into the piles. A typical house might be
supported on 10-20 piles.


These are pre-cast piles which are driven into the ground to a depth determined by
engineers. A „set‟ is reached when a specified number of „hammer blows‟ provide a
specified amount of downward movement.

In clay soils augered piles are more likely to be found. These are replacement piles.

Why is piling becoming more common?
20 or 30 years ago piling was comparatively rare for housing (other than medium and
high rise flats). Since then, several factors have led to an increase in the use of piled
foundations. These include:
 the increased pressure to re-develop 'brownfield' sites, where strip foundations
may not always be appropriate
 increased costs of 'carting away' and tipping surplus excavation from
foundation trenches
 (particularly in cities)
 the development and easy availability of smaller piling rigs and piling systems
which are,

 nowadays, cost effective for house foundations
 greater understanding of piling in general (partly through better building

4.2 Factors affecting piling
There are literally dozens of piling companies in the UK each offering a number
of different piling systems. In many cases more than one piling system will suit a
particular set of circumstances. However, when choosing a piling system there is four
main criteria to consider:
 building load
 the nature of the ground (ie, the subsoil)
 local environmental or physical constraints (noise restrictions, height
 cost

4.3 Rafts
In the 1940s and 1950s raft foundations were quite common, particularly beneath the
thousands of prefabricated pre-cast concrete or steel buildings erected during the years
following the Second World War. Most of these houses were built on good quality
farm land where the soil was generally of modest to high bearing capacity. Rafts (or
foundation slabs as they were sometimes called) were often used because they were
relatively cheap, easy

to construct and did not require extensive excavation (trenches were often
dug by hand). In 1965 national Building Regulations were introduced for
the first time (London still had its own building controls), but these did not
contain any 'deemed to satisfy' provisions for raft foundations (as they did
for strip foundations) - consequently each had to be engineer designed. As a
result they quickly fell out of favour. In modern construction rafts tend to
be used:
 Where the soil has low load bearing capacity and varying compressibility. This
might include,
 loose sand, soft clays, fill, and alluvial soils (soils comprising particles
suspended in water and
 Deposited over a flood plain or river bed).
 Where pad or strip foundations would cover more than 50% of the ground area
below the
 Building.
 Where differential movements are expected.
 Where subsidence due to mining is a possibility.


5.0 Foundation Failures
5.1 Introduction
Architects, surveyors and structural engineers are all called upon at some time
to examine defective foundations and submit reports with recommendations for
remedial action. Whilst we can all learn the technicalities that form the basic
knowledge of the various building professions, there is always one element where the
professional has to rely on skill to diagnose the significance of any symptoms: that is
„experience‟. This applies especially to the analysis of foundation problems and their
5.2 Causes of failure
Foundations can move as a result of loads applied causing a downward movement
known as settlement. Settlement can be tolerated by the structure provided the loads
do not exceed the „allowable bearing pressures‟ stated in BS 8004. Other pos-sible
causes of foundation movement known as subsidence, brought about by activity in the
ground, are:
 Soil erosion caused by flowing water.
 Changes in ground water level.
 Buildings on made up ground.
 Movement associated with mining activities or „swallow holes‟ found in
 Movement due to shrinkage or swelling of clay soils. This is the most common
cause of foundation movement.
 Uneven bearing capacities of differing subsoils.
Heave is the upward movement of the ground. It is the result of an increase in
moisture content in excess of that which existed when the building was erected. It can
occur when trees are removed, but it can be caused by the interruption of a natural
water course through climate change. Heave is also caused by the removal of loads on
the foundation. A rather uncommon form of heave is when the ground
Expands when frozen. The problem is usually confined to soils consisting of fine sand
and chalk. Where the water table is high and there are prolonged periods of freezing,
ice layers can cause the foundations to lift, but this only occurs during very severe
winter conditions.

Although other possible causes of damage must be considered during the
investigation, settlement, subsidence and heave account for damage to most structural
elements including floors in low-rise buildings (Dickinson & Thornton, 2004).
Typical symptoms are:
 Cracks in external or internal walls. The cracks may be hairline or much wider.
 Walls bulging or leaning out of vertical.
 Floors slanting out of level.
 Drains or service pipes blocked or malfunctioning.
 Paving‟s or drives cracking.
When foundation defects are to be investigated a thorough examination is imperative.
The primary object of this type of examination is to obtain an accu-rate diagnosis as a
basis for a report. It is therefore extremely important that all available evidence is
collected together and carefully examined before decisions are reached as to the
method of repair to be adopted. This inspection may take some considerable time, but
it is essential that extensive defects are properly investigated. It is always advisable to
bear in mind when making a diagnosis that more than one cause may be responsible
for a defect, although it is neces-sary to investigate the primary cause. For example,
foundation movements may have been responsible for a fractured external wall, but
rainwater could pene-trate the fracture causing dampness on the internal face of the
wall. Although the two defects will have to be remedied it does not necessarily mean
that the crack has caused rainwater to penetrate the wall. The wall may have been
damp before the movement took place perhaps due to faulty construction or porous

Foundation repairs to existing buildings are generally the most difficult and costly to
effect, which is still a good reason why a thorough investigation should be carried out.
The object of the investigation will be to determine the nature and strength of the
subsoil under load. A visual observation below ground can only be carried out by
digging trial holes at intervals along the length of the wall adjacent to the suspected
position of the foundation failure. The holes should be of a size to accommodate an
When the underside of the foundation is exposed, the details of the subsoil, together
with the condition of the foundation and base of the wall should be recorded. Tests
can be carried out by driving an iron bar into the subsoil. A more detailed test for
moisture and bearing capacity can be carried out by removing samples of soil with a
spade and submitting them to a laboratory for examination.
The surveyor should always bear in mind that the initial examination will
only reveal conditions as they are, and they will need to be studied over a
period of time before a decision can be made. Prior to carrying out an
inspection of the founda-tion defects it is advisable to have a precise
knowledge of the soils present on site. Land used for building varies
considerably from hard rock to loose sand. Between these extremes are soft
rock, firm earth, firm clay, soft clay, gravel, sand and fill.
Soils may be divided into two categories, non-cohesive and cohesive:
 Non-cohesive soils are the gravels and sands which tend to lack
cohesion and have no plasticity.
 Cohesive soils are the various types of clay and silt and possess
cohesion and plasticity.
 Below are the principal causes of foundation failures that are
considered to be most common in the UK.
5.3 Differential movement
Excavating the ground and placing substantial loads on it is sufficient to cause
a slight movement as the ground below is compressed to resist the load. Provided the
settlement is uniform over the building area the movement does little damage.
Alternatively, there may be differential movement where part of the foundation
remains stable while the remainder moves (Richardson, 2000). A typical example of
differential movement is shown in Figure 5.1 where set-tlement occurred in the end
walls with the centre portion stable. The cracks are usually vertical or diagonal and are

often interrupted by window or door openings. In such cases a gap is formed between
the frame and brickwork.
Roof level

First floor level

Ground floor level

Figure shows Example of differential settlement. Settlement in end walls with centre
portion stable. Cracks increase in width with height, and appear to be interrupted by
the windows, but in fact extend round the openings forming a gap between window
frame and brickwork. The movement is at its maximum at roof level and could cause
loss of bearing in the roof slab

Stanchion or pier

Settlement Floor

Figure : Differential settlements under the point load of a stanchion

Under concentrated loads such an overloaded pier or stanchion on shallow
foundations will often show movement cracks between floor and foundation where the
foundation has been „punched‟ downwards sometimes several centime-tres (see
The average domestic building, however, is unlikely to weigh more than 45 kg per
metre length of wall with a nominal concrete base width of, say, 680 mm. The
naturally occurring subsoils found in the UK are usually able to sustain this type of
loading, provided the foundation is deep enough not to be disturbed by the effects of
atmospheric action.

6.0 Unequal settlement
Shallow foundations on clay present bearing capacity problems and shrink and
expand due to seasonal changes, the effect being felt to a depth of 1.4 m. The bulk of
these clays are situated in the southeast of England which has the lowest rainfall
(Driscoll & Crilly, 2000).
The clay soil immediately surrounding a building will shrink and crack during
hot weather, but underneath the building the subsoil will be protected from the winter
rains and also from the hot sun; thus it will expand and con-tract much less. Therefore,
a differential settlement is set up causing the foundations to the external walls to settle
downwards and the walls to lean outward during the hot summer months when the
subsoil is dry, and a ten-dency to lean inwards in the winter months when the exterior
wet clay has expanded and the interior has remained stable. During the wet seasons
when the clay expands the cracks tend to recover. This movement can also cause
diagonal fractures around window and door frames and a drop in the hori-zontal joints
of a string course or bed joints in brickwork. The appearance of cracks in the outer
walls can be disturbing, so that this seasonal movement can often cause considerable
concern out of all proportion to its actual impor-tance (Richardson, 1996, 2000).

6.1 Effect of tree roots
Fast growing trees close to buildings can cause unequal settlement when active tree
roots dry out the soil causing differential soil shrinkage (BRE Digest 298, 1999).
Shrinking clays affect the bearing capacity and lead to movement in the building,
especially in shallow foundations. Tree roots can extend over a consider-able
distance and can extract moisture from as deep as 6 m below the surface. It is,
therefore, necessary to make an accurate survey of their position and obtain details
of the type of tree, and at the same time establish that the tree is the cause of the
damage (see Figure 5.4). Poplars and elms with fast growing root systems can be
expected to cause serious seasonal movements.
One way to avoid root problems with tall trees is to maintain a „safe distance‟
between the tree and the building. Some species of trees are likely to cause more
problems than others. Table 5.1 shows the different types of trees known to have
caused damage, ranking in descending order of threat. It also shows their expected
maximum height on clay soils. Planting a tree close to a new or existing building
will usually entail some risk of damage. It is, therefore, suggested that the recom-

mendations described in Table 5.1 are followed.
Buildings can also be damaged when well established trees are removed (Bonshor &
Bonshor, 1996). The resultant pressures due to the removal of trees and bushes act
both vertically and horizontally. In the majority of cases it is the horizon-tal
movement that produces the greatest damage, particularly in the upper layer of clay.
In such cases there is a danger of the clay expanding over a period of years as it
reabsorbs moisture causing the foundation to „heave‟ as described in Section 5.2
above. Where window sills crack and rise in the middle this is an indication of soil

tree roots

Figure : Unequal settlement caused by
Stepped diagonal cracks in brickwork extending from the corner of the building back
to the nearest opening in the external wall
Unequal settlement caused by tree roots close to a building; roots absorb moisture and
cause clay to shrink


Table : Risk of damage by different tree species: the table shows for each tree
species the distance between tree and building within which 75% of the cases of
damage occurred. Reproduced from the Building Research Establishment Digest
298 by permission of the Controller HMSO: Crown copyright

Max distance Min recommended
Max tree for 75% of separation in very highly
Ranking Species height – H (m) cases (m)
and highly shrinkable

1 Oak 16–23 13 1H
2 Poplar 24 15 1H
3 Lime 16–24 8 0.5H
4 Common ash 23 10 0.5H
5 Plane 25–30 7.5 0.5H
6 Willow 15 11 1H
7 Elm 20–25 12 0.5H
8 Hawthorn 10 7 0.5H
9 Maple/ 17–24 9 0.5H
10 Cherry/plum 8 6 1H
11 Beech 20 9 0.5H
12 Birch 12–14 7 0.5H
13 White beam/ 8–12 7 1H
14 Cypress 18–25 3.5 0.5H

Heave Differential movements will take place resulting in cracks in walls and
partitions. In such cases the removal of a tree may do more harm than good.


7.0 Shallow foundations
The surveyor will often find that foundation movement in older domestic
proper-ties can be caused by light strip foundations attached to the main building sup-
porting porches, bay windows and garages. There is a common misconception that
these lightweight structures do not need deep foundations as does the main building. If
this type of foundation is not carried down sufficiently deep to avoid movement by
atmospheric action, the junction between the light and heavy parts of the structure will
often show a diagonal crack running down from the lower corner of the rear window
as shown in Figure 5.5.
Another common example is when part of a building has a basement with
foundations set in deep geological beds. Seasonal movement will often take place in
the foundations close to the surface causing a vertical fracture at the junction between
the walls built off the basement wall and the ground floor. The heavier walls to the
basement area will settle relatively more causing movement cracks between the light
and heavily loaded walls as shown in Figure 5.6. This is more noticeable when the
ground floor structure is built on shallow foundations in clay subsoil

Figure : Diagonal fractures between light and heavy structure
Garage attached Cracks will occur at the to main building first point of weakness
usually at door or window openings or at the junction between the light & heavy

structures Foundation movement caused by light strip foundations attached to main
building at a minimum depth of 600 mm

Figure 5.6 Unequal settlements between basement and ground floor walls

7.1 Building on sloping sites
Buildings on sloping clay sites can often present difficulties (Instructed,
2000). The water table on sloping sites tends to follow the topography of the surface
and if the natural contours of the site change it does not necessarily alter this line.
Where the foundations have been set at a constant depth from the stepped level
surface the concentrations of water may affect the foundations at the lowest point
causing differential settlement. Figure 5.7 shows such a case where the water table is
above the foundation at the highest point and beneath a shallow foundation at the

First floor

Original surface

Figure: Building on sloping clay site

If the ground is not properly drained then the penetrating water will cause saturation
of the ground adjacent to the foundations

If a building is erected at the lowest point of a sloping site, natural drainage of the
water to the lower points can cause saturation of the ground around the base of the
wall and foundations thus lowering the bearing capacity (see Figure 5.8). In both the
above cases it is advisable to check that the subsoil is effectively drained at the highest
level in order to protect the building against damage by water pen-etration. The
surveyor will often find that surface water drainage has been omit-ted especially in
ancient buildings.
A similar case of water penetration often occurs around the base of the external
walls of old buildings where the ground floor level is below the ground level. The

Figure 5.9 Water
penetrations around
base of external
walls where the
ground floor level is
below the ground

surveyor will probably notice that clayware or concrete channels have been inserted
around the base of the wall to collect rainwater from the roofs and a cer-tain amount
of surface water from paved areas around the building.
The channels tend to move with the seasonal changes in the subsoil causing the joints
to open, thus allowing water to percolate through to the subsoil and the base of the
wall. In such cases there is a risk of uneven movement in the subsoil leading to settle-
ment cracks (see Figure 5.9).

In chalk and limestone areas, cavities in the subsoil can be formed by underground
streams or watercourses dissolving the rock. If the sandy overburden falls into the
cav-ity the foundations will drop. These cavities are known as „swallow holes‟. In the
Brick or stone wall
Water penetration

through open joints
Floor level
Surface water channel

Line of damp penetration

three cases described above the foundations need protecting and the ground water
must be directed away from the foundations by a system of ground or surface water
7.2 Building on made up ground
Filled or made up ground is extremely varied in form and should be treated as
suspect. Experience has shown that the majority of foundation failures on filled
ground have been due to the use of poor fill, and inadequate compaction.
Unfortunately, during an inspection, detailed knowledge of the fill is usually lack-ing.
All possible information concerning the site should be obtained by discussion with the
local authority and by studying local maps of the area. Apart from dig-ging trial holes
the surveyor should observe signs of damage to any adjacent buildings. The trial holes
should be deep enough to enable the surveyor to assess the nature of the fill, its depth,
composition and degree of compaction. If any remedial work is contemplated, such as
underpinning or piling, this could well involve the protection and support of the
services to the building. A particular note of this matter should be made during the site


8.0 Diagnosis
Crack monitoring may be necessary to see whether the problem is still active (Bonshor &
Bonshor, 1996). This should be done by the application of „tell-tales‟. Tell-tales should be fixed
internally and externally if found necessary. Although tell-tales are most important from the surveyor‟s
point of view, it will sometimes be difficult to explain the size and direction of the crack to the client
by way of notes and sketches. In this respect photographs will be most useful when attached to a
report. However, the tell-tales will enable the surveyor to check whether or not the movements are
progressive. Movements due to settlement of filled ground usually cause major cracking of external
walls and partitions. Bulging can also occur in external walls. Concrete ground floors are also liable to
lift and crack.
After all investigations have been completed the surveyor may consider obtain-ing the services of a
specialist in this field to advise on any remedial work required.



The sub- structure which transmits the loads of super-structure to the underlying soil is termed as
To distribute the load of the super- structure over a wide area. Protect differential settlement of the
Anchor the structure against the lateral forces.



 Open strip foundation.

 Isolated footing.

 Combined footing.

 Strip footings or strap footings.

 Inverted “Tie” strip foundation.

 Under reamed pile foundation.

 Raft foundation.

 Undermining of safe support.
 Load transfer failures.
 Lateral movement.
 Unequal support.
 Drag down and heave.
 Design error.
 Construction error.
 Floating and water level changes.
 Vibration effects.
 Earth quake effects.

Undermining of safe support.
A careful study of the soil strata at the site of the proposed building along with the
adjacent existing structures is very important. Temporary and permanent supports to
the structure such as underpinning have to be installed to prevent the undermining.


Load transfer failures.
A rigid frame structure will tolerate foundation movements when the walls, floors
and partitions are rigidly connected by a frame, the system will adequately adjust itself to
differential foundation movement when the inter connecting rigidity fails, the load at the
point goes to the soil vertically through the support at the point


Lateral movement. Lateral movements are caused by either the elimination of existing

Unequal support.
Footings bearing on different soils with different and unequal soil-bearing resistances.
All the soil support deficiencies can be corrected by underpinning the weakened support.
Soil stabilization by cement or chemical injection or sub-surface enclosures-usually a
tight sheet pile. The dewatering may also be the

Drag down and heave.
When the footing is loaded the supporting soil reacts by yielding and compressing to
provide resistance. In plastic soils the new settlements are often accompanied by upward
movements and heave some distance away. Since the liquid in the soils cannot change
volume, every settlement must produce an equal-volume heave.


Design error.
Many foundations are designed with insufficient sub-surface
Construction error.
There are two common sources of these errors. 1)
Temporary protection measures.


2) Foundation work itself.


Floating and water level changes.
A change in water content will modify the dimensions and structure of the
supporting soil whether from flooding or from dewatering. Pumping from adjacent
construction excavations also affect the stability of the existing footing. Clays heaves from
over-saturation. Water level should be monitored.
Vibration effects.
The earth masses which are not fully consolidated will change volume when exposed to
vibration impulses. The sources of vibrations can be blasting, construction equipment (esp.
pile drivers), mechanical equipment in a completed building, traffic on rough pot-holed
pavements adjacent to the site.
Earth quake effects.
Foundations at the earth quake affected zones must be designed to tolerate the
expected shock by the Nature. The quakes of short duration have less severe effect on
the foundation than on the super structure.


The practice of foundation design has relied extensively on empiricism and relatively
simple analyses (such as the bearing capacity equation). This was needed because crucial
elements in a rigorous analysis of soil mechanics problems were missing until very
recently: computation power, rigorous methods for analyzing elasto-plastic boundary-
value problems and realistic constitutive models. Our discipline is in a state of transition.
The science of soil mechanics has developed considerably in the last 20-30 years.
The progress in the science is gradually finding its way into practice, which still
overwhelmingly relies on traditional Methods.
The evaluation of case histories using modern methods of analysis is a useful way
to show the usefulness of these methods. In this paper, we have used finite-element limit
analysis (FELA) and the finite element method (FEM) to reveal features of foundation
engineering problems that would not otherwise be detectable with simple methods. We
have done so without resorting to sophisticated constitutive models, relying instead on the
well-known Tresca yield surface for clay in all three case histories and linear elasticity in
the last of three case histories examined, but in more complex problems, certainly those
involving frictional soils, more realistic soil models would be required.