One of my clients was looking to buy a 20 year old home which was built with a wood foundation.  He sent me the builder’s information on how the house was actually built along with supporting photographs and a product manual from the manufacturer for my review and opinion.  This is the response to my review:


I FORWARDED YOUR COMMENTS TO MY BROTHER [builder of luxury homes in Vancouver]. HIS RESPONSE:

“What an incredible detailed analysis!! He really knows his stuff
and has taken the time to really go through it.

So my thoughts are,

I would never want to invest  money in this house after reading the info you sent and Jim’s insight on the matter. Jim’s mention that he has seen pressure treated wood fail is one I can verify, it is after all wood.

My next thought was about drain tile and the look of the dirt. Jim’s right about the gravel. We always put way more than necessary or code knowing that done properly and having lots of gravel and compacting ensures good drainage. The fact that plywood is covered by poly, caulked at joints etc…. which is a terrible idea versus reinforced concrete with a sprayed on weather proofing plus a layer of foundation membrane that allows for drainage, done properly and drain tile maintained would last indefinitely.

The other point Jim made about the walls being able to withstand the lateral forces from the back fill is also of great importance. If the wood ever starts to degrade and rot,
big problems. Even without the wood rotting over time I wouldn’t trust it.

I can’t understand why if you have gone to the trouble (the right trouble) of placing concrete footings, it would have been so easy to build reinforced concrete walls!  If cost was the factor it would make me suspicious about other areas to save cost.  As Jim noted, no insulation under the slab = wrong and cheap.

Interesting about the 3/4 t&g floor sheathing. Other contractors, I work with always use it when possible. 5/8’s is ok if is not OSB ( chipboard) but it’s still not 3/4.  I liked how Jim uses this as a barometer for other work.

As Jim said about being suspicious, I’m exactly the same. Right or wrong you may never know.

All in all, I would never buy a house built in this manner.

I’m sure it’s a bit disappointing but it’s the right call.”


A. S.