Choosing the Right Building Foundation

July 12, 2018   

Before diving into a new building project, it’s essential to know what type of foundation will best suit the building and the land on which it is built. Once the location for a structure has been chosen, assess the bearing capacity of the soil where the foundation will be placed. This will help project managers narrow down all the foundation possibilities to the safest and most effective options.

Every foundation, whether temporary or permanent, comes with pros and cons that should be weighed carefully. After all relevant considerations with regards to soil capacity, construction timeline and cost are made, business owners will be confident enough to make an informed decision about the ideal foundation for their building needs.

Temporary Options

Pre-Cast Concrete

A block strap securing a foundation

Although usually thought of as permanent, pre-cast concrete is actually a temporary foundation. Pre-cast concrete blocks are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased locally by the customer. Dropping the blocks into place is easy and usually only takes one day to complete. ClearSpan’s durable, steel block straps are recommended to secure the blocks together, which could add an extra day to installation.

When concrete blocks are no longer needed, simply disassemble the building and remove and/or relocate the blocks to their new destination. Pre-cast concrete blocks are a popular choice for buildings that house salt or other commodities, because it helps retain materials inside. Blocks also protect the building from getting bumped into by people and vehicles. ClearSpan recommends pre-cast concrete blocks for building of 65 feet and narrower. In some cases, these concrete blocks can be engineered on smaller structures.

Helical Anchors

Fabric structures can be constructed quickly with Helical Anchors

A highly popular choice with ClearSpan customers, helical anchors are one of the fastest, most economical foundation options available. Helical anchors are shaped like spirals and are drilled directly into the ground anywhere from 8 to 12 feet deep. Each leg of a truss building has its own helical anchor to create a sturdy hold in the ground.

ClearSpan’s Helical Anchoring System may be classified as temporary, but it is strong enough to remain permanent. The Helical Anchoring System requires no concrete and minimal excavation, which cuts down dramatically on expenses associated with foundation construction and site work. Helical anchors, which are exclusive to ClearSpan, are favored among moving jobsites.

Helical anchors are offered in-house and ClearSpan’s construction crew can complete installation in one to two days, depending on the building size. A geotechnical report on the soil that the anchors are going into must be supplied by the customer. A customer may buy helical anchors without engineering if their area allows it, but if rock is hit, the customer must find an alternative anchoring option.

Driven Tube Anchor Kits

Driven tube anchor kits are used in ClearSpan truss buildings that measure 65 feet wide and under. This unique system works like a tree’s roots, driving anchors in at varying angles to create a strong hold. Six feet, 1.66-inch OD (outside diameter) pipes secure plates to the ground and the building is then anchored on top.

Installation usually requires use of a jackhammer or post drivers, which can take an average of two to three days to complete. These temporary anchors can be self-installed by customers.

Shipping Containers

Shipping containers being used as a foundation

Buildings mounted on top of shipping containers generally require a box beam that connects the containers and provides a flat surface to mount the building onto. When it’s time to relocate, shipping containers can be moved to a new location and used again.

Customers find that shipping container foundations are easy to install and very effective at providing storage space and added height. Important to note is that if the foundation is engineered, the containers need to be secured to the ground, which can be done effectively with helical anchors. Non-engineered buildings do not require containers to be secured to the ground.


Permanent Options

Poured Concrete—Walls and/or Piers

Concrete walls support this fabric structure

Poured concrete walls and piers are permanent foundations and thusly, one of the longer installation options. The curing process could take between 20 to 30 days, depending on the time of year that the concrete is poured. It’s best to speak to a local concrete contractor to iron out timelines.

Concrete walls can be designed in a variety of useful styles, such as push walls, retainment walls or straight side walls for extra height. To avoid the need for drilling, customers can wet set their anchors during the pouring process. Wet setting is the act of sinking anchors into wet concrete as soon as it is poured, allowing the anchor to be adjusted as the concrete hardens.


Wood Posts

Wood posts providing some extra clearance

Popular in riding arenas, hay storage facilities and cattle housing, wood post foundations can be installed by customers in a couple of days. They are generally found in smaller structures, specifically, 65 feet in width and under.

Once the wood posts are in position, concrete is typically poured around them, which means there is a little wait time involved as part of the curing process. Although they cannot be engineered, wood posts are inexpensive and provide a decent amount of vertical side wall height.



An I-beam is a girder shaped like the letter “I.” I-beams require a pier poured into the ground with wet set anchors to hold them in place. Installation can take a few days, since the concrete must dry and set. I-beams are more rugged than wood posts, so they’re a great way to protect the building from potential damage. I-beams are available in-house and can be engineered. Currently, ClearSpan’s I-beam foundation is used as the foundation for the 50 feet wide BeefMaster Buildings.

Selecting the right foundation for a building, whether it involves building on top of an existing foundation or starting from scratch, can become a challenging task. Fortunately, ClearSpan’s wide array of temporary and permanent foundation options gives business owners plenty of flexibility. Moreover, ClearSpan staffs experienced professionals who can help recommend, install and oversee construction of foundations, for any industry, in any region.

Need a project-specific quote? Request a Quote today.