Construction 101: How the Different Types of Building Foundations Work

Constructing a foundation of a building is one of the most challenging tasks. Having the right balance of elements like strength and design is crucial when it comes to equally distributing the weight of the structure.

Like all the other architectural aspects, the shape, dimensions, and depth of a foundation may also vary from building to building. Primarily, there are two types of building foundations: shallow foundation and deep foundation. 

These two types of foundations even have further categories that are used according to the requirements of the construction projects. So, to help you develop a better understanding in this regard, in this post, we are going to explain to you the different types of foundations in building construction and how they work.

Different Types of Building Foundations and Their Uses

In the following paragraphs, you will learn more about the two main types of foundations and how they are used differently in construction projects.

  • Shallow Foundation
  • Deep Foundation

What are Shallow Foundations?

Shallow foundations are used on firm soil

As the name suggests, a shallow foundation is suitable for a depth of up to only 3 feet (1 metre). These types of foundations are used on firm soil. They are based on a set of structural footings made with a combination of concrete and steel rebar. 

Shallow foundations are also known as open foundations. They are easier and less expensive to construct than deep foundations. The three most commonly used open foundations have been listed as under:

  • Strip Footing
  • Individual Footing
  • Raft Foundation

Strip Footing

The name “strip footing” has been inspired by the linear structure with which this shallow foundation is made. It is constructed to equally spread the weight of the structure across the entire surface area. Owing to their unique shape and solid structural strength, strip footing foundations are pretty common to be used as foundations of load-bearing structures.

Individual Footing

Known as one of the most simple types of foundations used in building construction, the individual footing technique in shallow foundations is used when a load of a structure is born by separate columns. The entire weight of the structure is carefully calculated with the help of a safe bearing capacity (SBC) method, which depends on the strength of the soil. The load is then divided equally on each column.

Raft Foundation (Mat Foundation)

A raft foundation, which is also known as a mat foundation, is the type of shallow foundation, which is effectively used for building multiple basements or sub-levels in a building. Such types of foundations are best suited for sites with weak soil. With the help of these shallow foundations, the weight of the structure is distributed at a much larger surface area, adding to the strength of the building.

What are Deep Foundations?

What are Deep Foundations?
Piles are the most important structural elements in deep foundations

A deep foundation is either used at a construction site where the soil is weak or to help provide strength to extremely large structures. These types of foundations are specially built to transfer the load of the structure deep down the surface of the earth. They can go as deep as 60 – 200 feet (20 – 65 metres). 

All the different types of deep foundations are built with the help of piling. It is a very significant vertical structural element used to carry out construction activities below surface level. Ending bear piles and friction piles are the most commonly used deep foundations. So, let’s learn more about them

Ending Bear Piles

Ending bear piles are built in a way that they rest on a strong and solid surface. They are considered among the most effective ways of load transmission to support tall and heavy structures. Safely passing through the weak layers of the soil, the load is transferred to the solid base.

Friction Piles

A different mechanism of load transmission is used in the case of friction piles. The weight of the structure is transferred to the soil surrounding the pile throughout its entire height. This is how the load is cleverly distributed to enhance the structural strength of a building, no matter how tall it is.

Now that we have discussed everything you needed to know about the different types of building foundations and how they work, it’s time for us to wrap up. We hope this post has provided you with all the useful information on the subject. If you have any questions or feedback regarding this blog, drop us an email at We’d be glad to hear from you.

On a side note, you may also like reading our other blog posts related to construction. We have listed a few of them below for your convenience. Take a look:

For more informative construction and property updates, keep reading Zameen Blog, the most interesting lifestyle and best real estate blog in Pakistan. Like us on Facebook and subscribe to our email newsletter to stay in touch.

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