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Author Topic: power poles for pier foundation???  (Read 13812 times)

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Offline okie

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power poles for pier foundation???
« on: November 03, 2007, 05:53:15 PM »
Ok, Land is bought, building site cleared, and I am ready to start on my foundation. I was going to go with 16''dia concrete piers every 8' but called on concrete and WOW $130 a yard. I have LOTS and LOTS of stone and thought of doing a stone and mortar but dont really like that Idea, I am however going to rock up between my piers. So my question is; Is it allright to use 3 year old power poles that are 24 - 36" in diameter for foundation piers? The last time I bought concrete it was 56 dollars a yard and that is what I had figgured on and at more than double the cost it is time to research my options. There is a industrial park nearby and they put in a new power substation and replaced all 50 of the posts with steel and I got permission to take 15, I think I will only need 3 as they are 50-60' poles. Any input is appreciated, as well as any alternatives that might be possible.
Thanks
Morgan.
Striving to create a self sustaining homestead and lifestyle for my family and myself.

Offline Deadwood

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2007, 06:30:56 PM »
I'll just be honest with you...

Here in New England we have a whole slew of old timber frame houses and even more that USED to be here. I think their main cause of demise was...

A. Deterioration of the roof structure
B. Stone foundations (or other shoddy foundation) that shifted the bent of the frame out of alignment and ultimately brought the building down.
C. Fire

My friend, you are one lucky man to be building a timber frame house to begin with. They are the Cadillacs of homes when it comes to longevity, if you can tell me one good reason why you would want to build a building that could conceivably last 300 years on a foundation that would last 40 years at most, with out saying "to save money", I am all ears.

I am not trying to belittle you here, just trying to get you to look at your foundation in another light. Please lower your budget by using lower cost carpet then Berber, or use  pine for a baseboard instead of oak, or whatever little things you can change on down the road, but please don't try to skimp out on the foundation materials. Concrete is expensive, but your foundation is not the place to try to cut costs. (In my opinion of course).

Offline Furby

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2007, 09:11:43 PM »
Some reading for you from else where in this board:
http://www.forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=22432.0

Offline slipshod

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2007, 09:43:10 PM »
I live in New York and have a barn I built on my flat farm to dry lumber in(go figure) that is built with a power pole frame. I dug the holes with my back hoe and went down over five feet, well below the frost line. The building is the place I would go if we ever got hurricanes here. The biggest problem is the taper of the pole. Keep the outside edge plumb if you want a straight building. As soon as I figure out this picture thing I will post a few of my barns.

This barn sits on the bedrock and will not sink, raise up, or lean. The poles will last next to forever. Not sure what they treat them with but they sure don't rot !

Offline DanG

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2007, 09:48:12 PM »
Deadwood has given you some excellent advice, Okie.  The ONE place you do not want to skimp is in the foundation.  I will, and have used poles for the foundation of decks on mobile homes, and such as that, but I don't expect them to last for 40+ years.  On a home, concrete, and lots of it, is the only way to go.  If you gotta cut corners to fit the budget, do it on things that can be replaced easily.  You can spend hundreds on a door knob, but you can get one for six bucks, too.  When it give's it up, you should be able to replace it with a better one out of your pocket change.  Same goes for light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc.  Put your up-front money into the things that really need to last!
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Offline okie

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2007, 08:30:56 PM »
Thanks Folks, I reckon I'll just bite the bullet and pour concrete for my piers.
Striving to create a self sustaining homestead and lifestyle for my family and myself.

Offline ely

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2007, 08:41:15 AM »
not sure where in okla you live but here in the se part the termites will still attack the power poles at times. i would go with the concrete also.

Offline Deadwood

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2007, 07:17:55 PM »
Probably way off base here but would a rubble filled trench and grade beam foundation reduce your concrete costs versus that of concrete piers? Just something to consider. I always thought that was a low tech way of building a solid foundation.

Offline Thehardway

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2007, 07:57:43 AM »
Okie,

A couple questions.

1. What kind of structure is going on top of the foundation, log, timberframe, cordwood etc.?
2. What is the frost depth in your area?
3. What do local codes require?
4. What type of soil are you building on?

These are all things you need to know before you start sinking piers.

I am not sure piers would be my first choice for foundation but then again I don't know exactly what you are trying to acheive.  If you build on piers your floor will need to be very well insulated which will cost you more than a shallow, frost protected footer with a course or two of block or stone.

We need more details!
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Offline okie

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2007, 01:08:07 AM »
To asnwer your questions The hardway.
1)  I am building a post and beam with log infill.
2)  The frost depth is 18"
3)  No county codes, only city codes, If I lived in the city it would be a slab or block foundation.
4)  ROCKY soil, lots and lots of rock, mostly sand stone but about 10' down is solid limestone bedrock. I am building on a hilltop, with a limestone bluff about 20 yards south of the building site.
The amount of rock I have had me turned toward a continuous wall stone foundation around the perimeter and for the girders, but I just am unsure how well that will hold up(that is why I was asking foundation questions). I know there are many old houses around here that utilize a stone foundation but I have read horror stories on the web about stone foundations that spooked me although I cant really see a huge difference between a stone foundation and a cinder block foundation. I have some really huge stone but had intentions of using what I have the most of and that is flat slabs of sandstone 4-6" thick and all sizes of slabs, I was thinking of scoring and breaking the slabs to semi consistant dimensions and laying it up like brick, not standing it on its narrow end like some I have seen. Would this be suitable considering the weight that it will be supporting? I have little money, and will be building as I go, but I have more than plenty of logs and time and energy so there is no doubt in my mind that this is an accomplishable task, I just dont want the foundation to fail 10 years down the line and all my labor and hopes come crashing down. I am doing this because I have a beef with mortgage companies charging $200,000 for a $80,000 home, and also because I know that it can be done because after all people for centuries have met their own housing needs with their own labor, I am not sure when the majority of people decided that they couldnt do for themselves and have to pay someone else to do it for them.
   Ely, I live in middle east OK.  Deadwood, I am ignorant to that type of foundation, not sure if it will work for me but I will try and research it as an option.

I want to thank all who have responded to me on this, you have no Idea how much yalls input helps.
Striving to create a self sustaining homestead and lifestyle for my family and myself.

Offline stonebroke

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2007, 02:23:11 AM »
I have a neighbor who built on power poles for piers. About twenty years ago, House has not fallen down yet. He used very big poles.  He enclosed the crawlspace and this keeps them dry. I think that would be key for longevity. Of course we do not have termites up  here.

Stonebroke

Offline witterbound

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #11 on: November 08, 2007, 09:50:23 AM »
You know, the foundation has always been a big issue for me when thinking about building a timberframe cabin.  I think itís because it is not something that I can do myself.  Basic electric, simple plumbing, cutting the frame, etc, all seem doable by myself or with a little help from a few uneducated willing friends.  But I donít know how to operate a backhoe to dig a big hole or even big postholes, and if I want a poured foundation I need more people (who know what theyíre doing) to pour and finish a lot of concrete. I dug a 30-foot ditch with my pick and shovel for a waste line, and it took me all weekend.  (This is in NW Arkansas, which must be northeast of you, and there are a lot of rocks.)   It seems to me like a lot of folks building smaller homes and cabins often use concrete piers.  But that seems like it creates a lot of other worries and issues, like insulating the floor and how to close in around the bottom to keep critters out so that the ďcurtainsĒ donít get eaten up by termites.  And itís also one of the first places it seems you run into real money in a project.  Itís always made me take a harder look at how much the whole project is going to cost, because if the foundation is going to cost $X, wow, this isnít going to be doable as cheaply as I thought, I think.   Good luck.  Keep us posted.

Offline scsmith42

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #12 on: November 08, 2007, 10:00:57 AM »
Okie - I have an spare copy of Charles McRaven's book "Stonework - Techniques and Projects".  It may prove beneficial to you in considering building with your local material (inexpensive but labor intensive).

It's not timberframe specific, but it does have a lot of great info.  If you send me your address in a PM, I'll be glad to mail it to you. 

Scott
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Offline anvil

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2007, 12:02:58 PM »
witterbound,,

Its always a trade off,, time vs money.  If ya ain't got money,, time is your friend.. If you don't have either,, then you have problems. 

If you did a 30' hand dug trench in a weekend,, what are the dimensions of your building?  Portland is relatively inexpensive and sounds like you have lots of rock... all things considered,, rebar is inexpensive as well...

If code is not a problem,, then dig well below frostline,and build your full foundation with rock,portland and sand. 

If you go at least 2' deep, 2'wide on good sand,gravel or rock, you cannot lose.  and if you are a foot or so above grade, it will just look beautiful...

I am sending some pics of my shop to Thehardway to be published here,,and you can see what I have done.

So I can say from experience,,its time consuming,physical,inexpensive,and downright beautiful when done...

Lol,, the only way,, is the hardway...

anvil

Offline witterbound

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2007, 02:15:33 PM »
Anvil, you're absolutely right -- it often boils down to time vs. money.  I don't want to spend the money, but I'm unfortunately often not a patient type.  Can't wait to see your pictures.  Thanks.

Offline Thehardway

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2007, 05:16:55 PM »
Okie,

I understand what you are saying about the money part.  I share your exact sentiments.  I have learned in building my house that sometimes you can save money by spending a little extra at the right time.  For instance:  my building site is 1.5 hrs from my current home.  If it takes me a week to dig something by hand that could be done in a day by a machine, the gas and mileage on the car pays for the machine rental and I gain a week on my building schedule.

Tools are never a waste of money if they allow you to do something yourself that you would have to pay someone else to do.   A mini excavator is an exteremly handy machine.  You could easily dig a trench for your footer/foundation in a few hours time.  You can probably rent one for under $200 a day. Pour 6" of concrete in the trench with 4 # 4 bars. 2- 2" up form the bottom 2 -2" down from the top  well below frost line and a good 18" wide.  it does not need to be perfectly flat or finished real well.  Leave the top a little rough.  This will give you good adhesion for your mortar. Then you can begin to lay a rock and mortar foundation.  Put a little extra rebar at your post bearing points.  Make sure your mortar is tempered properly and your stone is clean and hydrated. Always protect your mortar and fresh work form the sun or from freezing until it is cured.  Make sure your stonecourses overlap forming some sort of bond. If you are working in the sun cover it with some damp burlap or shade it with some boards.  If you do this I would be surprised if your foundation is not standing there 600 years from now.  Sandstone is nice to work with and can be beautiful.  Its downfall is that some types are too soft to bond well and easily erode.  If it is nice hard sandstone you've got it made.

The rocky soil should drain well and bear weight well.  I would not be afraid to use the posts if I knew there were no termites going to work on them and they were kept sheltered and dry but then again I agree this is probably not the best place to cut costs.  If your frost is only 18" deep then you will probably at some point encounter termites. 

I have sawn some power poles into dimension lumber for outdoor use with good results.  Maybe you could do this and use them for sill plates on top of a stone foundation?
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Offline okie

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2007, 05:35:22 PM »
Thank you for your response Thehardway. I reckon I am probably gonna use the stone I got now, I am leaning hard that way anyway. I had'nt thought of sawing the poles for sill plates, I like that idea. Would it be all right to use them given what they are treated with? They would also be great to use for top plates because of their length as they would eliminate several scarf joints. I chose this method of building over traditional log building methods because of the trees I have on hand and long logs to produce a continuous beam for sill and top plates are nonexistant in my neck of the woods. If using a few of those poles arent too harmfull I would like to use them for sill, girder beam, top plate, ridge beam, and tie beams.

Thank you all again for all the replies.
Striving to create a self sustaining homestead and lifestyle for my family and myself.

Online Don P

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #17 on: November 08, 2007, 07:25:17 PM »
No, you cannot have creosoted wood inside of the building, only outside of the "envelope", you don't want to live with that stuff.

I'm no stone mason so this is what I did here. The wall is about 2' thick. I made a form inside to form the back smooth. Then I mixed a wheelbarrow of concrete and one of mortar. I laid the stone on the front in mortar a layer at a time and filled back to the form with rocks and concrete in more of a pour than a stone masonry job. The inside looks like a poured crawlspace wall.



This is another one under our firewood shed.
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Offline okie

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2007, 12:17:48 AM »
Don, that looks good.  Is what you did similar to what is called slipform masonry?  I had a book that mentioned it. I can't remember the name of the book but it said if you wanted the rocks (if they were at least 5" thick) to stand on end to build a form 2' tall and stack the stone against the outside face and pour cement behind the stone working the mud between the stone joints. The book also said that the stone could be laid like brick by laying the stones flat inside the form one course at a time and marking all stone joints on the top of the form, then pouring approx 1" of mortar on top and laying the next course of stone making sure to cover the previous course's joints. The book was a log building book and only touched briefly on this but it is something that I had considered. The book did say that the mortar would look sloppy when the forms are removed but can be cleaned up in a day or less with a small chipping hammer and wire brush.
Striving to create a self sustaining homestead and lifestyle for my family and myself.

Offline Deadwood

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Re: power poles for pier foundation???
« Reply #19 on: November 09, 2007, 06:09:12 AM »
Okie I know just what you are saying and I will tell you right now, no matter what you use for a foundation I will be impressed. You just sound a lot like me. When I started building my place I went to the bank for money and since I was 18 and had no credit, they gave me a big NO.

I am a bit stubborn so I said fine and started building my house the hard way. Cut the trees, sawed the logs into boards and forged ahead. It was hard work and for the first 10 years I had no money to speak of. Now I am 33 years old and can tell you this...no amount of money is worth the pride you will feel in building your own place... just looking up and knowing you pounded every nail in the place makes the hard work pay for itself.

As for the foundation on your place, I was hesitant to mention using the native rock. Here in Maine tons of houses still stand on old rock foundations, but many of them have also caved in because of them too. Where you live, the lack of frost (the frostline is 48 inches here) might make it a viable option. I am no stone mason but if you do chose to use the native rock, maybe if you spent a bit of money on some adjustable lally-columns you could have enough adjustability to account for any settling that occurs. Based on my experience here in Maine, that is the biggest issue with rock foundations. If you had a way to adjust your home to level should settling occur, native rock might just give your home a lifespan of 300 years and a foundation to match.



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