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Everything You Need to Know About Stem Walls

Foundation Repair

02/05/2024

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Although many homes rely on them for structural support, stem walls are not a familiar topic for many homeowners. The purpose of this article is to give you an understanding of what a stem wall is and explain why they are beneficial. Read on to gain a basic introductory knowledge of this common construction element.

What is a Stem Wall?

Stem walls are an important component of a crawl space foundation. These walls are responsible for connecting the home to the concrete footings. By forming this connection, the stem wall provides structural stability for the entire building.

Most stem walls extend just a few feet above the ground, which creates the crawl space area beneath your home. In most cases, a stem wall will consist of a combination of masonry, poured concrete, and rebar.

Stem walls are an important component of a crawl space foundation. These walls are responsible for connecting the home to the concrete footings.

How Are Stem Walls Constructed?

The construction process for a stem wall is not something most homeowners need to worry about. But with that said, understanding this process is crucial if you wish to have a full grasp of how your home’s foundation functions.

The process begins with excavation. During this stage, the construction crew will dig a trench around the perimeter of your foundation area. After the trench is complete, the team will create a poured concrete footing in the trench. This footing is responsible for providing most of the structural support for your home.

After creating the footing, the next step is to build the stem wall on top of the footing. This lifts your home off of the ground to allow for a useful crawl space.

Pros and Cons of Stem Walls

Now that you know what a stem wall is and how a builder would go about constructing one, it is time to learn some of the main advantages and disadvantages of this wall type. The sections below will help to explain the specific pros and cons of stem walls.

Benefits of Stem Walls

As we have mentioned before, stem walls are quite common in many home foundations. The list below provides a few of the top benefits that stem walls provide that make them so popular:

  • Structural support: By connecting your home to buried concrete footings, stem walls provide a considerable amount of structural support.
  • Storage space: Since stem walls lift your home off the ground, they create a crawl space area that can be useful for storage.
  • Utility access: The crawl space area that stem walls create makes it much easier to access utilities for repairs and replacements.
  • Flood protection: If a flood occurs, having a stem wall may help save your living space since it will be elevated a few feet off the ground and hopefully out of the way of any potential water damage.
  • Affordability: While all foundations cost a considerable amount of money, stem walls can be less expensive than alternative options like full basements.

Stem walls are an important component of a crawl space foundation. These walls are responsible for connecting the home to the concrete footings.

Clearly, stem walls have their place in construction. However, that does not mean that they have no downsides. On the contrary, the section to follow will explain some of the issues that can go wrong with stem walls.

A Few Stem Wall Downsides

While there are plenty of benefits to stem walls, there are some downsides, too. The list below will explain what some of the common problems with stem walls are:

  • Not the top option for cold regions: Since most stem walls don’t go deep enough into the earth to go below the frost line, they are often unable to resist damage from frost heaves.
  • No living space: Unlike full basements, stem wall crawl spaces are not large enough to serve as additional living space.

Although stem walls have downsides, they remain as viable as any other foundation type. As such, if you are trying to decide if a stem wall is right for you, you’ll need to weigh both the pros and cons while also considering getting guidance from an experienced professional.

Need More Foundation Help?

Learning about stem walls does not mean that you know everything it takes to keep one intact and functioning effectively. To do that, you’ll need to consult with a foundation professional in your area. Building a relationship with a foundation expert makes you better prepared to intervene if and when an issue arises with your stem wall.

If you live in the Eastern North Carolina region and you have questions about stem walls or any other component of your foundation, our team at Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair would love to hear from you. We have extensive experience with foundation and crawl space repair, and we are confident that we can guide you through any questions and concerns you may have.

At Regional Foundation & Crawl Space Repair, we are not only experts at repairing foundations, but we also provide waterproofing and concrete leveling. If you would like to learn more or take advantage of our free estimate, reach out to us today!