Foundations are one of the areas that create the most uncertainty in a build. No one wants to own the home or cottage that has the wrong foundation. We’ve all heard the horror stories of homes shifting, settling and moving as a result of improper foundations.

There are so many options and variables for homes and cottages when it comes to foundations. Manitoba has varying ground conditions across the province, as well as some of the largest weather swings in the world. In our province we need to account for things such as 5 foot deep frost, that other areas simply don’t need to take into account.

Often people have a set belief that only one type of foundation is quality and everything else is a sub-standard. It’s common to hear things like “I only want to build my house on piles.” (Piles refer to holes drilled into the ground, generally 20-25 feet deep and 16” diameter that are then filled with concrete. This acts as the support for the home’s foundation to sit on)

Piles are a great idea if the ground you’re building on is suited for piles, if the soil conditions aren’t suited for piles, then they are not the right answer.  

The important thing to remember is: not all land is created equal when it comes to foundations.

Soil Conditions

Some ground is very sandy with large boulders and would make it impossible to drill piles. Sandy soils can also cave in while drilling and don’t have the same friction bearing that solid clay will.

This type of ground may be better suited to a footing rather than piles.

In soil conditions that are consistent clay (a.k.a. Manitoba gumbo), concrete piles drilled and poured in place are an excellent choice and will provide a solid foundation for generations to come.

In questionable ground conditions, such as riverfront property, swampy areas, or areas known for inconsistent ground conditions, a geotechnical survey may be necessary to evaluate the soil conditions for your foundation.

If there are any doubts about the soil conditions, we not only recommend a geotechnical survey, we insist upon one. Avoiding a Geotech survey to save money when ground conditions are questionable is never a shortcut worth taking.


A footing with a concrete wall poured on top is one of the most common types of foundation. Footings are usually 30-36 inches wide and 10-12 inches thick, made of concrete.. The concrete basement wall is then formed and poured on top.

A footing acts like a snowshoe on the mud. It distributes the weight of the home over a larger surface area for proper support. In certain ground conditions, a footing can be a fantastic option and provide a foundation that will last lifetimes.

Footing before it's poured

Footing before it’s poured

Driven Piles

Timber driven piles or concrete driven piles are often the result of bad news from a geotechnical survey. Silty ground conditions, or underground water seeps, can result in the need for timber-driven piles.

While these types of piles increase the cost of your foundation, the good news is that your dream home will still be built on a solid foundation that will last for generations.

Inside of a foundation wall on piles

Inside of a foundation wall on piles

Screw Piles

Screw piles are increasing in popularity. Recent technology developments have allowed screw piles to last much longer than was previously possible.

Screw piles are often used on projects where a low environmental impact is important, because they don’t require digging or excavation.

They can also be a lower cost alternative to timber drive piles in the right conditions. Lakefront with a high water table is a good example of a situation where this would work exceptionally well.

Foundations on Bedrock

In many cottage locations, we come across building lots that are on solid rock, or the solid rock is just below the surface. In Manitoba, this is usually granite. In this case, we would clean off the mud down to the rock and pin the concrete foundation wall right to the granite.

Foundations on solid rock will definitely be a bit more expensive than a standard basement, because of the labour involved, but building on solid rock is tough to beat.

manitoba basement foundation

In Conclusion

When it comes to foundations there are many different types. There is no one size fits all solution. Each lot and soil conditions must be carefully evaluated and matched to the right type of foundation to ensure a long lasting solid structure.

No matter what foundation you use for your dream home, Pine Creek Homes can build it for you and ensure you have the information and reassurance you need along the way.

Looking for more about building your own dream home? Check out these articles:

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