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Foundation Theory: To touch, or not to touch?
August 7, 2012 7:32 PM   Subscribe

ADA Residential Design Filter - Exterior Hardscape - The Sheltered Walkway. Can it touch the foundation, or not?

I'll keep it as short as possible. House built in 1955 with poured basement floors and solid cement block foundation walls which are exposed at least four feet and in some places eight feet above the existing grade, which will not fundamentally change. No wood or siding materials anywhere in or near those exposed areas. Basement is dry - foundation was done right - no/little evidence of shifting or settling and no attempt to make or disguise repairs. The inspector was giddy about it. The floor drains work, and are clear all the way down the sewer lines to the city lines.

Existing roof is being replaced with steel roofing system for fire insurance purposes and to extend the eaves 36" out from the existing wall line (no/little eaves now.) These will be guttered and the runoff directed to a cistern away from the house. I understand that the new steel system will weigh one-third to one-half as much as the existing roof, and shouldn't affect the foundation load in any negative way.

I would like to run hardscape right up to the foundation, forming a sheltered pathway under the eaves to the accessible entrances, I understand that it should slope away from the foundation, and ideally be semi-permeable. We are not proposing a solid concrete slab - more like interlocking pavers laid over sand and gravel.

My friend the contractor, who has been at this since the seventies, will have no part of it. He insists that it will be at least six inches away, and prefers twelve.

My friend the architect designed it to touch the foundation, and I would assume he and his engineers know what they are doing. Planning, approval and permits were issued based on his designs.

Google searches are inconclusive - about equally divided between "must not touch" and "of course it can touch."

Can someone patiently explain to me the logic of having six-twelve inches of dirt between the pavers and the foundation? There will be no foundation plantings.

The contractor and his employees need the work, and while he can be contrary, he's usually right more often than not. I can't imagine him just making it up out of whole cloth for no reason. Is this a case of too set in his ways, or is he "saving me from a big mistake?"

tl;dr - So, give me some ammo here, hive mind. Logic tells me to tell the contractor that he either does it the way it was drawn, or he's off the job. Or, should I have the architect play hard ball on him, i.e., if it's not done to spec, he's red-tagging the permit? Or, should I listen to what the contractor suggests?

Note: architect is LTF, contractor is LTF (and BFF's dad), beneficiary of updates is my mom. Emotional involvement level:117/100. Rational decision-making level: 0.3/100.
posted by halfbuckaroo to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
 
ADA Residential Design Filter

I don't see what the ADA has to do with this? ADA generally doesn't apply to single-family residences.

Can someone patiently explain to me the logic of having six-twelve inches of dirt between the pavers and the foundation? There will be no foundation plantings.

Have you asked the contractor why he doesn't want to install the pavers that close to the foundation wall? Did he give a reason? The reasons I can think of generally don't apply in your situation if your foundation walls are extending up above grade. Maybe he's worried about building movement buckling the pavers? Without knowing the reason the contractor is objecting, all anybody can do is speculate.
posted by LionIndex at 7:48 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


One frequently sees pathways and patios made out of poured concrete, running up to the foundation (often but not always with a soft expansion/compression joint). I've done the same and had it approved by the building inspectors. I can't think of any reason why keeping a 1/2" sand- or pea gravel-filled gap between your pavers and the foundation wouldn't work perfectly. As said above, see if you can understand your contractor's concern; conceivably there is something unusual about your house construction that we don't know about.
posted by Forktine at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2012


I currently live in a 110 year old victorian brick house with concrete poured all the way around touching the foundation. It is conditions almost identical to yours and no drainage problems in very rainy oregon. No idea why this is bad. I would actually say a poured concrete walkway is better than permeable for getting the runoff away from the foundation. BTW I am a licensed Professional Engineer and can see no reason why this would be bad, doesn't mean your contractor doesn't though, although I would need some convincing as to why or at least photos...
posted by bartonlong at 9:03 PM on August 7, 2012


Logic tells me to tell the contractor that he either does it the way it was drawn, or he's off the job. Or, should I have the architect play hard ball on him, i.e., if it's not done to spec, he's red-tagging the permit?

This is getting extreme. You want the walkway up to the foundation wall because it'll be about 3' wide, which is how far out you're extending the eaves from the house, so the walkway will be sheltered, correct? It sounds like your eaves are going to be at least 12' above the walkway, so depending on wind direction, 6" isn't going to make a whole lot of difference in actually keeping the walkway dry. Rain rarely falls straight down.

Planning, approval and permits were issued based on his designs.

I have a hard time believing that the building department will give a hoot about this. I've worked in residential architecture for years and I have a hard time believing that your architect will really care that much about this.

Are your architect and contractor talking to each other? Let them work out a solution that works for both of them and present it to you. Butt out unless all the do is butt heads and can't work together. If they can't work together, that's a different issue, because if the paver location is your biggest problem during the course of the project you're incredibly lucky.
posted by LionIndex at 9:25 PM on August 7, 2012


(Side note: if you are designing a pathway to be used by someone with mobility problems, you might think about whether pavers are your best bet. I have often seen pavers buckle, lump, etc, to create an uneven surface which is hard for unsteady walkers and bumpy for wheelchairs. I don't know if that's just the nature of the beast or if that can be avoided by installing them a certain way, but possibly worth considering.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:14 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thank you for your answers. I left everybody voice mails last night, and started getting calls back at 0530 this morning.

George the contractor didn't want to run the plate compactor for the aggregate and the sand that close to the foundation. As was pointed out, it's in near-perfect condition, and he didn't want to cause any cracking or shifting on a long section of the wall. Why he couldn't just say that on Monday morning...

My mom does have mobility issues, hence the ADA reference; she uses a brace and a cane on her left leg, which would put her right in the trench as she uses the walkway. She's 83, and her vision is going, too. To be fair LionIndex, she's at a point in her life where she doesn't leave the house if the weatherman even hints that it's going to rain. I was hoping that the new eaves and gutters would help keep the walkways debris-free, not dry.

Moe the architect says we'll switch to forms and poured concrete with an expansion joint at the foundation. This will also save almost $1800 in material costs for the aggregate, sand and pavers, never mind the labor. No charge for the new detail drawings; it was an option in the original approval package.

If I were the suspicious type, I would say that my mom and two surrogate dads ganged up on me just to see if my head would explode, because this resolution was just a little too smooth, you know? Last night I was ready to tell all three of them to get off my damned lawn.

I promise progress pictures as it gets underway. The roofers start on Monday and tell me they need two days...
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:52 AM on August 8, 2012


My mom does have mobility issues, hence the ADA reference;

OK. I thought that might be the case, in which case LobsterMitten is correct - pavers will, at some point, have settling issues and not be a great surface. To avoid that, you'd have to basically pour a concrete tray for the pavers and sand bed to sit in.
posted by LionIndex at 6:40 AM on August 8, 2012


Have your architect check ada for walkway width - will 36" work if she needs a walker or a motorized scooter? A wheelchair?
posted by Forktine at 7:48 AM on August 8, 2012


48" is the code width for exterior walkways and any ramp in California, but CA requirements are generally a bit more strict than ADA. If there's any significant slope to the walk, a handrail would also be good. I don't remember off the top of my head what the code maximum slope of ramp without a handrail is, but I think it's 1:20, where you would gain a foot of elevation for every 20' in length.
posted by LionIndex at 10:15 AM on August 8, 2012


I don't remember off the top of my head what the code maximum slope of ramp without a handrail is, but I think it's 1:20, where you would gain a foot of elevation for every 20' in length.

More or less- in California, all ramps must have hand rails on both sides, and anything at a 5% slope or less is not considered a ramp.

Have your architect check ada for walkway width - will 36" work if she needs a walker or a motorized scooter? A wheelchair?

36 inches is wide enough for a wheelchair.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:32 PM on August 8, 2012


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