Latest Discussions : Basement & Foundation


04:04AM | 09/16/04
Member Since: 09/13/04
1 lifetime posts
I'm considering using a permanent wood foundation for a new house. Anybody have any first hand knowledge about these. How the stand the test of time? Water-proof? Thanks


04:04PM | 09/17/04
Member Since: 01/28/03
693 lifetime posts
I don't know why anyone in their right mind would seriously consider a permanent wood foundation.

What you rely on for the permanence of your entire house's stability is the ground contact treatment of the lumber.

That is a really huge leap of faith considering that termite and other insect infestations are documented to eat right thru even ground contact treated lumber.

It happens all the time.

I would consider nothing but a time proven masonry based foundation for any home.

Not even for 10x less the cost....


03:26PM | 02/13/07
Member Since: 02/12/07
1 lifetime posts
Yes I understand what you have saud , But here is the real story.

Permanent Wood Foundations (PWF) are very easy to build. As simple as they might be, too many builders make too many errors. This in not necessarily their fault. Using Guide Manuals as Design Manuals is one of the reasons. These manuals are not complete and only apply to a very limited kind of building configuration.

Since construction of PWF's began in the early 1970's, it was purposely made to appear very simple in order to get quick acceptance by the home construction public. In reality, the promoters of PWF's were half right. The PWF is easy and simple to build, but not without a properly designed plan from which to build. This is true no matter what we build. It is the properly designed plan that makes it easy and simple. Otherwise, we are guessing, and the foundation of a building is no place to guess.

Without a properly designed plan, a builder might not use the correct nailing patterns or nail diameters to support the loads that exist at various connections of the wood foundation. This may lead to failure that could be major problem and expensive to repair. Failures do not always immediately appear. Sometimes they show up during backfill or not until a few years later. Nail deficiencies are just one problem. There are many variables that affect the final outcome of the design and ultimately the construction.

Attempts to simplify the design were made by publishing manuals with tables, diagrams, wall sections, and other details. While these attempts were admirable, they could only cover some of the more simple situations, and then not all the time due to the many variable that affect the final outcome. None of these manuals can be used exclusively as a design manual for wood foundations. At best, they are good guides to construction to give the builder an idea of what the wood foundation is all about.

The manuals have led to complacency by builders and building inspectors as well as owners. Many mistakes are being made every day because of the complacency. Making the assumption that wood foundation can be designed using these manuals is the mistake. The lack of knowledge on the part of engineers, architects, and designers of how to properly design wood foundations. When more people understand why PWF's need proper designs, and there are more competent designers; there will be fewer problems with foundations and PWF's will be better recognized as the best answer to dry and comfortable basements at lower costs.

It is the best choice.

Permanent Wood

Foundation Designer

Roscoe J. Clark

There More!


Permanent Wood Foundation System Acceptances

The Permanent Wood Foundation System is accepted by the following major regulatory bodies and underwriting agencies, as well as by a growing number of states and local building codes and lending agencies. Note: The system is custom design by

Model Building Codes

National Building Code 1996 edition. Building Officials and Code

Administrators International, Inc. (BOCA)

Uniform Building Code 1997 edition. International Conference of Building

Officials (ICBO)

One and Two-Family Dwelling Code 1995 edition. Council of American

Building Officials (CABO)

Standard Building Code 1994 and 1997 editions. Southern Building Code

Congress International Inc. (SBCCI)

Federal Agencies

Verex Assurance, Inc.

Farmers Home Administration (FmHA)

Veterans Administration (VA)

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)

United States League of Savings Associations

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)

Lending & Mortgage Insurance Institutions

Verex Assurance, Inc.

Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation (MGIC)

Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC)

Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA)

United States League of Savings Associations

Government National Mortgage Association (GNMA)

Warranty & Fire Insurance Institutions

Insurance Services Office (ISO)

Home Owners Warranty Corporation (HOW)

The History

In the 1960's, the idea of foundations made of wood for light frame buildings seemed a bit farfetched. We were not used to thinking of wood products exposed to the weather as having a useful enough service life to be used as foundation material where a long life expectancy is prerequisite. However, there are many examples of wood all around us that are used for structural purposes that have lasted over 100 years. Wood piles have been used for over a century to support skyscrapers and bridges, marine pilings for piers and docks, railroad ties and bridge timbers; and in colonial times virgin timbers were used as the foundations for homes, churches and other structures. The use of wood for wood foundations is a good proven idea whose time has come. In 1937 a research study was begun, initiated by the Forest Products Laboratory, to explore the utility of a wood foundation for a house. A creosote-treated timber foundation was built in Madison, Wisconsin. (Creosote in not an acceptable preservative for residential uses today, but back then, that was the most used preservative with an excellent track record). This building has given good service to date and is still being used as an office structure. Approximately 15 years after it was built it was moved, foundation and all, to its present site. The move presented an excellent opportunity to observe the condition of the treated wood foundation after a period of time in actual use. No degrading because of decay or insect attack of the treated wood was noted. The foundation performed as expected and still is. In Canada in 1961, the National Home Builders Association, in cooperation with the Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, built a crawl space type wood foundation, designated the Mark III; and in 1964 built a full basement wood foundation, designated the Mark IV. Both houses were built at the R.C.A.F. Station, Rockcliffe, Ottawa, Ontario. Both wood foundation walls were built with 2 x 4 studs with an outside skin of ½" T&G plywood. The wood in the Mark III foundation was pressure treated with 8 lbs. / cu. ft. with creosote, and the Mark IV with pentachlorophenol. The Mark III walls are on a footing of light concrete; and the Mark IV walls rest on a 2 x 8 footing which in turn rests directly of the bearing soil. The Mark IV has an untreated wood floor made of 2 x 8 floor joists nailed to studs and resting on a center bearing pony wall. These foundations are performing well and became the basis for the Permanent Wood Foundation System as we know it today. In 1965 the American Wood Preservers Institute, the National Forest Products Association (now the American Forest & Paper Association), and the Marketing and Economic Division of the United States Forest Service approached the National Association of Home Builders Research Foundation to do a feasibility study on the wood foundation concept. After extensive research and development, the All Weather Wood Foundation emerged. It is now known under a new name: The Permanent Wood Foundation System. Since 1969 specially treated wood (lumber and plywood) has been used commercially in the United States for wood foundations in light frame buildings such as homes, office buildings, churches, shopping centers, apartment buildings, and condominiums. That year, three houses were built in Lexington Park, Maryland by builder Jack Clifford. The foundation components were pre-manufactured by Kingsbury Homes, Division of Boise-Cascade. A block foundation was also constructed on a nearby site, using the same tradesmen, for comparison purposes. The idea was that if a true cost comparison was to made, the same tradesmen would have to be used. At the outset, one of the many advantages of the PWFS became apparent. The block foundation had been scheduled to be built first, but in March 1969 the site was too wet and muddy. Under these conditions it was easier to move lumber and plywood than to move blocks and concrete, so the PWF's were built first. It was also learned that rain did not stop work on the PWF's, but did cause some delays in completing the block foundation. In the same year Hurricane Camille drenched the area with 12" of rain in 24 hours. All three PWF's remained dry while the block basement and many other conventional basements in the area leaked or were flooded. The National Association of Home Builders Research Foundation continues to monitor these original PWF's houses for horizontal and vertical movement, leakage and humidity levels, and any evidence of decay or insect attack. To date no problems have been found in these original wood foundations. In 1971 the first PWF was built in Ohio for the Columbus Parade of Homes at Reynoldsburg, Ohio. The house was a tri-level and was built by Ernest G. Fritschie Company. At the same time Fritschie built a conventional house with a block foundation. It began 3 ½ days before the PWF, but both foundations were completed the same afternoon. If both had started at the same time, by the time the block foundation had been completed, the PWF house could have been completely framed. In 1973 the first house in Michigan was built with a PWF in Leroy Township, Calhoun County by Brooks Realty. This was a ranch "double-wide" pre-manufactured home which was craned onto the PWF. This house was the only one in the subdivision with a full basement. It was located between a lake and a swamp with a very high water table. It had a 7' backfill. This home has been occupied since 1973 and has never had moisture problems even though it was originally built about 18" below the water table. The lower level basement area is used as a dry comfortable living space. In this case it doubled the livable portion of the home without adding to its cost. With its adopted aggregate drainage system, high water tables and other horrible site conditions need not be a deterrent to the successful installation of a PWF. 1980 Roscoe Clark of PWF, Inc. Flint, MI started designing foundations for builders and home owners for a low cost fee. This custom design service made the wood foundation easy to install.. Now you can have your next wood foundation custom designed and get training on how to install it. (PWF, Inc. can be contacted for more design information.) Hundreds of thousands of wood foundations have been built in The United States, and when Canada is included, they number more than a million. Advantages - The advantages of the PWF are numerous. Some of them are listed as follows: A. Dry & Comfortable - PWF's create a completely dry comfortable living space below finished grade with no musty odors or smells. The basement is just like any room in the home above grade. B. More Area in Basement - The walls are generally thinner with existing stud spaces ready for insulation, and with no need to add furring and losing area in the basement. Sometimes the area saved, if it could be concentrated in one spot would equal the size of a bathroom or even an extra small bedroom. C. Warmer & More Energy Efficient - Because of the existing stud spaces for insulation and because wood itself adds insulation value, the PWF saves heat loss and conserves energy, lowering heating and cooling costs. By contrast conventional foundations are good conductors of heat. D. Strength & Stability - It is a common misconception that the kind of material determines the strength of the structure. Strength is determined by engineering and PWF's are engineered, and are as strong as any other material used for foundations. Wood foundations are engineered to as strong are they need to be. From a stability standpoint they are superior. Each wall of a PWF is like a truss (a stressed skin a plywood on a series of studs and plates). Unforecast weak spots in the bearing soil are simply bridged with no settling or cracking. Concrete does not bridge weak spots well.

Let me if I can help thanks


Foundation Designer

Flint Michigan

The is the best system.

Roscoe j Clark


06:45AM | 02/27/07
Member Since: 03/08/06
192 lifetime posts
As a recent home buyer, we didn't even bother going into homes with Wood foundations. There were plenty of homes available without that technology that we were more comfortable puting our money in.

of course, we wouldn't buy a wood sided house either (unless it was 80yrs old or something)


05:56PM | 09/24/13
A belated thanks for your comments & information, Roscoe.
I have inspected wood foundations for the last 15 years & never have found one to be in very much trouble. I wish I could say the same for masonry & concrete.

Most of the naysayers here speak from what they don't know. That is a definition of ignorance.

What I also have found is that typically the builder did a much superior job of developing good site drainage. In places where the drainage has deteriorated most of the crawls still are dry. This can only be if the perimeter waterproofing & sub surface drainage are optimally installed.

The main deterioration that I find is the sacrificial panel exposed between the soil & the house floor system, is deteriorated. I think this could be prevented by having coated & maintained it with a penetrating oil sealer. Today, there are some mineral coated panels that would have better longevity & appearance.

The concept of wood foundation as designed is a valid & smart idea. It takes better than average workmanship to pull it off, which mainly illustrates how dreadful the average is!

I've just inspected a home with a 'wood' basement where maintenance of the roof & surface water has been dreadful for years. The varnished oak baseboard in the finished basement looks to be the same age as all the rest in the house & it looks pristine. Anyone familiar with oak knows that it turns back with very little dampness. Clearly the subsurface systems have done a remarkable job. I intend for them not to work that hard much longer after my recommendations are followed.
Best wishes,


10:24AM | 10/29/13
Over the last twenty-five years I have constructed six or seven PWF foundations. I started because I was spending so much time correcting (shimming, squaring) poured concrete foundations. I put an addition on the first one I built(1988) recently and excavated to the footings along half of the original house. It was in excellent condition, just as I had installed the foundation 25 years ago. PWF systems for foundation are the smart choice for a house. The benefits are endless.


09:47PM | 12/15/14
I built a daylight (three sides under earth, one side open-built on a slope)wood basement on my Minnesota lake front 24x28 cabin 26 years ago. After reading all the blogs and posts concerned about water damage I completely dug out the back fill. It was absolutely dry and in good shape. Then waterproofed again and backfilled. I dont understand why this basement will not last 100s of years.


03:15PM | 03/30/15
Our custom home was built in 1992 with a PWF. Love it!!! Warmer, dryer, and has NEVER had a water issue in 23 years !!


09:22PM | 06/14/15
We have been looking for a lake house for 2 years. Just found one we fell in love with but it has a wood basement. The house is pristine but we have never even heard of a wood basement. Will this really hurt us in resale 10 years down the road?


09:04PM | 08/31/15
If you have any questions about this system, call me any time and I will tell you more. This foundation system is the best choice.
It will out perform all other types in all coniditions, because it is design to.

I can email you moore information about the wood.foudation system.

Call me at 810 429-2418 anytime.

I train the building inspectors in many states as well as home.inspectors.

My first oundation wall 1980s and I have design more that 1,000 custom foundation designs.

This every time.

It design,property materials used and correct installation base on the pdf design.

The Permanent Wood Foundation is the best choice.

Foundation Designer Roscoe Clark

I do foundation inspections if you need on sight information.


05:29PM | 09/30/15
Member Since: 09/30/15
1 lifetime posts
I built a PWF foundation 23 years ago in Canada north Toronto. I built after seeing and experiencing a home in Edmonton Alberta. Building code called for a sump pump. It has never gone on in all those years. The basement is warmer and dryer than concrete block or poured foundations. There is only one minor crack in the floor 6 feet long. There are no issues with doors shifting out of alignment. The house is 2880 sq. ft. above ground and 4300 including the basement.

I think that the key is site preparation and foundation design. Washed stone, stainless steel nails, sealed exterior walls as wells as vapour barrier, washed stone 3 feet up the foundation walls and fine builders sand the balance of the way up. I chose to build on footings with flow through drainage tubing at regular intervals, poly under the floor and 6 feet of Styrofoam insulation around the complete interior perimeter as well as Styrofoam on the exterior of the step down foundation portion. The basement walls were build 9 feet high to accommodate an 8 foot finished ceiling height. The walls were 2x8 construction which allowed for higher insulation values. If I remember correctly R36. Considering the increased cost of utilities it has paid for itself in cost and comfort.

If I were to ever build again I would not consider anything else but a PWF and ensure that I found a builder with the experience to build this type of foundation. When done correctly there is nothing better.


02:38PM | 11/20/16
I have built a number of homes with permanent wood foundations including my own in 1985. However, not all sites are suitable for wood foundations. A good site should be well drained and free from clay and any standing water. If you have such a site then a wood foundation can be a good choice and they are dryer and warmer then block or concrete foundations when done correctly. I build all my wood foundations on modified concrete footing or slabs that incorporate compacted stone, insulation and moisture barriers with foundation drains. Do your homework and make sure you have the proper grade of treated wood and that your stud size, stud spacing, and plywood thickness can carry load that they are going to be subjected to. There have been many improvements in caulks, sealing products, and foundation wall coverings in the last 30 years so don't guess on what's best but do some research. If you are building your own home and this is unfamiliar territory for you find an expert that can help you.


05:57PM | 11/28/16
Looking for referrals of builder/installer of the PWF system in the Youngstown, Ohio, 44505 area. thanks to all

dar adam

06:05PM | 11/28/16
Member Since: 11/28/16
1 lifetime posts
looking for referrals to build and install A PWF system, in Youngstown OH 44505 area. my email is



11:04AM | 05/31/18
I am considering a PWF for an addition on my home. Based on what I have been able to read up on, it looks like this is a practical, efficient system. My concern is how to tie it into the existing structure and have that tie in point be leak proof. The soil here in my area of Central New York should be great as it has a lot of sand and stone and already lends itself to good drainage. My current basement is conventional block and mortar and is very dry. I am also going to be building a workshop in my backyard and would like to use it as a test project for the PWF. To comply with local codes, I have to keep a rather low maximum roof height. No more than 12 feet at the peak from grade level. In order to get the ceiling height I want, I am going to go down 2 - 3 feet and gain my ceiling height that way. My intent is to use the PWF like a knee wall that will come above grade and then build with conventional lumber on top of that. What's your thoughts?


12:49PM | 01/13/20

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