A spread footing is a type of structural component that acts as a base for a building's foundation. These components are constructed from concrete and are often reinforced with rebar or steel to add additional support. Depending on the size and configuration of the building, the footers can be buried just below ground level or several feet below the surface. In cold climates, they are always placed below the frost line to minimize problems with concrete heaving that occurs during freeze/thaw cycles.
Like all footers, a spread footing is used to help support the foundation or piers below a building. While traditional spot footings only have a single point of contact with the foundation, the spread variety extend continuously across the entire building footprint. Grade beams also extend across the entire footprint, but they tend to distribute loads to specific points, while a spread footing transfers the load to the entire ground, not a single point. This makes grade beams the best choice for very unstable soil, while these footers require the soil to be fairly stable all around.
This type of footer design is highly beneficial to builders and homeowners. Since they transfer the weight of the building over a large area, they have little risk of failure compared to spot footers. This design helps to minimize cracks and other signs of damage that occur as a building settles over time. By spreading the weight out in this manner, homeowners can often extend the life of their home while minimizing structural damage. These components can also help make up for spots of loose or unstable soil without the need for extensive excavation and filling.
The size and quantity of spread footers is typically determined by structural engineers or architects, who refer to local building codes for assistance with their design. A geotechnical engineer may be consulted to test the quality of the soil, which can determine if it is stable enough to support the proposed building. Typically, these footings are the same size as the foundation wall in terms of thickness, though they may vary widely in height, depending on soil conditions.
A spread footing may also be combined with spot footers, particularly on larger buildings. In this type of design, the spread component is installed under the entire foundation, which typically runs under only the exterior walls. Spot footers are then placed under individual points under the interior walls to help distribute heavy loads over a larger area.