Concrete pad under brick pillar

samsthumbMay 23, 2007

I want to put two brick pillars at our front entrance with boxwoods. The bricklayer says all I need is to dig down 4" and pour a concrete pad using the soil as the form. Then he will build the pillar on top (about 40" tall, 2' square). My question, is this going to shift during the winters and crumble in a few years? Shouldn't we pour a 2' deep pad. Hope you all have experience with this one as we plan on doing this next week?

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Do you know if your city's or state's building codes address it? Even though non-bearing, code may require that it go below the frost line (36" ??) which, if so, a bricklayer wouldn't necessarily know.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 6:32PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

How wide will the pad be? That will affect its stability.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 12:50AM
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The width of the pad is not particularly important (footers for small, unattached, non-load-bearing outdoor structures, for example, generally are not much wider than the narrow beams they support). The real risk of instability comes from pouring above the frost line. Pouring below reduces the risk of frost heave and thus, reduces the risk of movement and cracking of the mortar used on the masonry.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 9:07AM
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3' x 3' pad under the pillar. I live in the country so don't ever have to follow code. He proposes a 4" thick pad and this is definitely above the frost line which is probably more like 2 or 3'

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 3:26PM
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I wouldn't worry about the building codes simply because they exist. God knows we "overlook" our fair share. As ridiculous as some of them are however, whether we install a fence, structure footings or anything else in the ground that needs to be stable, we stablize by pouring below the frost line. In your case, the worst that could happen is the pillars get pushed up with some freezing/thawing under the concrete and the mortar cracks. If that happens and the bricks do not toppel, then only some tuck pointing will be required. But, IMHO, if you're going to do it and don't want any hassels down the road, do it right the first time. OR, you can adopt the philosophy to which I do admit subcribing on occassion: "if you can't see it from the street, who cares?"

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 4:16PM
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From an old member with pretensions of using this forum to improve standards to a new member who advocates"if you can't see it from the street, who cares?" say what? Picture those nice brick pillars with the pristine boxwoods in a couple of years. Will the boxwoods be toast atop a leaning tower of bricks that a bit of tuck pointing will make better?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 5:52PM
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I must admit that the relevance of the length of membership is lost on me. Nevertheless, to answer inkÂs question (albeit, a rhetorical one derived from a statement taken entirely out of context no doubt), absolutely. Some building codes are so absurd that even many reputable contractors ignore them if they can get away with it. If the depth of the treads of my patio steps is 10.85" rather than the required 11" and itÂs indiscernible and presents no safety issues, then yes, who cares? If I do not get a permit before slightly changing the grade of my lawn then yes, who cares? If I install a fence with a 3-1/2 foot setback rather than the required 4 feet and no one is none the wiser, then yes, again, who cares? If I do not paint a piece of patch siding below a new second-story windowÂa patch that can only be seen from my rooftop then, you guessed it. . . who cares?

Now ink, had you read the entirety of my posts, you should have detected that in this particular situation, I was advocating following code because there is a very good reason for it (to the extent the OPÂs city/state has one that is applicable). The point is, the OP can choose to reduce the risk of instability or ignore the risk and do patch work later should it become necessary. The beauty of it is, in the end, it is his choice to make, however wise or ill-advised his ultimate choice may be. The standards in this instance are what they areÂin this instance, very possibly dictated by a municipality and not reasonably open to interpretation or susceptible to improvement even by an old member.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2007 at 10:28PM
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bill_g_web(z9 CA)

Just a couple things to consider on the cost side:

I'm guessing here, I'm just a DIY'er, but if I've understood correctly and the columns don't support anything, they're just decoration in themselves, a 27 cubic foot, 3 x 3 x 3, foundation seems overkill. Going below the frostline would be nice but 2 cubic yards of concrete costs about 200 bucks around here and that's if you haul it yourself. If you go buy 60 pound bags at the homecenter, I think that'd be around 100 bags. Digging a 1 cubic yard hole, depending on the soil conditions, can be a project in itself and what will you do with the dirt - soil expands 40% to 60% when dug up and if you need to have it hauled away, that's probably another 300 dollars.

Maybe someone could offer some experience and guess how much frost heave might lean your pillars over time. It might be worth it afterall to create the beefy below frostline foundations.

Sorry I can't offer prefessional advice.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 7:59PM
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