How to Make a Pier-and-Beam Foundation

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Things You'll Need

  • Shovel

  • Post hole digger

  • 2-by-4 lumber

  • Pier form

  • Level

  • Saw or utility knife

  • Concrete

A large pier-and-beam foundation supports this freeway.

A pier-and-beam foundation is made up of concrete pillars supporting load-bearing beams. They are commonly used in building decks, sheds and houses. Pier-and-beam foundations offer home builders several structural advantages over a concrete slab. Piers create a crawl space beneath the structure and allow for level building on hills and uneven surfaces. Pier foundations may also provide greater stability than concrete slabs and can offer greater elevation for homes located along floodplains.


Step 1

Dig a hole at the pier location using a post hole digger. Make the hole deep enough that it surpasses the ground's frost line and wide enough to hold the pier form.

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Step 2

Tamp the bottom of the hole with a length of 2-by-4 lumber to create a firm base and prevent heavy settling.


Step 3

Assemble the pier form if required and place it in the hole. Hold a level against the pier form to keep it vertical while you backfill with dirt around the outside edge.

Step 4

Mark a level line circling the pier form at the desired height of the pier. Cut along this line with a saw or utility knife, depending on the pier form material.


Step 5

Fill the pier form to the rim with concrete. Remove any excess concrete by dragging the edge of a 2-by-4 across the top of the form. Allow the concrete to dry and cure for one week.

Step 6

Lay the beam in place across the center of the pier. Depending on what you are building, how you proceed from here will vary. Some projects don't call for beams to be attached to piers at all (small decks for example), while others require post bases or bolts to be sunk halfway into the pier concrete before it dries.


It is important to set up a level string line if you are building more than one pier. Continually check your piers as you add them to make sure they are still level to the string line.

It may be wise to bury rebar reinforcements within your pier if you are building very large piers or piers on unstable ground.


Always use appropriate safety gear (such as gloves and eye protection) when building a pier and beam.

Consult your local building department for the codes and regulations regarding pier and beam foundations in your location.


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