Steel Building Foundation Tips


Metal building structures are becoming more desired. Builders know that creating a foundation for steel buildings must be designed based on many aspects, including geographic location. The first part of any metal building project includes laying the foundation, which sets the pace for all steps that follow in the building process for proper installation. So, the foundation must be implemented properly, without rushing the process, while securing all approved permits to follow standard codes.

Concrete Foundation

Foundations made of concrete for steel buildings are the favorite among builders. The most important step in the building and planning process includes evaluating all approved engineering designs before pouring a concrete foundation. The foundation design is developed for a specific site, with considerations including soil type, frost, weight, climate, building requirements and codes. Be careful to include the proper concrete mix (3,000 lbs. per square inch) proportions to ensure a properly made and strong foundation.

Engineer & Geographic Evaluations

Your local engineers should consider your geographic location and understand frost lines for colder environments vs warmer climates. Frost lines in New England could be 48” versus Southern Texas with 6.” Concrete foundation structures must be built according to the geographic climate and environment. For example, down south a pier foundation can have a shallow footing, but due to New England’s frost heaves, a foundation would need to be below the frost line.  A sturdy concrete foundation must be placed before the garage structure, while enforcing it with appropriate materials.

In planning stages, building erection drawings need to have a final formal seal by a licensed engineer. Without that seal, you run a big risk of a disastrous result of the structure and the reason why preliminary plans are marked, “not for construction.” It is most important to have clear, proactive communication with everyone involved in the project. Let each engineer and team member know what changes and updates need to be put in place. Doing spot checks along the concrete foundation pouring process is a good idea. Reviewing the foundation dimensions and anchor bolt locations against the building erection drawings can prevent an error. Hiring a local surveyor for complex projects can help you analyze the poured concrete to ensure its within specs and codes.

Different Foundations for Steel Buildings:

  1. Slab
    • Most popular for steel buildings, while creating a floor for the structure. This option may not work in some cases when footings and pier reinforcements are required.
  2. Pier
    • For structures requiring a dirt or gravel floor. Concrete piers are necessary for structural support. The piers are poured deep in the soil, with a pier for each steel column of the frame. Piers are connected underground to eliminate shifting.
  3. Perimeter Wall
    • Also referenced as perimeter footing. The concrete gets poured around the exterior of the structure to support the exterior steel framing walls.

Package Steel’s Recommendations for Metal Building Foundations:

Package Steel ensures the best foundation type for your metal structure. Our licensed engineers evaluate all required aspects before designing the concrete foundation for your metal building customer. No one wants a steel building to be picked up by the wind because the structure’s foundation was not properly designed and built. The best metal building foundation consists of a footing with pier reinforcements in a wall where the columns are located, especially for our New England area. Here are some tips for builders that need a concrete foundation for a metal building:

  1. Secure Permits.
    • Ensure building permits are secured before taking delivery of the steel building. Have everything in order first with the proper paperwork, while following the process.
  2. Engineer Review.
    • Have the appropriate local, licensed engineers evaluate your building design plans. Steel buildings are subject to wind and weather. A local expert engineer will know how to evaluate all considerations for a stable foundation and structure.
  3. Foundation First.
    • Do not pour the concrete foundation after the structure is in place. Condensation issues can arise, which could cause corrosion of the foundation and cracking. The foundation should be formed first and cured properly, which could take several weeks.
  4. No “calcium chloride.”
    • This chemical helps speed up the curing process, but for a steel structure, it can lead to foundation corrosion. Do not use Calcium Chloride in a foundation for a steel garage.
  5. Final seal drawings.
    • Do not only reference the preliminary anchor bolt drawings provided by the metal building manufacturer. Preliminary drawings should only be used for budgeting estimates. Check against erection drawings from foundation engineers and building suppliers, and the final licensed engineer-sealed designs.

Package Steel offers engineering services to help plan your steel building project.