Superior walls precast foundation

km34567February 24, 2011

We are in the planning stages of building our home. Any thoughts on superior walls precast foundation versus a poured concrete foundation?

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I've used Superior a couple times...for homebuilding, they can't be beat.
Poured walls ( I'm assuming you meant walls vs. foundation) may have an advantage in some sort of lead time scenario that I can't imagine, especially if you're in design stage.
In my area Superiors go on pea gravel footers, so excavation is simpler, and no concrete forms. A typical home can be set in a few hours, and building begins immediately.
They are already nominally insulated and have self contained furring.
Tin badge inspectors never have issue with them vs. picking nits with reinforcement, ties, slump, yak yak of setting forms and pouring.
All the above and more have me sold on them.

No, I don't own or work for Superior.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 7:34AM
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My husband REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to go with Superior Walls, but our builder talked us out of it. I don't know as much about the product personally as hubby does, so forgive me if I am presenting the info inaccurately, but he said that in his experience IN OUR AREA, the installers were pretty bad and the walls did not align properly and there were problems with setting the footers (??) on top because of the incorrect angles...not sure if I am describing this right. Mainly, it was not the product itself, but the local people who were installing it. So I would check and make sure the guys in your area who are doing it know what they are doing. Just food for thought.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 9:49AM
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When I used Superior the installation crew worked for a franchisee and was certified by them. At that time that was the only choice...would have set them myself otherwise.

Their installation was completely up to snuff. There was a glitch on their part (Superior's) where a taller elevation butted a standard height...the crew quickly solved the problem and made warranty thereof.
Sill plate alignment was off in that area, no big deal.

Any concerns over this should be addressed early on... a builder not familiar with the product can still insist on Plumb, Level, and Square or design variation thereof.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 12:54PM
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My exeperience is similar to 5U5. My inlaws used Superior Walls on their timber frame so we looked at them when we built. I was warned that the local install guys were incompetent so we got a bid from the adjoining franchisee and used some weasel words to make sure they were covered crossing territories.

I eventually went with ICF but I agree the installer can make or break the job. You could plausibly assume they've all had factory training but that doesn't mean they have the same attention to detail and business practices.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 7:07PM
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I have Superior Walls 10' high. Installed in 2003. Am absolutely pleased. Did my own site prep up to the day of install. Not sure about your installer? Get the builder booklet a few weeks in advance and read it until it is memorized. Be there on site and do not permit ANY deviation from the official book. Builders generally do not know and you must supervise until the floor platform is properly installed and the concrete floor is complete. By the book, no exceptions.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 8:49PM
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I am still debating the issue as well.

The Superior Wall systeme has some benefits, including the speed of install, no waterproofing needed, insulation included, ready to be framed in the basement, done in one day, peace of mind that you will get the proper strength of cement and that each wall should be straight and level.

However, the thiness of the cement wall still bothers me. Also, it seems that there have been negative experiences by some on the net. I also was surprised that price of the SW system is similar to a poured foundation. There is no cost savings.

Every contractor hates the idea of using these walls. I think it is mostly because they are not familiar with them and they would rather give work to their friendly subs and not to SW where they have no relationship.

I also would appreciate more homeowners that used this product and their opinion.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2011 at 11:48PM
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Epiarch Designs

on paper, SW will not look like a cost savings. However in your construction timeline, it can shave possibly weeks off of your build, which can translate into savings in financing, etc. Plus MOST poured wall systems are just that...8" concrete, nothing more. SW you get a built in THERMAL BRAKE, which is very important and will help aid your conditioning and comfort in your basement. Plus you do not have to fur out the walls in the basement, thus losing more floor space and also the added cost (did you add in the framing and insulation with your poured wall comparison?).
Plus due to the density of the concrete, you are nearly guaranteed a leak proof basement vs some guy applying rubber or spray over a concrete wall.
Keep in mind the concrete thickness is engineered. THe vertical reinforced "studs" are what is your structural members, concreted by the inner web of thin concrete. Picture them as a vertical placed I beam.
Keep doing your research. If speed and ease of finishing the basement (as well as additional comfort and insulation value) is important to you, then there is your big incentive, financially or not, over traditional walls.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 10:55AM
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In terms of concrete thickness, blocks have thin walls of very porous concrete on each outside face of the block. The ribs give them rigidity. The Superior Walls (mine are the earlier R-5 version) have 2" of 5000 PSI concrete at the thinnest places, very dense and strong. The studs and flanges are over 7" deep for stiffness. I was present at two sites where Superior Walls were being installed and got the builder booklet before I made my purchase decision.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 11:31AM
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"....have 2" of 5000 PSI concrete at the thinnest places..."

Yepper, forgot to point that out. Actually it's 5k throughout, and I'm pretty sure it's steam cured.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 2:30PM
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SW do have some limitations. Our basement will be a walk-out, meaning one side will have no soil against it, while the other side will be stacked pretty high. I don't know about other foundation types, but SW told me (for my area) that they won't put in a wall more than 30' long on the up-hill side unless it either has a jog in it, or they would have to install interior shear walls. Probably not a bad idea with any basement wall, though.

Despite their 'waterproof' designation, it was recommended to me to apply some kind of sealer, a dimpled drainage plane to keep moisture from lying against the wall, and the usual french drain and gravel back-fill. Again, a good idea on any basement wall if you want long-term water resistance. I'm still toying with different ideas, but will most likely go with a DIY ICF for the basement walls. Same strength as a poured wall, but with R-23 insulation.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 4:41PM
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I applied nothing to mine and have no water intrusion. Damp-proofing might be good, but not absolutely necessary. Since the Superior Walls is unconventional, there are lots of skeptics, including the many builders who have no experience with them. So take the opposite approach- search for a user who is dissatisfied with them. I did not find any such person. To me, that is significant.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 7:15PM
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Another concern of mine is that the franchise holds the warranty they give you, not the parent company.

How viable will each franchise be with the downturn of the real estate market?

Also the franchise I was thinking of ordering the walls only has the R5 walls not the XI. Is there much of a difference?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 12:22AM
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If you ever used a jackhammer on concrete, you'd know that nothing beats thickness.

1 3/4" of concrete at 5000psi is ultra-brittle. It may be stellar in compression but as a retaining (=basement) wall ?!?!?!?!?.

10" concrete studs with 1 stick of rebar??

Those walls take concrete to the limit. I would not want that as the foundation of my house.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 7:41AM
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Wow, I had just never considered the jackhammer idea. Concrete blocks really resist the jackhammer, right?

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 2:06PM
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Has anyone else on this forum used Superior Walls to give their opinions?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 1:33AM
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"....they won't put in a wall more than 30' long...."

With good reason. Any construction material commonly used will need bolstering at that length. Sure, we can argue about sheet pile and steel. But not concrete, CMU's, poured,tilt-up or pre-cast.

If the thinness in SW bothers you, I'll draw an analogy to joists fabricated with thin OSB webs vs. solid wood. SW's have tension/compression resistance in two axes.

I don't have a problem with water infiltration, no parging, tarring, etc. I do have drainage in the pea gravel.

If your situation requires resistance to jackhammering, then SW aren't for you.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 7:42AM
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The jackhammer comment was meant to emphasize that hardness isn't enough for strength, not that this is a common load on a basement wall.

Some people (at least two in this forum) are apparently too dim to understand that.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 9:39AM
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I just had to remove parts of a 1 foot thick concrete wall. It was EXTREMELY difficult to demolish the concrete without cutting it into strips first. Once I cut it into 2" strips with a diamond saw, the strips broke off easily (absolutely no comparison).

2" thin 5000psi concrete = brittle and breaks easily.
12" wall of 5000psi concrete = super tough to break.

While you won't jackhammer a basement during normal use, I'd rather have a 12" wall instead of a 1 3/4" "thick" "superior" wall, given the enormous strength difference.

But then, some people have zero hands on experience except reading a glossy brochure...

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 9:48AM
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thanks for the thoughts everyone. Clearly you all know way more than we can research. We have not decided on a builder yet and are comparing proposals and different products between builders gets confusing/overwhelming. This website is fabulous to learn. One builder we are talking with only used SW and has built up around 30 them so we feel he has experience, but another builder does not have experience so I think we would avoid using them with him. In searching other posts it seems like the SW are good like other things in experieced installation.

Lzerarc I've read many of your posts in other places and learned so much. Thanks for the knowledge.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 10:15AM
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Epiarch Designs

sure, you can pay way more then needed to have a wastefully oversized/over engineered wall at 12" thick for piece of mind to be "stronger". IDK about you, but around here, 8" poured is the norm. We do not build our basements to resist bomb attacks and random jack hammering. I have designed FEMA approved saferooms to resist an F5 tornado (180 mph winds and a 200 mph 2x4 shot from a cannon "punch resistances") using 8" walls.
Soil pressures are uniforum for the most part, so brittle concrete does not come into play for point pressures.
Bottom is an engineered system with many pros, and some cons. Most of the cons can be avoided with proper planning and installers. I am yet to hear about a situation of the concrete studs bowing under pressure, or the thin webs cracking apart.
I am all for field experience. My field experience has taught me easily 2x more then any degree I have had. But on the flip side, sometimes experienced builders need to be more open to the new, often times better and faster ways of doing things shown in those glossy brochures....

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 10:18AM
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One of the expressed concerns about Superior Walls is the so-called lack of a concrete footing. The base under the wall is washed stone, precision leveled and machine compacted. Any concrete footing is supported by the soil, as is the stone base for SW. So the ultimate support, the soil, is the same. The Superior Walls base is a reinforced concrete flange, integral with the concrete studs and with the concrete face. So the wide concrete surface of the SW bottom flange rests on the compacted stone and that flange is part of the complete unit. The earlier comment about length makes no sense to me. My walls have a 46' long straight run. Per the specifications, the top of the walls are capped with treated 2 x 12 lumber, bolted to the top flange and lumber spanning the panel joints per specifications. The specifications show the minimum permissible number of bolts for the top plate. For mine, I did use twice the minimum number of bolts and used more than the minimum of tie-down bars for the floor platform. The walls PROPERLY INSTALLED cannot have a buckling problem due to length alone. After the floor concrete is placed, the walls cannot move in at the bottom. Ties to the floor slab prevent outward movement at the bottom as does the later backfill, if any. The top plate and floor platform stabilize the top. Backfilling occurs after these are in place. It is an engineered system that works well when used as designed. I took the further steps of machine compacting the entire floor area stone base and using 4 layers of 7 1/2 mil poly under the concrete slab. The entire underfloor stone base is a drainage plane that in my case goes to daylight for gravity drain. I have had no water intrusion. If any water makes it's way to the walls base level (and I have no way of knowing if any does), it drains away before it gets inside. The typical french drain was installed as well as drains for the rain gutters. ANY basement that is cooler than the outdoor ambient temperature will have higher humidity than that ambient atmosphere, basic physics prevail. So I do have two dehumidifiers to keep the relative humidity at 50%. They operate more in the Summer.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 4:08PM
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An additional comment is that the SW panel can be considered to be a monolithic shear panel. For it to rack, all parts of the panel must distort.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2011 at 5:22PM
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Ive been buidling for over 30 years, and have built personal homes for myself, that have had the following foundations.

Poured Walls 8"
Superior Walls
Shallow frost protected slab foundation.

I liked the SFPF best
2nd was the Superior Walls
3rd was the poured walls
4th was the AWWF
and last and least the block foundation.

I have also built 8 houses with Superior walls, and found them to be exceptional foundations.

The biggest problem with them, was the distance to the manufacturing facility from my location, which was about 250 miles from the closest franchisee.

This distance ultimatley made it too hard to justify the trucking and installation cost to be competitive.

My experience is that they are very cost effective if you're close to the franchisee. If you have to haul them very far, and pay the installers mileage, not so much.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2011 at 9:10PM
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Rollie: Can you please why you like SW foundation over a poured system?


    Bookmark   March 2, 2011 at 1:10AM
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Some are obviously still uncertain as to the choice of foundation. If you build, a foundation is necessary. Whatever you choose, there are many thousands of houses with foundations of the same type as your choice. If you have doubts about Superior Walls, choose something else. I earlier suggested searching for posted complaints/problems. My search turned up very little. No one who claims that there are huge numbers of complaints has posted a link to even one. Good luck with your final choice.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 8:08AM
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Co-worker built a home last year & the builder used SW. Due to improper/careless installation, one of the panels had cracks which leaked. It took him a couple of months to finally get it resolved. Intially the builder tried to half ass the repair which was unsuccessful. Finally a team from SW came out & properly repaired it by applying a membrane over top of the bad areas on the exterior. Based on his experience, I wouldn't use SW if given the choice.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 3:33PM
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I like the foundation drainage system that is integral with the crushed rock footings that are required with SW.

I dug my basement on Feb 16th (in Iowa) which is unheard of here. Opened hole and placed pea gravel. SW showed up at 1030 the next day and left at 330, completed. I worked the next day applying the sills and capping the deck. Had heat and plumbing rough in the basement early on in the 4th day. Slab poured on the 5th day.

Zero exterior finishing needed.

Excellent insulation value,

Easy to finish inside, with conventional materials and labor.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2011 at 10:45PM
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"Co-worker built a home last year & the builder used SW. Due to improper/careless installation, one of the panels had cracks which leaked. It took him a couple of months to finally get it resolved. Intially the builder tried to half ass the repair which was unsuccessful. Finally a team from SW came out & properly repaired it by applying a membrane over top of the bad areas on the exterior. Based on his experience, I wouldn't use SW if given the choice."

Does one suppose that all the work and materials for any other type foundation will be perfect from every builder/installer? Looks as if the guarantee did have value in the instance cited. I earlier suggested getting the Builder Guideline booklet and found it available online. My only connection to Superior Walls is as a very satisfied customer. Their product is great, their business model is shady. In my case, a local contractor had been installing the system for about a year. Gave me a really great price to help increase his sales volume. As soon as the local volume built up due to the efforts of this contractor, Superior Walls stopped supplying him and took the territory for themselves. I watched all the activities at my site to verify that it was done correctly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Booklet

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 9:01AM
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Superior Walls are, in my opinion, franchised and expensive although proven through the years. But a much simpler solution is found with SteelCrete precast walls found at steelcrete dot com where choices include exterior concrete walls with metal stud backing or monolithic concrete studs, either of which are inexpensive and efficient. Proven over decades of use using standard engineering with conventional footings growing out of the ages in the use of concrete subterranean walls, among all other applications for walls, floor and roofs. A complete system where one can pick and choose their benefits.

Here is a link that might be useful: SteelCrete

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 6:18PM
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Simpletony, is that your company or do you just shill for them?

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 6:33AM
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simpletony registered for the forum on March 10, 2011.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2011 at 8:55AM
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Anyone else on this forum you the Superior Wall System? Any with personal exprerience?


    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:11PM
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jagp, I suggest you forget about the Superior Walls. Choose something else.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 5:11PM
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Personally, as a general contractor who has built commercial and residential cast-in-place, retaining walls, pre-cast, CMU, and slab on grade foundations, I would not install a Superior Wall system in my own house. First, in theory, 5,000 psi concrete is supposed to be "waterproof." In actuality, concrete is just a hardened sponge. There is too much room for error in designing a structure like Superior Walls design that would not support the backfill lateral loads and especially the water tightness that they guarantee. Do a quick search on Superior Wall failures and you will come up with many results and links to other problems people have had. Many have experienced cracks and moisture issues that would not be corrected by SW as they claimed it was an "install problem." I've even heard some installers claim that they are stronger than cast in place walls. That is a joke.
In a subgrade wall, I would always apply a primer, bituthene membrane, and drainage mat to the outside of a wall - from above the grade to the bottom of the footing. This will ensure there are no water issues. The SW system is relatively new, and I wouldn't be surprised to see basement wall failures in 10-20 years. Do you really want to risk the foundation of your home to a relatively new design? Look what happened with residential stucco and masonite. Look what's happening with cultured stone veneers recently? Do you want to risk that with your entire house foundation? I wouldn't.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:02PM
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First let me thank everyone for their valuable input. We are in the planning phase for our retirement home in the Blue Mountains of PA. Our lot is on a ridge, full of boulders big and small. 2 builders we spoke to use Superior walls, and the third has had bad experience with them in this particular location. He says that SW is ok on less rocky terrain (my impression just from walking around the lot is that the Appalachian range is a big pile of rocks). I would like to know your thoughts on using SW on similar terrain. Thanks.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Superior Walls started in PA. Contact them. I would never suggest backfilling any foundation with rocks of any size. Haul in suitable backfill.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:01PM
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We use them in NC mountains all the time. Plenty of rocks here. Good advice from busdriver. Better yet, backfill with clean gravel protected by silt fabric.

Like George, Ive used all conventional foundations but unlike him, I think problems usually arise from bad design and installation not a faulty product. I think CMU is more suspect than Superior Walls, not because its a bad product but because there are so many more variables to screw up on the labor side of the equation. Based on my experience, I would trust a superior wall installation crew to a block mason crew almost any day.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:32PM
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