What is a Foundation?

I am having discussions about platform framing and what is considered a foundation. Here is my premise…

Object: 3 story wood framed structure (commercial construction, apartment buildings)

Obviously the footing is a “foundation”, whether a strip footing or a thickened edge slab. I also consider that each story is a “foundation” for the story above, since it is platform construction. Each platform is the foundation for the story above. I have a reason for this premise which I will discuss after I get your feedback of agree or disagree with that premise.

So…agree or disagree that each platform is a foundation for the story above…

I think it could be construed that way, but most people when talking about building foundations would be referring to footings, piles, grade beams etc.

In other respects, your definition is quite valid. For example, you might say that Math 101 is a foundation for Math 201, meaning that you need the former before tackling the latter.

Perhaps, but I believe in any building or structure, a more specific definition is intended.

A structure’s foundation will resist, by transferring to the earth, all intended loads applied to that structure, such as mass of the building itself and its contents, wind, water, dynamic appurtenances, and other structures bearing upon it.

Maybe the civvies have a better term than “appurtenances”. I can’t think of a better term to cover all kinds of moving or dynamic structures that impart loads to foundations, like drawbridges, lock gates, cranes, rocketry test stands, etc.


Thank you both for a quick reply. Bruce, it would appear that you agree that it can be a literal definition and Steven, you are correct…it needs better definition. Those are both my eventual points in exploring this.

My reason behind it is that I am a member of an ASTM committee that writes the standards for stucco. These standards always increase the forensic arguments because of their ambiguity in various statements, leaving them very much open to interpretation and giving the attorneys more cannon fodder. The difficulty with getting a change in the standards is that we have a high percentage of suppliers and contractors on the committee as compared to the design professionals. The suppliers try to make the contractors happy with their votes because that’s who buys their products…doesn’t matter that we might specify or approve them…the contractors buy them. The contractors just want to do things as quickly as possible as time is clearly money to them. That leaves the design professionals, and even moreso, the consuming public out in the cold!

I am going to submit a request for clarifying the definitions in the next version of the standard and see if it flies. I will either expand the “foundation definition” or add another definition that clarifies the intent of the standard.

Wish me luck! :grinning:


Good luck, Ron!

@Ron - I like your idea of adding a definition. I’ll offer an rough analogy that could be used to show that an additional term has a precedent in another field.

For a bridge:

Foundation: Underground
Substructure: Above ground, supporting the “important” part of the structure.
Superstructure: The “important” part of the structure.

Whether this is useful, or not, Good Luck!


Yes…this helps. I’m trying to develop some relevant terminology definitions


Foundation is the ground itself, at least according to some, especially geotechs IME. Footing is the structural element, but then it’s always ‘piled foundation’ not ‘piled footing’. Seems a bit of a stretch to extend it to upper levels. The lower level is the support for the upper level.

@steve…glad to see you back, Steve. Appreciate your perspective. I’m working toward getting a consensus of reasonable terminology.

Ron: I guess you could, in looking at any structural element, look at some other element as being it’s “foundation”, but, to me, that is a stretch of the broadly accepted term as mentioned by BA.

I feel that most individuals, when asked, would respond by pointing to what touches the ground, usually concrete, steel or wood elements.

Just my 2 cents.

Thanks, Mike. These responses help me to show that we need to clearly define in the standards what is considered a foundation and what is considered other structure that has the same impact on a veneer facade as if it were a foundation.


When a woman puts on her makeup, she always applies her “foundation” first.

Interesting concept!