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Burning Hunk
Mar 5, 2019
Eastern Panhandle WV
Has anyone ever installed a garage on a pier foundation? I was going to have a contractor install a concrete slab foundation, and place a pre fab metal building on top of it, but the costs for the foundation are very high because the site is not at all flat, and needs 30 inch footers. They also can't place the garage where I would like due to the size of machinery. The foundation would cost much more than the garage in short. Therefore I am thinking of going with a pier foundation and placing either a pole barn/timber frame on top of it, because I could install the piers one at a time and to avoid grading. (Keeping the dirt floor where i can cut into the bank and building a framed floor where it is elevated. Has anyone ever done this? A grainery up the road is constructed like this but it is very old.
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Not a garage, but a house.

Piers/piles make a perfectly legitimate foundation. I used 10" sonotubes (12"?, it was over 30 years ago) filled with concrete, 4- #10 rebar with rings at 2' intervals, 8 feet deep at 8' centres both ways, and steel saddles anchored in the concrete for the 3ply fir 2x10 beams.. I just laid it out with batter boards, rented an auger, braced each tube in the augered holes and went to town.

the house hasn't moved while sitting on relatively unstable ground (sandy clay to clayey sand) For over 30 years. I overdesigned due to supposed ground conditions and the point-loading created by piles. Piles do develop much of their load bearing through sidewall friction -potentially most of it.

you could actually place your floor slab on piles too, but this takes a little more engineering and very proper rebar work.

I don't know your ground. I didn't even know mine very well at the time.

your building would have only perimeter piles.

come to think of it, you don't even need piles, you could just build a pole building. They are very common around here for shops. No concrete required... Then just pour a slab-on-grade for your floor. Don't forget control joints and perimeter tar-felt
Not mine, just pics off the net. There are contractors around here that can erect a 60 x100 foot shell in just a few days. Like 3 days.
The contractor wants to scrape a level pad and do a cut/fill operation but they want quite a bit to do it and lay the slab. They say I'm going to have a lot of dirt to move. I will need some dirt hauled off, as well as the 30 inch footers for the slab. A cut off trench to re direct water will also be needed as it is on a hill and they need to work around a 7ft drop off on one side. Maybe it's just to much? Our lot Is skinny and long and it itself is a cut and fill most likely done with horses and drag pan. I thought about the pole barn but I'm unsure how one is erected on a site that is not level I suppose some poles/walls would be 2-3 ft longer than others? Rudimentary sketch attached. 19x21 slab One bid came in at 8k for a slab, leaving other site issues like drainage up to me and leaving out a floor drain. Another told me 14k addressing all the site issues and most wont even come look at it. I have called many. I am not sure what to do with it. The building is only 6k.

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Is that undisturbed rock or is that fill rock In your diagram?

I see no reason that you couldn't do a pole building on sloped ground with the siding following the slope. It might look goofy without some artsy attention. Or not?

I would get in touch with some pole shop builders. They could put the posts in for your wooden floor piles too.

wood floors are so much nicer to stand on, lay on.

is that ground easy to dig?

what are your uses for this building?
The building is to store and fix my tractor primarily. It is an Allis Chalmers B which is about 8ft across and 10 ft long. It will also be for storage of the rototiller and garden tractor. I was going to use the wooden floored section for my tool box and whatever else. The rock is fill gravel just to make a spot for the tractor to sit roughly level. Maybe Id pour a slab in there eventually. The ground is generally very easy to dig. Rototilling the garden the first time I never found a rock larger than a baseball. This is the site. (Pictures) It sits on a slight slope. About 16 inches from one side to the other. The front of the building would on the tailgate end of the truck. To the right of the truck ,(abou 2ft), as it faces forward there is a steep bank 45 degree angle. The building would end near the right hand side of the truck to avoid this. Something like the grainery is what I was thinking. It follows the slope of the land with progressively larger pillars taking up the gap. The slope is over accentuated in the drawing there would likely be about 8 inches of stone there. The door would be 9ft wide and the whole building about 16ft wide making the elevated wooden portion about 4ft wide. The elevated section would be about 16 inches elevated.

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Are you required to obtain a building permit based on engineer's drawings or can you just go ahead and build it without?
Called, need engineered drawings for anything over 200 sqft that's not standard footers or slab. So both options gone I guess. Maybe it will have to be 199 sqft....
It's quite possible that you could build a "temporary" structure (meaning no permanent foundation) without a permit or engineered drawings.

your building is small enough that it could be on skids, yet sit in the same place it's entire life. Steel skids would be best, but pressure treated lumber with non-continuous contact with the ground (on blocks, like concrete sidewalk blocks, for example - which you could make yourself with premix bags and a bit of rebar - or even just flat stones will last a very, very long time).

this is a common work-around for smaller structures around here.

Then all you need, if you don't build it yourself, is a carpenter...

your sloped site is not that big of a problem in my mind and you could use it to your advantage to give you lots of headroom in part of the structure. You want headroom in a garage..lots.

ps, are you sure that old building is not a sawmill? There's potentially some very nice lumber in that structure..
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They actually said that a temporary building is not an option if over 200sqft as well. I am looking into engineers in the area. Maybe it will be reasonable. I also am getting a price from a pole barn contractor, because they have plans, but I really would rather do it myself. I think it's a double sided corn crib technically. https://marylandagriculture.org/corn-crib/
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Huh. A pole-shop builder should have pre-engineered structures. i would talk to them first.
Good luck with your project! It sounds like you are figuring it out!
Rent a small excavator and dig the section level yourself. Dump the excess dirt over the bank to start bringing up the rest of your property. You can rent a small machine for around $700 to $1000 per week. Even if you get it close you will save about 80% of what the contractor was going to charge for this and they can do the final level.. If you have a buddy with some experience get them to do it and they could easily have it done in a day
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Or even a skid-steer, depending on the ground.. or just hire a machine with operator. The overburden might go a long way to making a diversion berm for that run-off water. Depending on the situation.

hiring a general contractor to do everything will cost you much more. Hire the trades you need yourself. Just make sure they are legitimate.
I have been thinking about doing the grading myself. I have a friend with a sub compact tractor, and another with a mini backhoe. I'm not sure if they would let me use them but renting is also an option. The earthwork seems to be what is running up the bill.
Whatever you do don't build a shed/shop in a hole. If needed have fill trucked in. Wet shop floors due to poor drainage are useless. We use lime millings for base materiel here in situations like yours. It's nearly free from quarries locally. Trucking does cost a bit. Rented track skid loader, vibratory compactor etc.
I have no idea if you have quarries with similar waste materiel? Just thoughts!
Rent a small excavator and dig the section level yourself. Dump the excess dirt over the bank to start bringing up the rest of your property. You can rent a small machine for around $700 to $1000 per week. Even if you get it close you will save about 80% of what the contractor was going to charge for this and they can do the final level.. If you have a buddy with some experience get them to do it and they could easily have it done in a day
I ended up doing the excavation and forms and gravel for the slab myself. I only have 5k in the foundation. Saved a ton thank you. I still need to figure out drainage on the uphill side but that's not a huge problem.