August 25, 2022

Using Foam to Create a Brick Shelf in the Concrete Wall

In this episode of Site Visit with NS Builders, I’m checking in with Mike Hume at our Needham project, where about 300 feet of wall was poured today. I’ll explain why the height of the walls is higher than that of the previous house and how foam was used to create a brick shelf.


The biggest factor determining the foundation wall height was the water table—we didn’t want the foundation down too deep in the hole sitting below water. The house sat in a gully before, which doesn’t work well for drainage. So now we’re going to determine and use the grade to our advantage. The top of the concrete walls will be roughly 3 inches higher than the sidewalk out at the street. Of course, some of the wall will be exposed and we’re bringing in a lot of fill—about 1,600 yards.

Another benefit to the height of the foundation walls is that the ground adjacent to it actually pitches down towards the big tree facing the road. Water will beneficially funnel down to the 100-year-old giant Sweet Gum tree. In addition, water will be shed away from the foundation to help keep the basement dry. And as we bring in fill, we’ll slope it gently around the tree—careful not to bury it.   


To create the brick shelf on these 10-inch wide walls, pieces of foam were used to make a 12-inch high x 4-inch deep pocket. The foam pieces were set to grade and placed inside the wall cavity up against the exterior concrete form. Then the concrete was poured, the top of the wall troweled, and the anchor bolts were placed every 32 inches (per the structural engineer). Once the walls are stripped and the foam removed, we will use bricks on the exterior to hide the transition to concrete and then grade around that. I think it’s a great detail when the brick goes below grade. 

It’s time to discover what NS Builders can intentionally design and build for you! Contact us today to get started on your custom dream home. Together, we can make it happen. 

—Nick Schiffer


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