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Raft foundation

Foundations provide support for structures, transferring their load to layers of soil or rock that have
sufficient bearing capacity and suitable settlement characteristics.

Very broadly, foundations can be categorised as shallow foundations or deep foundations. Shallow
foundations are typically used where the loads imposed by a structure are low relative to the bearing
capacity of the surface soils.

Deep foundations are necessary where the bearing capacity of the surface soils is not adequate to
support the loads imposed by a structure and so those loads need to be transferred to deeper layers with
higher bearing capacity.

Shallow foundations include:

 Strip foundations (or footings).

 Pad foundations.
 Raft foundation.

Raft foundations (sometimes referred to as mat foundations) are formed by reinforced concreteslabs of
uniform thickness (typically 150 mm to 300 mm) that cover a wide area, often the entire footprint of a
building. They spread the load imposed by a number of columns or wallsover the area of foundation, and
can be considered to ‘float’ on the ground as a raft floats on water.

They are suitable where:

 Floor areas are small and structural loadings are low, such as in one or tw0-
storey domestic construction.
 A basement is required.
 Ground conditions are poor and strip or pad foundations would require significant excavation, for
example on soft clay, alluvial deposits, compressible fill, and so on.
 Settlement, or differential settlement is likely.
 Where it may be impractical to create individual strip or pad foundations for a large number of
individual loads. In very general terms, if strip or pad foundations would cover 50% or more of the floor
area, then a raft may be more appropriate.

Raft foundations can be fast and inexpensive to construct, as they tend not to require
deep excavations compared to strip or pad foundations and they may use less material as they combine
the foundation with the ground slab. However, they tend to be less effective where structural loads are
focussed on in a few concentrated areas, and they can be prone to erosion at their edges.
They are generally constructed on a compacted hardcore base (perhaps 100 mm thick). A layer of
blinding concrete may then be laid to allow formation of the raft (typically 50mm) with a waterproof
membrane above.

The concrete raft tends to include steel reinforcement to prevent cracking, and may incorporate beams or
thickened areas to provide additional support for specific loads, for example, below
internal walls or columns. Typically, a thickened reinforced area is created at the perimeter of the raft to
form an edge beam supporting the external walls of the building. A concrete toe often supports the
external leaf of the wall.

Insulation will generally be laid on top of the raft, with a concrete floor, or raised floor above.

Drainage may be required in some circumstances under raft foundations, an geotextile barriers may be
required to prevent free-draining materials from becoming clogged up by the surrounding soil.

Types of raft foundation include:

 Solid slab raft (flat raft mat, wide toe raft, slip plane raft).
 Blanket raft.
 Slab beam raft.
 Cellular type raft.
 Piled raft foundation.