Types of Foundation[PDF]: definition, diagram, uses or applications


“The TYPE OF FOUNDATION decides, how strong the build-up is”, right in every sense. Here, in this article, we are going to discuss everything about Types of Foundation. Surely everyone knows it is the essential part of the structure which transfers its overall load upon an area of soil. However, the load should not exceed the ultimate bearing capacity of the soil. The primary purpose of the foundation to make the structure stable and resist the structure from vertical and lateral forces.

There are majorly two types of foundations:

1. Shallow Foundation

2. Deep Foundation

Before going into details of types of them, we need to know their definitions: 


“If the width of the foundation is greater than or equal to the depth of the foundation, it is a Shallow Foundation. Alternatively, “If the depth to width ratio of the foundation is less than equal to 2, it is called as a Shallow Foundation. 


If the width of the foundation is smaller than the depth of the foundation is called the Deep Foundation.” Alternatively, If the depth to width ratio of the foundation is greater than two is called the Deep Foundation.”


A part of the foundation helps to transmit the load of the structure to soil with proper distribution of the loads and it is made of concrete and reinforced cement concrete.

The foundation depends on the soil type and its bearing capacity. One can choose the type of foundation or footing type by determining- 

  1.  Total dead load and live load of the structure, and
  2.  Their bearing capacity of the soil. 

With these parameters, one can calculate the area of footing and decide which type of foundation or footing is better for structure. Below figure shows the foundation detailing.

Figure: Cross-section of Foundation, Drawn on software
Figure: Cross-section of Foundation


If factored load on column W = 350 kN 

And Safe bearing capacity of soil (S.B.C.) = 250 KN/m2

Calculation of cross section of foundation 

W/SBC = 350/250 = 1.4 m^2

For rectangular footing = breadth * length 
Assume breadth = 1.2 m 
Length = 1.4/1.2 = 1.167 m 
Then length and width of footing = 1.12 m * 1.167m

We can also calculate the size of square footing. With this above formula we can easily calculate the area of footing. For calculation of vertical load on column, you can check how to calculate the column size where you can easily calculate the column size and vertical load on column. If you are working on ETABS or Staad pro software where you can easily pick the value of loads and reactions on each column from the table. In modern era foundation design software are also available such as SAFE, Staad foundation or Staad advance foundation and Tekla structural designer for both super structure and substructure design.


The depth of this type of foundation is less and is economical to build lightweight structures. It depends on the ratio of the depth and width of the foundation of the structure.

Types of Shallow Foundation:

1. Isolated footing

2. Combined footing

3. Wall footing

4. Cantilever or Strap footing

5. Strip footing

6. Mat or Raft Foundation

1. Isolated footing:

It is the most commonly used footing, individually laid down and economical to use. It is used where soil is in good condition. It depends on the factored load on the column and safe bearing capacity of soil. 

If the factored load on the column is less, then this footing is good for structure. It is used for two to three storeys buildings. Generally, foundation depth for 2 storey to 3 storeys buildings takes 1.5 m to 2 m.

The size of footing is in rectangular and square shape. It is also called pad footing. In this footing the bearing capacity of soil is high.

There are different types of isolated footing:

  1. Pad footing.
  2. Stepped footing.
  3. Sloped footing.
  4. Isolated beam and slab footing.
Isolated Footing
Figure: Isolated Footing

2. Combined footing:

If two to three columns connected collectively with one single footing is called Combined Footing. It provides where the distance between the two columns is small. The shape of combined footing is in a rectangular or trapezoidal. It is the formation of two isolated footings, together.

Figure: Combined Footing
Figure: Combined Footing

3. Wall footing or Strip footing:

It is generally used as a load-bearing wall. The width of the footing is generally 2 -3 times the thickness of the wall. This type of footing distributed all structure load into the soil. This broader base of the footing area provides more stability to the structure. For the construction of this footing, different materials like Brick, Stone, R.C.C, used. It is also known as the Strip foundation. It can also be used for retaining wall foundation.

Figure: Wall or Strip Footing
Figure: Wall or Strip Footing

4. Cantilever or Strap footing:

It is similar to the combined footing. In this footing, the exterior footing connected with strap beam to the interior footing. In strap footing, the edge of the footing should not cross the property line.

Figure: Cantilever or Strap Footing
Figure: Cantilever or Strap Footing

5. Mat or Raft Foundation:

It is used where the bearing capacity of the soil is very low, base required in structure, vertical load on the column are high, and columns are closed to each other. It covers the entire area of the structure to support heavy column and wall loads. 

If the area of foundation exceeds the total area of the building, we have to provide Mat or Raft Foundationwith Pile Foundation to make the structure stable.

Figure: Mat or Raft Foundation
Figure: Mat or Raft Foundation


This foundation is used for where hard strata are not available within the limit of shallow foundation. It helps to prevent the structure from the uplift.

Types of Deep Foundation:

There are following types of deep foundation used in the construction of the structure.

1. Pile Foundation.

2. Pier Foundation.

3. Drilled Shaft or Caisson Foundation.

1. Pile Foundation:

Pile Foundation is the type of deep foundation, used where hard strata are available below the limit of the shallow foundation from the ground surface. 

It transmits the load from the massive structure to the hard strata below the ground surface. The depth of this foundation is much deep below the ground surface. 

It is constructed: 

  • Where the depth of foundation and width ratio is more than 2
  • Where the bearing capacity of the soil is very low, and the soil’s condition is not adequate to bear the heavy load of the structure. 

While it is useful:

  • To resist the structure from uplift because of lateral loads, such as wind and seismic forces.  
  • To resist the differential settlement of the foundation with the help of skin friction pile or end-bearing piles.
Figure: Pile Foundation
Figure: Pile Foundation

2. Pier Foundation:

Pier foundation generally used to transmit the massive load from the structure to hard strata of the soil. The shape of the pier foundation is cylindrical, and it is supported with the help of piles. 

It is used for a heavy multi-storey structure where the load of the structure is hefty, and it is generally used in bridges and fly-overs to resist the heavy traffic loads. It is used to transfer the load from the end bearing pile to the hard strata of the soil.

Figure: Pier Foundation
Figure: Pier Foundation

3. Drilled Shaft or Caisson Foundation:

It is a type of deep foundation similar to pile foundation. It is generally used for bearing the very heavy loads of the structure. It is a cast-in-situ foundation and also available as pre-cast material. 

Construction of this Foundation is done with the help of auger and used where the pile foundation is not enough to bear the heavy load of the structure. It is economical when the high load capacity is required. The depth of the drilled shaft foundation is more than the pile foundation. And it is not preferable to use in water-bearing granular soils, loose and soft clay soils. This foundation generally used in underwater project like river, lake and sea. It is used as pier of bridge, building and construction of the dam. It is constructed with the help of water shoring.

Figure: Drilled Shaft or Caisson Foundation:
Figure: Drilled Shaft or Caisson Foundation:

Hope this information on types of foundation clears the concepts related to foundation. If you have any doubts in solving problems of structure or doubt in fundamental topics related to structural analysis, then feel free to write to me! 

And if you like my articles and efforts, please tell us through commenting below. We will be pleased to get your valuable feedbacks. Eye on structures will try to bring you concepts of structural engineering, structural design through software and real-life structure issues and possible solutions for them. So get ready to build up your strong structure knowledge with us. You can also join us through our social media handles on Instagram and Facebook for getting daily doses of information related to impressive structures and their concepts. Happy reading!


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