1930s House Foundations: Types and Materials Used

September 26, 2023

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In the 1930s, most homes were built with rock-solid foundations. These robust foundations provided stability and durability for homes of the era. 

There were a few main types of 1930s house foundations, along with various materials used in their construction, such as concrete blocks, poured concrete, and brick.

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Concrete Block Foundations

Concrete block foundations were the most common type used in 1930s home construction. These types of blocks are rectangular prisms made from Portland cement, gravel, sand, and water. The blocks contain open spaces or “cores,” which make them lighter than solid concrete while still providing strength.

To build a concrete block foundation, concrete blocks were stacked in courses with steel rebar laid in the cavities and then filled with concrete grout. This created a solid, monolithic foundation wall resistant to moisture and pests. Concrete foundations provided a level, stable base for the home above.

Materials

  • Concrete blocks – precast hollow blocks with open cores to fill with concrete grout. Common sizes were 6x8x16 inches or 8x8x16 inches.
  • Rebar – steel reinforcement rods laid inside block cores and connected between courses.
  • Concrete grout – Portland cement, sand, and gravel mixture used to fill block cores.
  • Mortar – cement-based binding material between blocks made with sand, lime, and water.

Benefits

  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Provided stability in various soil conditions
  • Resistant to cracking and moisture damage
  • Fire resistant
  • Allowed customization of patterns and textures

1930s house foundations

1930s House Foundations Included Poured Concrete

Poured concrete foundations were also prevalent in 1930s home construction. With this method, liquid concrete was poured into forms at the excavation site and allowed to harden into foundation walls.

Forms were commonly made from wood planks built up around the perimeter of the site. Rebar grids were constructed inside the forms before the concrete was poured. This created reinforced foundation walls with improved strength.

Materials

  • Wood forms – Temporary planks erected around foundation perimeter.
  • Rebar – Steel grids inside forms increased strength.
  • Concrete – Portland cement blended with aggregates and water.

Benefits

  • Could be poured on-site for custom foundation shapes
  • Very strong and durable
  • Water-resistant
  • Minimal maintenance required
  • No mortar joints susceptible to cracking

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Brick Foundations

Brick was a common foundation material for 1930s homes in regions where high-quality clay deposits allowed extensive brick manufacturing. Brick foundations provide similar benefits to concrete options, like durability, pest resistance, and moisture protection.

Brick Manufacturing

In the 1930s, most bricks were made from locally available clay or shale using a process refined over centuries. Clay was extracted, refined, molded into bricks, and fired in high-heat kilns to harden them.

Regional clay types and manufacturing methods resulted in different sizes, colors, textures, and structural qualities. By the 1930s, mechanized processes increased efficiency and output of brickyards.

Common standard brick size was 2-1/4” x 3-3/4” x 8” in the 1930s, though other sizes also existed. Bricks could be solid or feature holes for decreased weight. Durability and hardness were top priorities for foundation bricks.

Masonry Techniques

Skilled masons constructed sturdy brick foundations using proven techniques like overlapping bricks in multiple horizontal layers called courses.

Mortar provided adhesion between courses while allowing for structural movement. Lime-based mortar was common in the 1930s before adoption of stronger Portland cement blends.

Proper bonding patterns like English or Flemish bonds created solid, interlocked walls resistant to moisture and pests. Decorative accents were sometimes added with contrasting bricks or tiles.

Structural Considerations

Reinforcing steel was often used in brick foundations by the 1930s. Vertical rebar could be laid within brick cores and holes. Horizontal steel reinforced every few courses.

Spread footings underneath widened the foundation base. In multistory homes, walls were thicker at lower levels tapered at upper floors. This distributed loads properly without overburdening lower courses.

Weep holes and vents allowed drainage and ventilation to prevent moisture issues. Termite shields were also common at the top of foundation walls.

Materials

  • Bricks – clay bricks fired in kilns for hardness. Common standard size was 2-1/4″ x 3-3/4″ x 8″.
  • Mortar – cement, lime, sand, water mixture to bind bricks.
  • Rebar – often laid within brick cores or between wythes for reinforcement.

Benefits

  • Long-lasting and attractive
  • Made from readily available local materials
  • Moisture and pest-resistant
  • Familiar building method for masons

1930s house foundations

Perimeter vs. Slab Foundations

1930s home foundations were typically perimeter foundations with or without a center slab. With perimeter foundations, walls were built only around the outer edge of the structure.

Slab foundations featured a solid slab of concrete across the entire footprint. Some 1930s homes combined both with perimeter foundation walls and an interior concrete slab.

Perimeter foundations allowed crawl spaces under homes, while slabs created basements or on-grade foundations. Materials like concrete block, brick, or poured concrete could be used for both types.

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Summary

Common 1930s house foundations relied on sturdy materials like concrete blocks, brick, and poured concrete to provide stability and protection for homes. Skilled masons employed traditional techniques to build foundations from locally sourced materials that stood the test of time.

Understanding how these foundations were constructed using materials available in the 1930s provides insight into the methods and innovations that modernized homebuilding. While materials and techniques have evolved, 1930s foundations remain models of durability that homeowners today still rely on.

About Better Foundation Repair Corpus Christi

At Better Foundation Repair Corpus Christi, we have provided expert foundation repair and leveling services to homeowners since 2002. Our team of highly trained technicians has the skills and experience to quickly diagnose and resolve all types of foundation problems in homes and buildings. We offer durable, long-lasting solutions to stop foundation settlement, stabilize weakened areas, and prevent future damage. Our repair methods are engineered to permanently fix foundations and under-slab plumbing without the need for expensive excavation or foundation replacement. As a leader in foundation repair, we stand behind our work with lifetime transferrable warranties. Contact us today at (361) 480-0823 for a FREE evaluation and estimate.

FAQs

How were houses built in 1930?

In 1930, most houses were built using traditional wood frame construction methods that had been standard for decades. Skilled carpenters would assemble the wood frame of the house piece by piece on site, incorporating brick or concrete block masonry for the foundation and chimneys.

What were old house foundations made of?

Old house foundations were typically made of materials like stone, brick, or concrete.

What style of house was built in 1930?

In the 1930s, architectural styles were transitioning from the predominantly Craftsman, Tudor, and Colonial Revival styles of the early 20th century toward more modern home design aesthetics. While Tudor-style architecture with steep gabled roofs and half-timber details remained popular in the 1930s, the influence of the Art Deco and Streamline Moderne movements introduced sleek, geometric lines and decorative accents. Modern conveniences and technological improvements became more common in homes, though traditional layouts and footprints remained the norm. Economic factors during the Great Depression meant fewer ornate homes were constructed. Yet, a range of architectural styles, from restrained traditional to early modern, existed.

What were the problems with homes built in the 1930s?

Homes built in the 1930s often lacked proper insulation, so they could be drafty and inefficient at regulating temperature. Electrical systems were fairly primitive by modern standards, and not all homes were wired for electricity initially. Plumbing improvements still needed to be made as well, with some homes lacking full indoor bathroom facilities.

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