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CFA Announces 2004 Basement of the Year

Wendy Ward, Constructive Communication

Today’s homeowners are constantly pushing the envelope to ensure their home meets their needs, which has caused concrete foundation professionals to respond with inventive techniques and employ new technologies. Such is the case with the Concrete Foundations Association (CFA) 2004 Basement of the Year competition (sometimes referred to as the Basement from Hell competition). The 2004 winner overcame rocky site conditions and a complex design to ensure that the homeowners received the home of their dreams.

According to Ed Sauter, executive director of CFA, the Basement of the Year competition enables foundation contractors to display the wide range of projects completed today. “The technological advancements made in the poured wall industry allow contractors to complete complex projects more efficiently, which ensures homeowners’ dreams are realized,” said Sauter. “Each year the projects submitted to this competition get more complicated and demonstrate the diversity afforded through poured wall foundations.”

The winning structure is a more than 4,000-square-foot basement for a 7,000-square-foot home in Newburgh, N.Y. The foundation boasts a circular front porch, brick ledge around the perimeter and 39 corners that are at a 45-degree angle. Adding even more complexity to the project, there were a variety of wall and ledge elevations.

According to Van Smith, President of Smith Bros. Concrete Contractors, Inc., the foundation contractor for the project, the other foundation contractors in the area did not even quote this project because of its degree of difficulty. “I have been in this business for more than 29 years and this is most challenging project that I have encountered,” said Smith. “The architect even commented that he did not think it was possible to do the job, which made us determined to tackle this tough project successfully.”

The recipient of the Basement of the Year competition is selected by a vote at the World of Concrete each year. More than 120 votes were cast this year between Tuesday and Thursday in the CFA booth. The formal award presentation is made at the Awards Banquet Luncheon during the CFA’s Annual Summer Meeting held at the Beaver Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colo on Friday, July 16, 2004.

Smith Bros. began working with the owner and architect in the fall of 2002 on the complex project. Before construction commenced, the foundation team uncovered a four-inch error in the architect’s plan they were able to correct. Smith Bros. inputted the architect’s print into their Trimble® LM80, which alerted them of the discrepancy. An example of the innovative technologies that foundation contractors employ, the LM80 is a layout manager construction software program that attaches to the Total Station and electronically lays out a project. This ensures precision accuracy on every project, no matter how complex. Exactness was even more critical on this project because the layout for the excavation, footers and wall were conducted as three separate evolutions.

This job would not have been feasible without the Total Station,” said Smith. “With this technology, I am as confident in my 21-year-old son’s ability to layout the project accurately as I am my own, even though I have considerable more experience than him. My crew that has been on the job for more than 25 years waits for him to arrive before beginning layout, because they recognize the tremendous value that these new technologies bring to a project.”

With more than 605 lineal feet of wall, the project required 232 yards of concrete. Smith Bros. supervised the excavation to ensure that it met their requirements. Walls were formed and poured in eight days. The site made it difficult to maneuver panels around the site and the rough terrain created hardships in squaring out the job.

“It was difficult to see all the points for layout from one spot, so we had to create numerous control points to help us layout the job properly,” said Smith.

To add one more challenge to this project, foundation forming occurred during the hottest two weeks of the summer with temperatures in excess of 90-degrees Fahrenheit. “With both the complexity and the temperature, we knew that we truly were constructing the ‘Basement from Hell’ with this project,” said Smith.

Smith Bros. Concrete Contractors, Inc. has served the Lower Hudson Valley area of New York for more than 29 years. Experienced with both residential and commercial construction, Smith Bros. has completed more than 5,000 projects. They have been a member of CFA for four years.

The benefits of poured concrete walls include greater fire resistance because the increased density and joint-free construction offers twice the resistance when compared to a hollow core block wall, resistance to rot and decay, water tightness, design flexibility and ease of maintenance.

For more information on the CFA, attending the Summer Meeting and entries for the 2005 competition visit the Association’s website at, contact the headquarters at 319-895-6940 or send an email to

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Concrete FACTS, a publication of the Concrete Foundations Association, is THE voice for residential concrete industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the cast-in-place concrete industry. Subscriptions to Concrete FACTS is available to anyone involved or interested in the residential concrete industry as a service to your industry. Please contact CFA Headquarters to find out more about your free subscription or Email Us