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Making the Case for Poured Walls

When I began construction on my home in 1988, I couldn’t find a poured wall contractor in the Pittsburgh area to do my foundation. I reluctantly had to settle for block. In my first year of living in the home, the builder was called back several times because of moisture and cracks in the foundation.

In my mind, there was a definite need for a poured wall contractor in the area.

In my position as regional manager for the country’s largest concrete pump manufacturer, I was intimately familiar with the various forming systems used in residential foundations. I was convinced block was an inferior product. After all, there were more than ten pages of phone directory advertising block repair companies in Pittsburgh alone, so something wasn’t working. I was convinced that residential builders would embrace this new and superior technology. I eventually decided to leave the concrete pumping industry and pioneer the use of aluminum forms for residential foundations in the Pittsburgh area market. My company, Fastrac Foundations, In., poured its first wall in November 1996.

The Western Pennsylvania market has its own unique circumstances and because homebuilders are so dollar driven, the more expensive concrete walls were not readily accepted by the builders. A few progressive builders like Jim Thomas Construction and First City Companies kept Fastrac in business during the early years.

Through advertising heavily and participating in many home shows, I was able to sell the concept to many homebuyers. When given information on the benefits of poured walls, combined with a shortage of competent block layers, more and more builders started to recognize the advantages of poured wall foundations. Finally, Ryan Homes, the largest homebuilder in Western Pennsylvania started using Fastrac Foundations, Inc. and poured wall technology. Since Ryan used poured walls in every other market in which they built, the company was aware of the advantages of poured walls for their customers in the Pittsburgh area. This helped to attract additional wall contractors into the market.

Today there are at least twelve concrete foundation contractors pouring walls in the Western Pennsylvania market and close to ten percent of area foundations are poured walls. The future for the poured wall industry looks bright.

As more builders embrace the concept of poured walls an more companies enter the market or expand current markets, the ready mix industry should be excited at the prospect of a new and growing sales base. In many cases, poured walls are the easiest work for the ready mix producer. Wall pours usually take place in the afternoon (when most producers have completed their busiest hours), use a pump and get their trucks on the road to the next job quickly.

Of course, their will be increased pressure on the producers to sharpen their pencils, provide consistent quality mix and keep their trucks available for good service. Because margins are so slim while competing with block, time lost waiting to finish a pour is critical. As the use of poured walls continues to grow, these issues will straighten themselves out and the poured wall industry should be rewarding for the whole team – supplier, contractor and customer.

Nationwide, 85 percent of all below grade foundations are poured concrete. Western Pennsylvania’s potential market is more than 300,000 cubic yards of concrete per year.

Jim Rowe, Fastrac Foundations
President of WPCFA

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