Heat loss is greatest at or near the exterior grade. To reduce heating costs and reduce the cold-floor syndrome common to slab-on-grade construction, insulation is critical. Exterior foam insulation, similar to exterior basement insulation, works well.
Slab-on-Grade vs. Framed Flooring
The first step that leads to a well-crafted home starts with choosing a foundation and flooring system suited to the site. Throughout much of the United States, builders rely on either a concrete slab or raised wood-framed foundations to support the home's structure.
Cold concrete slabs can be a source of discomfort in a home. An insulated slab is easier to heat, and placing the mass of the slab within your home's thermal envelope helps moderate indoor temperatures.
SLAB-ON-GRADE: concrete slab resting directly on the ground at near grade level.
SOFFIT: underside of a roof overhang, cornice, or stairway.
Slab-on-grade " A type of foundation with a concrete floor which is placed directly on the soil. In warm climates, the edge of the slab is usually thicker and acts as the footing for the walls. In cold climates, the slab is independent of the perimeter foundation walls.
A Slab-On-Grade Foundation for Cold Climates
Proper drainage (lots of gravel) is the keyby George Nash
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Slab-On-Grade: a horizontal placement of concrete placed directly over a prepared earth substrate.
Heated Slab: Slab-on-grade construction in which the heating elements are placed within or under the slab.
Heating Load: The amount of heating required to keep a building at a specified temperature during the winter, usually 65° Fahrenheit, regardless of outside temperature.
Slab-on-grade foundations have typically been used in climates that do not experience ground freezing and thawing, as this can lead to cracks in the concrete.
The base floor within a building may simply be a cast-in-place concrete slab-on-grade with limited design considerations for structural support or environmental control functions.
Floor systems are either wood or concrete. In residential construction, concrete floors are slab-on-grade (concrete poured on the ground).
However, much of this region has soil that is completely sand, soil so well drained that there is almost no risk that ice will form below the footings and heave the structure. Indeed, the garage on this property, built in July 1999, needed only a slab-on-grade foundation.
Of course, this example is oversimplified because it doesn't consider any other differences like the need to add the cost of stairs and take away the space they occupy, or in the case of a slab-on-grade foundation, the difference between the cost of a concrete slab verses a wooden floor system, ...
See also: What is the meaning of Grade, Foundation, Concrete, Design, Construction?