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Determining the Age of Foundations in Multi-Resident Buildings

By Liam Bailey, BSc. Eng. (Hons) in Construction Engineering and Management
Depreciation Report Planner

While doing depreciation reports, reserve fund studies or building condition assessments, we often get asked how we can determine the age of a building component by looking at it. Although not without aberrations, there are some tell-tale signs that indicate the age and the remaining life of features such as windows, claddings and veneers, roofs and fencing. Architectural styles and innovations in manufacturing will also have an influence on how long certain components may last.  We have written a series of articles explaining what signs we look for to determine age and remaining lifespan for our depreciation reports, reserve fund studies, or building condition assessments.  This article of this series talks about determining the age of foundations in Strata and Condo Corporations.


Typically and as expected, foundations should last the life of a building provided the appropriate design specifications have been met. Since the early 1900’s foundations have adapted from a combination of brick, stone, rubble and concrete to primarily reinforced concrete today. Often, a visual review of a building’s foundations are not possible due to their concealed location below grade. Therefore determining when the building was constructed by reviewing as-built construction drawings is often the only way to determine the specification, materials, and age of the foundations.

In some cases isolated repairs are necessary to ensure the foundations remain in functional condition throughout their life. These may include drain tile repairs to protect the foundations from flooding during times of high precipitation and below grade damp/water proofing membrane repairs to mitigate moisture gaining access to habitable areas.

Considering the majority of a building’s foundations are buried beneath the ground, signs of structural defects are not visible until an issue arises within the superstructure.

There are some things that we look for during our reviews to give us indications of issues that may be present including, but not limited to, bowing, bulging, or leaning of the foundation walls, concrete spalling, and significant vertical, horizontal or stepped cracks which may appear outside the typical building settlement cracking.

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Photo 1: Early 1900’s foundation wall consisting of a brick course overlying a concrete strip foundation.
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Photo 2: Note the presence of a waterproofing course installed along the exterior of the below-grade foundation walls.
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Photo 3: Typical with today’s construction practices, the Interior side of reinforced concrete foundation walls and columns viewable from within the parkade.










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