I grew up in an area where houses are built 7 meters beneath sea level. You may guess where this is. This is near the world heritage Kinderdijk, where you can visit the windmills. As a young child, it was so normal to live there with dikes surrounding us. This to protect for the water. However, nowadays, something is going on with the foundation of some houses in those areas. So, read on when you are planning to buy a house.

Living below sea level

Living in the Netherlands means, for the majority of people, living below sea level. The soil contains a lot of peat and clay, sometimes sand. That soil is too soft for building houses on. The solution? Drilling poles into the ground, until you will find a stable layer of sand where you can base a house on. This is already done for many centuries.

Another thing is: concurrence between the farmers, nature and people. Farmers wants farmland dry enough for cattle and crop. Nature needs more soggy ground.  And, people need drinking water. In the last few decades, the soil shrank due to the low water level.

Ways how the foundation of houses are made in the Netherlands

The short answer to this: it depends on the soil type, the period and place where the foundation is made.

Very common in areas with soft, unstable soil is the use of a pile foundation. Sometimes, even 30 meters deep, to find a stable layer to build a house on. The piles are drilled into the ground.  Where the base construction for the house is built on.

Wooden piles

These types of piles are used especially on clay or peaty soil. When a house is built without poles, it will “float” on unstable ground. Before the 1970s, this was a common method of building.  On the poles, beams are laid, together this is the foundation of the house. These poles can eventually rot, through differences in the groundwater level. Especially, in the western part of the Netherlands, it is wise to check the condition before buying a house.

Concrete poles

After the 1970s, a combination of wooden piles and concrete piles are commonly used. The wooden piles are used for the first part and the last piles are concrete. Or just, completely concrete. The advantage is that the piles can’t rot.

House foundations on sand

In the Netherlands, there are several parts where houses are build on sand. This you will find most in the east of the Netherlands. First, the soil is excavated. After that, reinforcement is applied and concrete is poured. On this foundation, the walls of the new house are built. You can recognize this kind of foundation easily, as usually there is no crawling space.

Other kinds of foundations

Of course, you can add other methods to this list. These are specific to the building period and region. For now, this is too specific.

What to do when you have concerns about the foundation of your house?

The first question is: do you see cracks in your house, and how do they develop in time? If the answer is yes, you may need to ask for expert advice.  Another thing to do is: take a look in the crawling space of your house. Of course, only possible when there is a crawling space. You will find the entrance to the crawling space, most likely under your doormat.

Things to look at:

– The crawling space can be wet, especially in the winter. No worries, this is normal.

– When you see wood, check for fungi and other organism. Fungi can weaken the wooden piles and beams. Little holes could be insects. A red substance on the beams could mean bacteria who eat wood.

– Is everything still straight?

– Is there any insulation applied? If not, this would be a good investment to do.

Also, when doors and frames are getting stuck, it can be a sign that the foundation cave in.

If you suspect that your house may have foundation problems, it’s important to have a professional inspection to identify the issues and recommend the best course of action.

Improving the foundation of your house

Reinforcements of the foundation of your house, is a job to outsource to a professional company. If you’re considering buying a house like that, it would be wise to ask an expert what costs you can expect in the future.


When you buy a house, it is always wise to ask for a technical inspection. A technical inspection will give you a lot of information. Although, this may not be complete. A good question to ask is: what’s the condition of the foundation of this house?  Especially, when you want to buy a house in the western part of the Netherlands, like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Alkmaar or Utrecht.

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