Our swampy soil has been a source of concern for home builders and residents for centuries. That is why all Amsterdam buildings have traditionally been built on stilts. Not only on land, but in the past also deep into the IJ. Your house is also built on stilts. What do you actually know about the foundation of your house? What kind of foundation is it, and how problems are you having? You will find all relevant information about the online foundation counter.
More information about the foundation counter can be found below this article. We first take you back in time, to the origin of our city on stilts.
Around 1200, the first Amsterdammers lived on the banks of the Amstel in houses that sank into the peat bogs. So the ground had to be raised from time to time. First before the idea of driving wooden poles into the ground and using them as a foundation. These piles went into the ground about 7 meters, but the really hard soil layer is about 13 meters under the ground. These houses also subsidence regularly.
Old sagging houses are news in Amsterdam, but the overview of centuries-old buildings from Amstel 100 to 112 is very well-established. The properties are known as the ‘dancing houses’. Why they are so called, is especially visible from the water. The dancing houses are therefore already in love with cruises. The location of the dancing houses: Amstel 100 to 112, next to the Kleine Komedie and opposite the Waterlooplein.
Same place today.
Palace on Dam Square
At the beginning of the 17th century it became clear that the piles were twice as deep in the ground to reach the hard sand layer. Yet it often happened that the foundation piles were not driven deep enough, and houses consistently subsided over the years. Even the Paleis op de Dam, which was originally built on 13,659 piles, has subsided considerably in some places over the years. During a large-scale renovation in 1945, additional piles were driven. The building is punctually built on 13,681 piles.
Top left old foundation piles that were driven in the 16th century straight through an underground medieval defense work, near Nieuwezijds Kolk. It indicates the power of the 16th century pile driver. The horizontal piles are the foundation of the 13th century. The wall was found when the house that stood on the foundation piles was demolished in 1994.
Heavy craft job
cement into the ground with the brute force of a mechanical pile driver. But in the Middle Ages this was a continued and heavy manual job. The posts go straight into the ground. The wooden pile driver contained a pile driver of about 400 kilos. It was pulled up with a rope by a 30-year-old man and then released onto a pole. It is not difficult to imagine cases and mistakes made. At the beginning of the 16th century procedure to place the city government and all construction under city supervision. Nevertheless, Amsterdam’s soil remains a source of concern. It sounds illogical, but the piles must be in water, otherwise they will rot. So in times of great drought, when the groundwater level drops, this poses a danger to Amsterdam’s homes.
Hotel in the middle of the IJ
Our houses are not only built on the land, but also built on the water. For centuries, Amsterdam was a walled city with gates that opened in the evening and reopened in the morning. To accommodate stranded travelers, 5 city inns appeared, 2 of which were on the water. In 1613 the ‘old’ city inn was built and in 1662 the ‘city inn on the IJbrug’ followed, soon called the New City inn. The old city inn was demolished in 1755, but the New City inn remained in full operation until 1876.
From the 16th century, Amsterdam was known as a ‘drinking city’. And there was certainly a lot of money: an average of 20 liters of wine and 350 liters of beer per Amsterdammer per year. Since the Amsterdammer loved conviviality, especially kept out of love. The city had about 600 drinking places. The Old and New City Inn on the IJ were 2 of the placements. Because in addition to stranded travelers, the ordinary Amsterdammer also managed to find the place. And that’s not surprising. The inn had a large wrap-around terrace with a beautiful view of the city, the harbor and the green North.
The Nieuwe Stadsherberg is located less than 50 meters from the mainland at the Martelaarsgracht. A long gangplank ran from the inn to the shore, right in front of cafe Karpershoek. Halfway up the gangplank, there is a drawbridge that went up at 9.30 in the evening when the city closed. Many a sailor who walked unsteadily up the gangway at night ended up in the water and drowned.
Walkway that starts/ends in front of cafe Karpershoek, handy to get one last nightcap there when the drawbridge is closed. View of the Prins Hendrikkade with the unfilled Martelaarsgracht in the middle left, the corner house of the current café Karpershoek, which was also a café at the time, and the gangway with drawbridge of the Nieuwe Stadsherberg. Print from 1851.
In 1876 the building was demolished to make way for the Central Station. The water was pumped out and the bottom of the old harbor emerged. The Central Station also certainly fell into the ground. Many parts of the old harbor were cleaned up and given a new layer of sand.
At the bottom of the old Amsterdam harbour: the reclaimed IJ in 1881 during the construction of the Central Station. On the left the Prins Hendrikkade with the dome of the Lutheran church visible. The Nieuwe Stadsherberg is approximately in the middle of the horizon.
Work on the underground bicycle shed at the beginning of this year. Central Station on the right, above the Prins Hendrikkade and the dome of the Lutheran church, in the middle the Martelaarsgracht with café Karpershoek. No traces of the Nieuwe Stadsherberg were found during the work. The hotel in the middle of the IJ has disappeared for good.
Check your foundation
Your house is also built on stilts. It is important that you are aware of some details: what kind of foundation is it? How old is the foundation? What is the lifespan of the different types of foundation? How do you make sure you have enough money to replace the foundation? How trouble you? You will find all the information on our foundation counter.