A shallow foundation is a type of foundation which transfers building loads to the earth very near the surface, rather than to a subsurface layer or a range of depths as does a deep foundation. Shallow foundations include spread footing foundations, monolithic foundations (called mat-slab foundations or slab-on-grade foundations), pad foundations (pole construction uses a type of pad foundation), rubble trench foundations, and earth-bag foundations
A deep foundation is a type of foundation distinguished from shallow foundations by the depth they are embedded into the ground. There are many reasons a geotechnical engineer would recommend a deep foundation over a shallow foundation, but some of the common reasons are very large design loads, a poor soil at shallow depth, or site constraints (like property lines). There are different terms used to describe different types of deep foundations including the pile (which is analogous to a pole), the pier (which is analogous to a column), drilled shafts such as helical piers, and caissons. Piles are generally driven into the ground in situ; other deep foundations are typically put in place using excavation and drilling. The naming conventions may vary between engineering disciplines and firms. Deep foundations can be made out of timber, steel, reinforced concrete and pre-stressed concrete.