The propagation of reverse faults through soil to the ground surface has been observed to cause damage to surface infrastructure. However, the interaction between a fault propagating through a sand layer and a shallow foundation can be beneficial for heavily loaded foundations by causing deviation of the fault away from the foundation. This was studied in a series of centrifuge model tests in which reverse faults of dip angle 60° (at bedrock level) were initiated through a sand layer, close to shallow foundations. The tests revealed subtle interaction between the fault and the shallow foundation so that the foundation and soil response depend on the foundation loading, position, breadth and flexibility. Heavily loaded rigid foundations appeared best able to deviate fault rupture away from the foundation but this deviation could be associated with significant foundation rotations. However, a lightly loaded foundation was unable to deviate a reverse fault and the fault emerged beneath the foundation. This led to gapping beneath the foundation as well as significant rotations and may cause severe structural distress. As well as providing insight into the mechanisms of behaviour, the data from the tests is used to validate finite element analyses in a separate article.