Armchair Builder

How to Build a Home, Step 21: Excavate for Foundation


Excavate for Foundation

The next step in our blog series, How to Build a Home, is the foundation excavation activity. This is the first major activity in the construction of your new dream home. The old saying, it all starts with the foundation is only partially true.  In fact, it all really starts with the excavation of the foundation.  So let’s take a look at how to prepare for this important activity and ensure your home is built with the highest quality.  If you would like go back and review our last segment on lot staking in our How to Build a Home Blog Series, check it out here.

Prepare Your Jobsite

Because this is the start of all major construction for your new home, it’s important to get the job site ready for your contractors.  There are some things that should be in place at this time that will remain until your home is finished.

  • Address Posted:  Make sure the address is clearly visible from the street so contractors and inspectors can find the property.
  • Permit Posted:  The permit should be posted so it’s clearly visible from the street as well.  You may want to get a plastic sleeve from your local office supply store to keep the permit dry and clean.
  • Portable Toilet:  Be sure to place this away from all future digging and deliveries so you aren’t required to move it.
  • Plan:  It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your house plan on site for contractors and inspectors to review.  If you want a cheap way to keep them dry, check out this article, Home Plans:  Tips for Storing on Your New Home Site.
  • Temporary Electric:  It’s a good time to have your temporary electric installed for your contractors to use until the main house electric is up and running.  Again, make sure this is placed out of the way of deliveries and construction action.
  • Silt Fence:  That two foot tall black fence you see around the perimeter of construction sites helps keep the soil particles from running off site when it rains.  To learn more about it, check out this article on Stormwater Management.

Communicate with Excavation Contractor

You will want to confirm the contractor is coming out.   Most builders send a weekly schedule out to their trade contractors and suppliers.  It’s also a good idea to call them the week before their scheduled day to confirm.  There are some very important items you will want to review with your contractor before starting.  You will want these items in your scopes of work and specifications (if you need some of these for your project check out our ESTORE).  Here are a few of the most important things to review with the excavation contractor prior to digging…

  • Top Soil – Do you want top soil removed from the site and placed in a pile out of the way so you can re-spread it later for your lawn?  This will take a little extra time but can save you in the long run.
  • Dirt Placement – The dirt that comes out of the hole for the foundation is called spoils.  Let the machine operator know where you want it to go.  The idea is to only move it once.  Don’t forget, you are paying for the machine and operator in your contract.  If you need them to do extra work because dirt was placed in the wrong location, it can get expensive.  Make sure the operator knows you need access to all four corners of the foundation for a cement truck…you don’t want to pay for a concrete pump truck unless it is absolutely necessary.  Pump trucks can cost you an additional $1500 a day.
  • Safety – Make sure the excavation contractor plans on benching the foundation.  This is a safety practice that prevents cave-ins around the perimeter of the hole.  Once your foundation is in, a dangerous trench is created between the foundation walls and the walls of the excavation.  Benching helps make this trench more stable/less hazardous.

    Wait for Dry Weather

  • Underground Utility Locate:  Make sure your contractor has been given the “All Clear” by your local underground utility locating company prior to starting.  This is an absolute must for safety and damage prevention.  The company doing the digging is typically required to make the phone call for the locate.
  • No Loose Fill:  Remind your machine operator that you will not accept loose fill in the footing locations.  This can cause major structural problems down the road.
  • Garage:  Also remind the contractor that all dirt in slab locations should be left high.  You don’t want to dig out the garage…so you can pay them to put expensive stone back in to support the concrete slab.

Owner’s Check Prior to Excavation Activity

There are some specific things you or your builder consultant should do prior to each activity to build your home.  If you are interested in a complete list of action items, check out The Builder’s Daily Construction Guide at the Armchair Builder ESTORE.  For excavation, you will want to check all manholes and cleanouts for damage and mark them with bright, fluorescent paint.  You don’t want a 50k pound machine to run over these delicate items.  You will also want to check all of the curbs for damage.  Excavation equipment is notorious for tearing up curbs with the steel tracks.  You will check the curbs, manholes, and cleanouts again after each activity for damage.

You, or the person managing your construction schedule, will also want to review the weather forecast the day prior to the excavation activity.  You don’t want to open up the hole when there is rain in the forecast.  And if you are building in cold temperatures, be sure to have a game plan for preventing the ground from freezing in the footing locations.

For some tips on how to deal with a high water table when excavating for your new foundation, check out this article, House Foundation Excavation:  High Water Table Issues.

Stay tuned for our next steps in our How to Build a Home blog series….as we move forward and build the foundation.

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