Ground has been broken!

Batter boards

Yesterday I spent most of the day making batterboards. Batterboards allow one to keep track of the corners of the house after the corner stakes get removed for excavation. Two batterboards get erected perpendicular to each corner about 10' away from the corner. Before the stakes get removed, one runs string from one board to the opposite board above two corner stakes of the house. Repeat for the other three pairs of batterboards. The four strings form a rectangle that represents the perimeter of the house. Put a saw mark where the strings cross the batterboards and you can recreate the house perimeter with ease. Next time I make these I am going to get a second person to hold the stake while I pound it in with a full-sized sledge hammer. It took for-ever to pound the stakes in with a hand-held sledge.



Depth Test

Me using a laser level to gauge the depth of excavation

Neighbors watching

Our neighbors Pat and Ed enjoying the show. As it turns out Pat and Ed and another adjacent neighbor built their homes. No wonder everyone doesn't mind the ruckus!

Broken pipe

We discovered and accidentally broke undocumented pipes in the Northeast corner of the property: a 4" orangeburg pipe and a 1" plastic pipe. Clearly neither had been used for quite some time, but we didn't want to take any chances and so patched them anyways. Orangeburg pipe, made of tarpaper rolled up to be 1/4" thick used to be used for sewer lines. Why one ran diagonally across the Northeast corner is peculiar.

Pipes fixed

A few O-rings, some new pipe, and a bunch of digging later, I'm done.

Ash pit

At some point someone used the land as a trash burning pit. The light colored area towards the top of the excavation wall is ash that has trash in it as well--mostly glass and rusty things.


It wasn't a surprise to find clay underground--the USGS soil maps say it should be there. In any case, clay expands and contracts a lot and is rather unstable to build on. The solution is to dig 18" deeper and 3' wider than the footing and backfill with crushed stone. Under the stone is geotextile fabric to keep water from getting pushed up from the clay into the stone.

Stone below footing

Our preventive measures against clay under the foundation. Incidentally, we can see that the silver maple tree will be blocking the summer afternoon sunlight quite well.

Removing stumps and dirt

We took away about six loads of dirt, roots, and stumps today.

End of day of excavation

We started at 7am and finished at about 6pm. Whew! After putting up caution tape I am ready for sleep.


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