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Building a house starts from the ground up

By John D’Annunzio, Columnist, UnionvilleTimes.com

This will be the first in a series of articles on how to construct a building the right way: I know because I started from the ground up. I’ve operated all kinds or heavy equipment from John Deere 450 loaders up to Caterpillar’s 977 Trackscavator.

From those experiences I can tell you that the first thing that needs to happen is the clearing the land. If trees are in the way of the home site, see what species they are. You may have walnut, oak, cherry, etc. In other words, you may be able to sell them to a mill and recoup some of your construction cost.

Now that the trees are out of the way, strip the topsoil. You want to put this back when finish grade time comes. Nowadays you need a soil and erosion control plan drawn by a civil engineer. This plan will show the home site location on the lot and also the driveway, septic system if needed any remaining trees may have to be saved.

The plan may show the contours and slopes of the lot. You will reference this so you can get an idea of how high a foundation may be from front to back. Be sure to take into account the sewer connection height when digging the foundation.  You can have an engineering firm stake the house out. I personally like to do this process myself with an engineer’s transit.

Let’s start up the old 977 and start digging the basement (this engine has a loud turbocharger so put on your hearing headsets).

Dig to the specified depth, maybe six to eight feet. Remember after stock piling the soil, you need to put a silt fence around it per plan and always over dig about 3ft. so people can work around the foundation later on.

Now go down into the foundation and look carefully at the newly created wall. Look for any springs coming out or the walls or up from the ground. I will tell you how to correct this later on. If there is a termite infestation, you may want to spray the exposed foundation soil.

The bottom excavated floor of the foundation must be level as possible. This is to prepare for the excavation of the footings. To check, I always used an engineer’s type transit to check finish grade heights. A precision laser instrument can also be used for this purpose.

The next step is a two man job.  This process is laying out the actual length and width of the dweling with ¾” iron pins at each corner where the actual house dimensions are.

Just as we looked at the foundation walls for any telltale signs for water problems, we now want to pay attention to the soil type for footings. This is the most important thing to pay attention to: without the right soil type you wasted your money and time

See you next week for part 2

John D’Annunzio is a local Commercial and Residential builder who has held nearly every job in the construction industry from heavy equipment operator to home builder. He is ICC building code certified and lives and operates in Chester County, PA. His column will appear regularly and address various home improvement and building issues with special attention to subjects of interest locally.

Contact John at johnd3656@verizon.net

Check me out on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-DAnnunzio/253756861341416

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