Site Work: Roughing Out A Lot Before Construction

The original house on the property was beyond salvaging, and at 15 feet higher than the street, it posed an accessibility challenge for the aging clients.

The first site-work task is clearing trees and undergrowth and creating a path to the house for the demolition and waste-removal crews.

To keep the construction mess contained on site and out of the street, as well as out of neighboring properties, the team uses different erosion control measures. Along the road, a wide shallow trench is dug out and filled with crushed stone to catch dirt and mud from construction vehicles. In addition, a straw wattle is staked down to absorb run off and to catch silt.

As another erosion control method, silt fencing is staked along neighboring properties with the bottom 6 inches of it buried. Here, it's clearly doing its job after many days of torrential rain.

Excavation for the foundation reveals unusable soil filled with silt and clay. Almost 970 yards of material has to be trucked off site and replaced at this stage of the excavation. This huge boulder is part of the glacial tlll that was found below grade.

The boulder seen in the last slide cannot be moved or dug out. Blasting and drilling cannot be used in the densely developed neighborhood, so the excavation contractor breaks up the rock by continuously dropping a one-ton steel weight nicknamed "The Headache Ball" from the bucket of his excavator. Click here to watch an action video.

A crucial part of reconfiguring the lot is creating a driveway up to the main floor of the house for accessibility. After removing the poor soils, George puts down clean structural fill in 6-inch lifts, compacting each layer as he goes. The driveway is also needed to support heavy construction vehicles such as the concrete pump truck and…

... 10-wheeler dump trucks loaded with the fill needed on the site.

With the side of the lot cut away for the foundation, the steep slope is clearly visible.

The bottom of the foundation excavation is stepped, with the rear section of the house to be built over a crawlspace to avoid needing to remove additional soil from the lot. The small amount of usable excavated soil can be seen piled behind the foundation hole.

The stepped foundation is poured on footings and then given a waterproof coating. The garage foundation in the foreground will be filled up to the slab level. An integral shelf seen in the far wall of the foundation will support the floor framing and allow the floor framing to be below grade.

George pushes the first load of clean fill around the garage foundation using a skid steer machine.

After pushing the fill around the foundation, George uses the bucket of the skid-steer machine to flatten and contour the fill. This allows him to integrate the new slope from the house with the existing slope on the neighboring lot.

Using the excavator, George drops bucket loads of the material that he was able to save during exavation ...

... to backfill the area excavated for the foundation.

Using his skid-steer machine, George gradually continues to fill beside the foundation, again using the bucket to slope the fill away from the foundation and to follow the existing land contour.

After dumping clean fill inside the garage foundation with the excavator, George then uses the bucket to compact the fill. He also uses a hand-operated compactor on the soil.

Because so much of the soil from the excavation was unusable because of poor drainage qualities, 400 yards of material need to be brought in for fill purposes.

Using the skid-steer machine as both an earthmover and a smoother, George manipulates the grade in back of the house. He has to maintain a flat area for a patio immediately behind the house.

With the smoothing and scraping finished, the grade behind the house meets the existing grade in a gentle slope and eliminates the need for an expensive retaining wall.

Another use for the skid steer is for maintaining a slope away from the house.

With a gentle touch on a tough machine, George eases a high point on the existing grade into the new grade around the foundation.

After finishing with the machine, George goes around and smooths out chunks of soil that could freeze and be dangerous underfoot.

Excavation for the septic system uncovers the same poor soil with poor drainage and rocks like this one. George has to remove more than 1,100 yards of material and brings in 670 yards of sand to install the septic system.

The septic system is in and ready for inspection. Because installing the system meant rendering the site inaccessible for about a week, George is able to complete the work after the framers are delayed.

The last item on the rough-out list is putting in a temporary crushed-stone driveway for the construction vehicles. The stone also makes a clean, even surface to stage construction materials.

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