This series will suggest some of the basic steps to follow, and things to be aware of, as you begin down the path toward home ownership.
All of your permits are in place and you’re finally ready to begin the process of building your home. It’s now time to get on your site and get going!
Site Clearing – If you’re building on a wooded lot, you’ll probably have to remove some trees and vegetation in order to get started. You and your builder have probably already laid out the perimeter of the house on the building site, as part of your zoning permit approval. The excavator in charge of digging your foundation will cut and remove any trees and their stumps inside the house perimeter. Trees should also be removed about 20 feet all the way around the building perimeter as well. This will ensure that the contractors have enough room to get around the site easily during construction.
There are other important reasons to leave enough space around your home; 1) Proper air circulation and sunlight will ensure that your roof and siding will last their expected lifetimes; 2) Large trees can be a hazard in high wind conditions, as they can fall directly on your house; and 3) Invading roots can cause damage to foundations and septic systems. Once the trees are removed, the black dirt / topsoil in the building area should be stripped away and stockpiled out of the way somewhere on site. This material will be needed later in the construction process.
Foundation Excavation – The excavator is now ready to dig for your foundation. The depth of the hole required will depend on what type of foundation your house will have. If you have a full basement, the hole will have to be eight to nine feet deep. If your house will have a crawlspace, the hole only needs to be four to five feet deep. If you live in an area where soil depths are shallow, you may have to blast away the bedrock in order to reach the proper depth. It is important to remove all black dirt and organic material from the foundation area.
These types of soils absorb and retain moisture and can be unstable. If you’re building in an area that experiences real winters, your home’s foundation must be laid on firm, clean soil that lies below the frost line (usually around four feet deep). Less ground cover than that may result in foundation movement and damage during freeze/thaw cycles. Frost can move entire houses if the foundations are not constructed properly.
Driveway – A similar process is required for the installation of your driveway. You don’t need to dig as deep (probably no more than 18”-24”), but you should get the black dirt and organic material removed. A base course of blasted rock or “breaker-run” should be laid first, with gravel spread on top of the base course.
As with a house foundation, a driveway needs a solid base underneath it. This will prevent a gravel driveway from getting mushy and soft during wet weather, and it will keep an asphalt or concrete driveway surface from cracking due to unstable ground moving underneath. A driveway should be higher than its surrounding ground so that rain water sheds off of it. Water trapped on a driveway over long periods of time will eventually cause expensive damage.
“The Main Point” – Proper clearing and site preparation are the first steps toward building your home. Make sure there is enough room for everyone to get around the site safely and efficiently. A strong foundation is the basis of a properly built house. Careful and thoughtful site preparation will ensure your foundations are correctly in place.