Breaking Ground

Breaking ground and seeing the foundations start to take shape on your own home is exciting. That said, the large costs associated with excavating, foundations and framing can seem like a far less enjoyable way to spend money than on the shiny fixtures, fittings and fun stuff you’ll enjoy when your home is complete. However, this stage of the building process is fundamental to the structural integrity of your home and the overall success of the build. This stage is what separates the average builders from the excellent builders.

The excellent builders will take the time to do all the due diligence and planning upfront, limiting the chance of nasty surprises. One of the most important aspects of planning for the build is understanding what lies below the ground. A good builder will undertake extensive soil testing via third party specialists to ascertain the foundation bearing capacity of the ground and plan the appropriate footings. Imperfect soil can be managed, but it could mean a lengthy delay in construction if you discover a peat moss just below the surface when you’re days away from pouring the foundations. The water table also needs to be considered so that it can be managed during construction (otherwise your new foundation can quickly become a pond), and to ensure your lower level stays dry after you’ve moved in. Finally, the frost line needs to be understood so that footings are the appropriate depth or frost insulation is in place.

Once you’ve planned for what you expect below the ground, you can start digging. There is a big difference between a good excavator and a hole digger. A good excavator will be precise in his excavations, making sure they are the correct depth for the plans. This will avoid any future issues with building inspectors concerned about meeting grading requirements. After footings have been marked out, compaction testing should be undertaken to understand the true bearing capacity of the footings. This important step reduces the risk of footings failing and structural issues in your new home.

Custom homes have lots of walls and changes in foundation levels. These need to be laid out precisely. No-one wants a kitchen with unsightly gaps between the cabinets and walls, if a wall is not quite square. A quality builder will ensure a site engineer and the foundation company review both the planned and finished foundations so that everything is in perfect alignment. Quality foundations and backfilling will also aim to optimize drainage. Water is the biggest warranty risk for houses, and it can attack you from all angles – above, inside and below. At the basement level, it makes sense to spend extra money on waterproofing – look for a 30-year waterproof warranty.

The final part of this stage of the build is framing and, once again, planning is key. Pre-construction meetings will take place with the builder, architect and framers to make sure all the details and products are right for the job. Not everything will be on the plans, and a quality builder and framer will also engage the plumbers, HVAC and electricians in case any adjustments need to be made to the framing plans for water lines, sewer lines, heat runs or electricals.

It’s worth investing in the structural integrity of your home. A knowledgeable builder with good subcontractors will set up the construction process for success and build a home that will last generations.

November 22, 2021.

Coming soon…behind the scenes.