We are about to do what is known in the industry as “break ground”. For us in the construction industry that love what we do, this is always very exciting. You would think that starting a new job would get old after a quarter of a century, but (thank God) it never does. We realize that this is a new experience for our customers, and yet we find each new home a challenge and an adventure within itself.
Our first operation will be to move in the heavy machinery that will actually start clearing the project. We obviously first have to make room for the other operations and so our first task is to start taking down the trees that are within the “limits of clearing”. You have seen this before in your contract and your various site plans. You have also probably seen the white ribbons that surround the area that is to be cleared which is a physical representation of the squiggly dark line that is on your site plan marked “limits of clearing”. The length of the clearing operation will vary due to the weather, the size of the trees, and how far we have to haul the trees and stumps off site to their eventual resting place. Disposing of logs and stumps is a sensitive environmental issue everywhere in the country, and the dumps open and close on a sporadic basis. In some instances we are able to go locally if somebody needs the logs and will take the stumps. In other cases, we have to go down past Lorton, Virginia or even to West Virginia to get rid of the excess material. This, more than anything, will drive the length of time it takes us to clear the site.
We will also be “rough grading” the site at this time. This is an operation that takes the site as it is now and changes it to the shape that we will eventually need in order for the lot to serve your family as we have previously agreed upon in the site plan and in our contract. We euphemistically call this “dirt sculpture” in that we are molding the land to meet the specific challenges of the lot that you have purchased. This may involve bringing some dirt in or taking some dirt from the site. This is known in the industry as “borrow” or “carry”. If you hear these terms, now you know what they mean. If you see dump trucks in and out of the site, that is what they are doing. Depending on the amount of dirt that needs to come in or out, we may do this operation before we start digging the basement, in conjunction with it, or after the basement is actually installed.
Another thing that we will be going at this time is installing the silt controls. As we clear the site, we will be denuding the property and exposing bare earth. Since it always seems to rain when Foley Construction starts a job, we need to make sure that any silt that is generated during a storm does not leave the site. We will be installing dirt berms around the perimeter of the site, and at the low points we will be digging holes that will pond the water and then gravel filters to filter the water before it leaves the property. When the job is all over, and just before we hydro-seed, we will remove these controls.
As soon as we finish the clearing operation, we will have the civil engineer stake out the exact location of the basement. Then, by using the site plan and the architectural drawings, we will actually draw the home out on the ground to enable the bulldozer to accurately dig the basement. The digging of the basement normally takes one or two days.
Upon the completion of digging the basement, the concrete wall crew will move in and start installing the footings. This is the first physical work done on the actual home. The footings take between one and three days, depending on the difficulty of the site and the size of the home. At this stage, we have our first inspection in order to insure that the footings are sitting on solid ground and are the size and design as specified in the approved architectural drawings.
Right after the concrete crew installs the footings, they will start forming the basement walls with their metal forms. This forming operation is a fascinating thing to watch and takes two to four days. We then have to get the walls inspected along with the structural steel that is inside the walls, and then we can initiate “the pour”. The actual pouring of concrete into the walls takes about a half a day. We will then wait between one and two days and then strip the metal forms to expose the poured concrete walls.
Immediately upon stripping the forms, we will start getting the dirt in the basement leveled out (“on grade”) in preparation for the plumbing “ground work”. The “ground work” consists of the pipes that are underneath your basement slab that carry the sewage out of your home to the proper disposal facility. This is an operation that is coordinated between the basement concrete floor man (different from the concrete wall man) and the plumbing contractor. We put the basement on grade and install the plumbing pipes simultaneously. We now have another inspection by the plumbing inspector to make sure that these pipes have been put in correctly. Once that inspection is done, then we cover the pipes up with dirt and gravel and prepare to pour the slab. Now we are ready for yet another inspection of the basement slab preparation before we pour that. We will also be preparing the slab in the garage at approximately the same time.
Another process that starts at this time is called “back fill”. Back filling is pushing the dirt in against the sides of the concrete basement walls in another effort to put the site on grade in the shape and form that it will have when you eventually move into your home. Before we back fill, there are several things that we need to do in order to insure the water tightness of your home. Around the base of the footings, we will be putting in some 4 inch plastic pipe, gravel, and a filter mat on top of that so that the gravel does not eventually become clogged with silk. This piping will move any access water away from your footings and insure its water integrity. Just prior to this operation, we will have the outside of the wall coated with a waterproofing compound that is done by a specialized contractor that does only this operation. You will probably notice some orange lines painted on your basement walls at this point, and that is to let the crews know where the eventual dirt grade will be. Once these two operations are complete, we are blessed with yet another visit by the inspector to make sure everything is ready for the back fill. Once this inspection is obtained, we move the bulldozers in again and start pushing the dirt in against the home. We may be bringing extra dirt in at this point to complete the grading operation.
Once we have the site reasonably on grade, then we will start moving in materials such as the steel beams that hold up the first floor of the home and the floor trusses that compose the framing in our first deck operation. At this point, we will have completed the site and basement preparation work and are ready to start the actual framing stage. We will deal with that in our next summary.
I hope this has been informative and helps you in understanding what is going on with your new home, but we are always available to answer any special questions that you may have. If you want to get more exact dates and times as to when these various operations are going to take place, then contact our office when we start to get close and we will give you an appropriate update.