Friday, June 10, 2011

Pre-Construction Part 3 – Prep-School

Another clever piece by Rob Abbott to be published in the Muskoka Sun!

 Everybody knows, or should, that you can't start building without a building permit. The consequences can be significant if you do. However, there is a lot of site preparation work that can be done while you wait for your building permit.
Excavation during the Bala Patty Parsons Build!
  What lies Beneath 
You are likely going to be digging a lot of hole for foundations, posts, or underground services and you don't want to locate these accidentally. Take a look around and see if you can locate where the electricity, phone, cable, natural gas, water and sewer lines are.
Look for posted signs identifying buried utilities.

Look for evidence of unmarked utilities. Maintenance holes, catch basins, pedestals, junction boxes, water and gas meters, valve chambers, conduit affixed to wood poles, test posts, sunken ground, these may indicate the presence of underground structures. However, don't rely on a simple visual check.

Phone Ontario One Call at 1-800-400-2255. They will tell you which utilities will be contacted in your work area and arrange to have them marked. If you hit one of these lines, it will ruin, or possibly end, your day.

  On a Clear Day 
Unless your site is already cleared, chances are there are some rocks and trees that will need to be removed to build. Keep in mind that it's just not the building footprint and driveway. You'll need area to store back-fill, building material, and to unload during construction.

In our case, there was a large, majestic, red oak tree that would be in the middle of the parking pad and had to be removed. We looked at having it milled into lumber, but being such and old tree in a residential setting and with a bracket for a bird feeder hanging from it's trunk, the risk of ruining an expensive saw blade on an embedded nail ruled that out.
 While I've felled a few trees in my life with a chainsaw anything thicker than my head, or that could possibly land on an overhead wire, building or me, I hire a professional; it's just not worth the risk. They have the skill and equipment to do the job safely and quickly.

In our case Bartlett Tree Service donated their services to fell the tree, haul away all the brush and cut the trunk into firewood lengths. While the firewood will be red oak, the stump is a son of a birch to remove. Since we'll have heavy equipment to excavate for the foundation, removing the stump will be part of that contract.

If you're going to be excavating for the foundation, you're going to need a barrier fence around the hole for safety.
You also may require a barrier fence around the construction site to keep looky-loos and the curious from wandering onto a potentially dangerous construction site. If there is a stream or ditch nearby you may require a silt and run-off barrier. You might as well get these barriers in place before the excavator shows up.

  Diggin It. 
Technically, you can excavate for your foundation before receiving the building permit. However, this carries some risk. The building permit review could necessitate a change in the size or location of the foundation. Furthermore a common notation on drawings around foundations is “undisturbed soil”, and since it does not refer to Mother Earth's emotional state, it means that it is sometimes not just a simple matter of refilling the hole and digging again.

Once you start to dig, the foundations should be as fixed on the plans as they will be to the ground.

=> Rob is a Habitat For Humanity Muskoka volunteer, director and Build Committee Chair.

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