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Dirt work and trenching


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Mark's Forum Posts: 1

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By Mark in Las Cruces, NM on 6/9/2004


Hi, We're just getting started building a home in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The house will have a slab foundation. We're getting ready to schedule the dirt work for site prep, and wondering if we can expect the person we bring in to do the dirt work to also dig trenches for the electrical, gas, water, and cable stub-ins, or if the plumber and electrician do that when they come out. If anybody knows for sure, please let me know.

Thanks,

Mark

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By Michael in Cave Creek, AZ on 6/9/2004


The best way to find out is to talk to your site prep sub. It is my experience that most site prep/grading subs prefer to do only the grading because they have experienced and expensive staff and some of the larger equipment such as water trucks and loaders. For trenching and utility installation, I prefer to use a backhoe service. These guys will dig trench for about $75/hour, maybe $50 per hour for cash in my part of the world. So they are cheaper than going through an electrician, plumber, or grading/site prep company.

If you know a little about underground utilities and know your local utilities standards you can save some money by laying the pipe or conduit yourself in the trench and then having the backhoe service come to backfill and compact the trench. As an O-B you are in charge and can negotiate whatever scope you want with your subs. Along with that comes the responsibility of getting it right and coordinating the trades. If you don't understand some of the work and don't feel comfortable inspecting it, buy it as a package (e.g. let the plumber arrange for digging the waterline, sewer and drain trenches).

Good luck with your project.
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By David in Escondido, CA on 9/17/2004


In my case, I am doing the grading myself and will do the trenching when the time comes. My garage is the only structure that will be slab and I don't see any particular problems with doing that myself as I have already trenched in the well water and power to the storage tanks (225 feet) and poured a couple of medium-sized slabs for the water tanks. Those little Bobcat diggers are easy learning to operate and cheap to rent.

If you feel insecure about laying out the water/sewer and electrical trenches, hire a sub to lay it out and explain code to you. My house will be perimeter foundation-crawlspace placed on rock with ICF forms up to 8-foot high in some places. That will be a true test of my skills as an owner-builder and I find it daunting.
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By John in Erie, CO on 2/7/2005


David,

I did my ICF walls, also on rock, and have some tips:

Break down and buy a decent hammer drill. You can get some okay ones on eBay, or bite the bullet and pay for a new one. I did the first 2/3 of my project with a battery powered DeWalt hammer drill. Dumb. Once I bought an AC powered one, I'll never look back. Virtually all of my footings and thus ICF walls are pinned to rock, a requirement in my area if you are on rock and footings or walls might get shallow.

Also, when forming up my footings, I needed to hammer drill holes (3/4") for the form stakes. For pinning to rock, I hammer drill 12" into the rock, blow the material out with compressed air and a long handle (wear eye protection), run a brush down it, and then blow it out again. I then put epoxy in the hole (there is a special 2-part epoxy with a mixing nozzle that mixes the parts, it fits in a standard caulking gun) and insert your rebar.

The second great item is the Tapcon fastener. I used these all over to secure ICF's to the rock (I also used foam glue). Tapcons work great on rock as well as concrete.

Good luck - you'll do fine. Take your time, and get everything set before you call for concrete. I guarantee your work will come out better than any sub's - you really care, whereas most subs want their check.
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By Kenneth in Lees Summit, MO on 2/8/2005


If you are building on rock, I second John's recommendation to get a good hammer drill. However what we did was rent one from the local rental yard. We got everything laid out, marked where we needed to drill, and rented a much nicer one than I would have ever purchased for two days.

OTOH, I have found that in general if you are going to need to rent a tool for four days, it is usually in your best interest to buy it and resell it when you are finished. In these cases, buy quality (Dewalt, Hilti) as the resale will be much higher than discount stuff (Chicago Pneumatic) and will ultimately cost you less money.


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By Peter in Gilford, NH on 2/8/2005


John,

Great tips. I would add just one more thing. The importance of wearing protection. When playing with any kind of concrete or rock, it is extremely important to have good dust protection. A number of really nasty diseases, including some which cause death within one year are caused by exposure to silica.

Home Depot has recently asked their employees to sign a waiver notifying them of the importance of wearing masks while at work (and at the same time, they don't provide them to the employees). I recently saw a worker at Home Depot sweeping concrete dust outside the store causing a huge cloud and he wasn't wearing anything. I tried to tell him, but he wouldn't listen.

My wife's grandfather worked in the coal mines in Pennsylvania. He contracted black lung. From one who has seen the effects and results up close, you want to buy the best mask money can buy for the work at hand.

Peter

P.S. In addition, a hammer drill is loud and ear protection is a must as well.


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