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Groundwork & Foundations

Digging foundations trench slowly

I will probably be digging the trench for my foundations by hand, over a length of time, to save money.

Any ideas for how to keep the trench in good condition, i.e. no crumbling sides, turning to muddy mess etc.

8 Answers from MyBuilder Groundworkers

Best Answer

hi just to add to the already good advice youve already recieved. Do a cat scan or obtain plans for the services mostly free via internet but bear in mind the cables and pipes are not always where they should be. As for the excavation the most cost effective way must be to hire a mini digger and driver for half a day. He could even move the spoil away from the working area. or you could spend roughly the same amount on ply and timber support but please bear in mind youll be risking life limb and blisters whist excavating by hand why not save extra money by mixing the concrete yourself
kind regards kevin


Answered 19th Feb 2011

Why not go for a raft foundation, no need to dig footings and save on the cost of concrete and labour.


Answered 17th Feb 2011

It depends on the size of the trench and if you have somewhere to store the waste a lot of skip companies have a time limit unless you are a regular. And you don't want to be double handling the waste, If you have space dump the waste within reach of a grab hire. I have dug a few footings by hand no problem at all. You could try a test hole. And you are less likely to damage any pipes Tip if digging in clay you do not want the ground to be too dry it goes like concrete, and hire or buy a water pump because you don't want too much water in or around the the trench. It maybe you only have to dig down a few feet and you probably won't have to prop the trench.However I tend to agree with everyone else this is probably the most important part of the job . The last footing I was involved with the building inspector made us dig down over 5 ft with no prior warning. And why risk your back, mud everywhere and grief from your partner.
And remeber its not just the footings I expect you will need a soakaway sewer trenches .If you want to save money why not get on the barrow/skip loader for digger driver that will give you a good workout. Also a good digger driver will be able to give you lots of advice on marking out /contacts for concrete suppliers skip hire/grab hire and should get better rates for you.Good luck


Answered 25th Feb 2011

find out locally what depth you may have to go to satisfy local building inspector, also check for services that may be burried in the area ,if more than 3 ft deep then get it dug by machine by someone who knows what they are doing. it could be done in a day if not too large and concrete in the next.


Answered 18th Feb 2011

Hi. Talk to your council inspector about day joints in the concrete. This is where you concrete in sections that you have dug out . When you pour the concrete you insert rebar into the wet concrete stop end leaving you with a structural joint for your next pour . This will remove the problems associated with leaving open trenches. But you must consult you inspector prior to this as it will depend on your ground condiions


Answered 18th Feb 2011

Before you even think about hand digging your footing talk to your local council building inspector. Ask him or her for their advice on the local ground conditions. Your area could be stiff clay sub soil or running sand. In private ground you can still find all services which may not be in the exact place shown on service drawings, but if you damage one you are liable. Allied to this electric cables will also blow the spade out of your hands. Hire a cable avoidance tool ( Cat ) Scanner from a hire shop and read the instructions. Spray the ground if and where you come across a live service. This will help. They cannot always pick up gas though, depends on which marker tape used if any. As for the on going open trench. You will be required to ensure you protect the trench with barriers and warning signs, Should th ebottom of the trench get wet the building inspector will make you dig lower as the sub strata will become spongy. Foundations need to be formed on firm ground. Don't think about a raft as these are dearer than strip footings upto 1m deep. I would be willing to offer you a site visit and advice if you around within travelling distance of Leicester.

Dan Wade ACIOB


Answered 17th Feb 2011

DIY is always worth trying however first calculate how long this will take you, how much the trench boxing will cost you, warning others that there is a trench there (if someone falls into it they can claim off of you private land or not) Look at the weather & choose your time carefully. Hiring a self employed groundworker should be easy, they should hold the digger tickets & depending on how big your foundations are it should not take long. This does depend on the ground conditions and pipes or utilities running under the area marked for foundations. This is hit or miss but as you are manually digging the area you will see & feel it first so tread carefully. Mark your ground out & take even levels at a time to prevent collapse. 20 meters of a trench of 1m deep & 0.6 wide should take a digger 1/2 a day. Digging a trench by hand is extremely hard on the body. Other than boxing your trench & not walking too close & make sure that the spoil (removed soil) is no closer than a meter away. The 1 meter foundation depth is not a given because you may not hit good ground at this depth. As kentish builder has said, look at the area, understand the area, plan & do not expect your trench to stay clean - water is the enemy so eyes peeled for good conditions. Best of luck.


Answered 17th Feb 2011

hi,firstly befor doing any excavations,always check for any gas,water or electric and sewer pipes.if you go through one of these,s it could cost you a lot of prepare your self properly.get organished.with the side you can ply wood,the secret is not to stand near any trench that you have dug.keep well away.with any trench you will always get a bit of soil come befor you pore concrete go around and take out any spoil in the trench.all the best nick


Answered 17th Feb 2011

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