Saturday, March 15, 2014

Check the ground conditions before you build your custom home

When you are looking to buy a piece of vacant land to build your dream custom home there are a lot of things that you should take into consideration, one of the most overlooked ones is the soil and ground conditions that the house will be built on.

Most people think that if there is a building lot for sale especially in a pre-planned development then you should have little to no problem building a house on it, especially if you follow the rules of the local municipality.

What people don’t realize is that if you don’t take the time to do some investigating then you could end up spending a lot of money to prepare the building lot so that it is possible to build your custom home upon it.
One of the most common things that can be wrong with a building site is the water table. If the natural water table is high then that could cause a lot of problems for your contractor while you’re building the home.

When you dig a hole in the ground and the water table is high then the hole will naturally fill with water. It costs money to try and keep water out of the excavation so that you can build a proper foundation. The other problem a high water table can cause is issues going into the future. High water tables can cause serious problems in the foundation down the road with flooding and at the least create damp basements.

Some people have a beautiful house drawn by an architect with a full 9 ft basement, then they find out when their builder digs the hole for the foundation that the water table is too high or the ground is so saturated with water that it isn’t safe or wise to build a foundation on top of it.

What you have to do then starts to cost you money. If you still want a full basement or even a crawl space and the ground is saturated to the point where it’s unsafe to build on then you need to build an engineered base. This is basically like building a road bed for your house to sit on.

You start by removing anything organic from your excavation, once you are down to a fairly stable working ground that you can start with then you start dumping in larger aggregate with an excavator, as the aggregate is laid it is packed with a heavy roller. This is done until it is about 1 metre thick, on the top you place smaller aggregate to help level your pad and make it a better working space. Once it is about 1 metre thick and has been packed solid then you are ready to build a house foundation on it. A house foundation built on a properly engineered pad should never move or shift.

Now that you have built an engineered base then you have to take into consideration that your house is going to sit out of the ground more than your original drawings. This will cost you money in fill as you now have to grade up to the level that the natural ground level would have been on the plans.

So what you should be asking someone that is trying to sell you a lot to build on is if there are any soil samples that have been taken and tested. Is there bore testing with an engineered report? There usually are a lot of soil condition reports that have been done before the municipality will give a permit to develop a subdivision. Its not uncommon to ask for a test hole to be dug, even if you have to pay for it yourself, it's still better to know before you purchase.

The more information that you can gather on the building site the better prepared you can be for any potential problems that will arise when you dig the foundation.

Rob Abbott
Operations Manager
Village Builders Inc.

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