We have started on our little house! This has definitely been the summer devoted to digging holes so far - we've dug fence holes, trenches and now we're tackling the foundation of our little house.
This house will technically be a finished shed. In our area if the structure is 200 sqft or under, and follows the 3 foot setback, and is not an office for clients to visit then you are not required to obtain a building permit, although you are required to follow building rules. There are many different types of building foundations which are generally acceptable for a shed. You can pour a slab, pour concrete footings with a crawl space, run skids, or just layout pre-cast concrete piers, but we choose to go with poured concrete footings similar to deck footings.
Going with poured concrete footings is more affordable and easier to do than pouring a slab. That way we don't have to bring a huge truck in here to pour a cement foundation, and all we really need to do is dig holes which will be filled with cement which wood beams will be attached to.
Here we have the basic layout of the house. It will measure 12 x 16 feet which is actually a pretty good size when you think about it in terms of one large room. Definitely large enough to use as a personal office and storage. The first thing we did here was to measure out where the house will go. Notice how we have stayed over 3 feet away from the fence, since that's how far you have to go from the property line, unless you want to apply for additional permits (which are costly and basically mean more hassle!)
Since our maple tree in the backyard is located relatively close, we did have quite a lot of roots to deal with. It's important to clear the area and get rid of the roots, since they might pose a problem later on. The dirt here in Oregon is annoying. It's clay and terrible in terms of drainage and it's tough to dig into. Plus, now the ground is rather dry, so to clear the area of grass and roots was definitely a tough job to do. Quite a lot of sweat equity has already gone into this project!
When we dug up this area we basically used a pick axe, a shovel, a hole post digger and an iron bar to clear the ground. In between we raked all the debris off and clipped / chopped off any roots. Whenever we found a root we also tried to pull it up as far as possible. Some of these roots stretched the whole way across and were quite large!
Here we have almost cleared the whole area. Of course puppy wants to join the party, but sometimes we have to put him on a leash to get him out of the way, because he wants to be in the middle of it all!
One crucial aspect when establishing this foundation are the measurements. To stake out a 12 x 16 feet square rectangle in the ground is not completely easy! We have measured and measured and measured! One thing we did here was to set up strings to create this rectangle which we could use as a guide when marking out where we needed to dig holes.
It's important that the corners of the strings are square. And making all four corners square while also keeping all the measurements exact is actually easier said than done!
To established where holes needed to be dug, we used a plumb bob which we dropped down.
This plumb bob enabled us to see where the edge of the hole needed to be exactly to follow our measurements. Once we got that straight, we used spray paint to mark out where we needed to dig.
All in all, 12 holes needed to be marked and dug!
Each hole needed to be 18 inches deep. In our area there is no frost line and the building requirements are such that you must have a hole at least 12 inches below grade. We went down 18 inches and filled it with 6 inches of compacted gravel.
Inside each hole we were going to put a cardboard building form. We picked up the 10 x 48 inch ones at the home improvement store and cut them in half. Later on cement will be pored in each one. But before we get to that state, we need to make sure each hole is dug properly, that they all line up and that it's large enough for the cardboard building form to fit into.
Doing all this digging and clearing off the ground and making sure each of these holes were positioned properly, not to mention making sure we're constantly square and within our measurements took a little longer than we anticipated. When we finally had the rough holes dug, we deciced that in order to get a better perception of the hole project and to see if we actually were within our measurements in regards to the holes, we needed to build a wooden frame to lean on top of all the holes. This was just for us to see if were on the right track. But with this frame on top, you can definitely get a better perspective on how large the structure eventually will be. This picture was taken at night, just as it was getting a bit too dark to do any actual work. That happens around 9 o'clock at this point.
Ok, so back to work the next day. We put the frame up, and here you can definitely see how we need to trim back our tree and the neighbor's tree quite dramatically to fit a house! Now we needed to get back to re-checking the position of our holes, digging a bit more this way or that way in order to get it perfect. Because we definitely wanted to get this right - we wanted all the holes to line up perfectly, so later when we pour the cement into the holes and attach the post bases, and later the wood, everything fits right.
We wanted to put gravel at the bottom of each hole, before putting down the round building forms, to make everything more secure. Hence, we had to dig down pretty far. Not to mention, the ground slopes towards the back of the fence, so in the back we had to dig even deeper holes.
Finally we get ready to secure the first construction form. Here we check our measurements, check square and check level (and check and recheck again) before actually securing the form.
Gravel at the bottom, and then dirt and gravel around the form to secure it.
And then do the same thing with the remaining 11.... I can't point out enough how many times we must have measured, re-measured and then done it once again or twice. Getting all the measurements just right, and the depths just right, and the distance between them just right and then the leveling just right, was quite difficult.
Once we had finally secured every single one of these tubes in the ground (yay! we were so happy when the last one was done!), we figured we would put down the boards that eventually will become the bottom of the house, to see if everything checked out. And it did! Perfectly! All our hard work seems to have paid off!
Next, we covered the ground with landscaping felt to try to prevent weeds or roots to grow up here. We made holes in the felt for all the tubes, and then we put gravel down to secure it.
And then finally, once it was almost completely dark (hence the bad picture!) we were done. All the tubes in the ground, landscaping felt on top and gravel on top of that.
Next up... mixing and pouring cement. Exciting stuff around here, wouldn't you say - digging holes, measuring 10,000 times and then, pouring cement. Yes, we do know how to have fun.