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Groundbreaking on new workshop

July 30, 2007


Watch this space.   If all goes well, over the next four months, a 2400 square foot workshop will emerge from these very unassuming beginings.   Last weekend, I performed the rough excavation and grading of this area, compensating for the slope, some 15″ difference in height from the left side to the right side.   If you look carefully toward the bottom of the picture you will see our phone line to the left of the cinder block.  The phone line is typically only burried several inches below the surface and I found it with a bucket tooth.  It’s a time consuming task to properly solder and shrink wrap a splice back in, so it is a good idea to call a service to locate and paint markings for all your burried utilties.  Finding the power lines, or if you have them, gas or water lines, typically burried 2-3 feet in depth, would have carried much more severe consequences.  Call before you dig.

While I always calculate the amount of gravel or concrete required for a job (since I’m paying for it), multiplying the square area by the depth of coverage and converting from cubic feet to cubic yards, I’ve never bothered to consider the volume of excavated dirt.   If a lot is small and doesn’t have space to store all the displaced earth prior to backfilling, (assuming all the dirt could be used to re-grade the lot), then the dirt must be transported off-site and that’s an extra cost to consider for the project.  Luckily I have plenty of room, and made use of the 30 yards of dirt removed, hauling around to the rear of my house and building up the back yard.


While in highschool, Leslie used to drive a school bus, so she felt at home behind the wheel of the dumptruck and took up the hauling duties, while I loaded.


After dumping each load, it must be spread and compacted before the next load is applied to reduce settlement.  Failing to do so will result in a “washboarded” appearance after the first soaking rain and resulting soil settlement.


The foundation walls below these arches extend down five feet to the footings,  and when poured, the top of the footings were about even with the original grade.  So, we’ve built up the grade to a height of almost five feet accross this 70 foot expanse.   Initially, the slope to the house was quite steep, but as we’ve been able to add more dirt over the months, it is slowly becoming useable as a back yard.   One day, it will even have grass.  While driving across the slope,  I use a “6-way” blade to grade the dirt.     At the start of the pass, the blade is tilted counter to the slope to begin the cut, and is slowly tilted back toward a nuetral position as the machine moves onto the area just cut.  Failing to reduce the angle as you drive forward will multiply the amount of the cut as the machine moves onto and assumes the newly created pitch.  Pivoting the blade will direct the cut dirt to one side or the other, so you can move it up or down the slope as you need to.  I’ve found it’s easier to make subtle ajdustments, and make several passes, as I don’t do this everyday, and about the time I get the hang of it again, the job is over.    There are very advanced systems on the market now that have electronic sensors mounted on either end of the blade and can guide the operator to adjust height and pitch as they go to achieve a perfect grade.    

We use a rotating laser mounted on my transit tripod and an electronic received that displays high  / low / on grade, attached to a telescoping measurement stick.   An assistant checks progress with the stick.  More on that, during the next update when we begin the shop footing excavation.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2007 2:58 pm

    Can I put my deposit down for space in the shop? 😀 I got a Camaro that needs an LS-motor put in it!

  2. July 31, 2007 4:55 am

    P.S. Love the pic of Leslie, she looks right at home!

  3. August 1, 2007 1:08 pm

    Where did you develop the chops to do this sort of stuff? I can barely start my lawn mower.

  4. August 14, 2007 2:49 pm

    Good news for those of you needing to Call Before You Dig, there is a new national number. Simply dial 811, toll free, to be connected with your state’s call center. Not only is it a pain to repair the line, but hitting the wrong line could cuase injuries or worse!! Many states have laws regarding the “Call Before You Dig” Process, ignoring them could cost you $$$ in fines too. Dig Safely out there!


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