Why Digging A Foundation is Not a DIY Project

You’ve saved and dreamed, planned, and waited but it’s finally time to build the home you’ve desired and longed for. You can already see yourself making your new home your own with the little touches you’ve dreamed of. As you ponder the DIY projects you’re ready to take on, you could be thinking “maybe we can save some money if…”. Let’s talk about one of those DIY projects that future homeowners think they can take on, but soon find what a big mistake it was to do all on their own. One of those projects might be digging a foundation. After all, using an excavator to dig some holes can’t be that hard right? Let’s “dig in” and find out why you should never make digging a foundation a DIY project.

Process of Digging a Foundation

Are you thinking about building a new home, adding on, or building another structure on your property altogether? The foundation is possibly the most important part of your entire build. If you don’t have your foundation right, the rest of your structure won’t withstand the tests of time. 

A foundation provides strength, helps keep out moisture, and provides some protection from the elements. It keeps your home stable during earthquakes, floods, and more. 

When the process of digging a foundation begins, it may not seem like not much digging is happening at all. The first step in the excavation process includes clearing your site properly so that you have the room to dig your foundation and build your structure. Any roots from trees or shrubs within a foot of the foundation need to be removed as well. 

Next, the site is “set out” with the use of wooden stakes and strings to map out where the foundation excavation should be. The excavation contractor will then dig to the depth the general contractor and engineers have determined. This will clear the space necessary for the footings and foundation to be placed. This part of the foundation process is more precise than you might think. If dug too deep, it will need to be filled in since the loose dirt now lacks the stability and support that your foundation needs. It will now need to be compacted or filled with other material. There are all kinds of situations like this throughout the foundation excavation process that require detailed focus to get right. 

A soils engineer will determine whether gravel needs to be added because of a high-water table, drainage systems placed, etc. If the dirt is loose, planking will need to be placed to reinforce the sides from falling in so that the foundation work can be completed. When excavation is complete, the footings and foundation can be poured into different sections or troughs to maintain the shape and structure. 

Once the foundation has had time to cure, the area can be backfilled and leveled out. Building can now begin! The excavation and foundation digging process may feel like a waste of time, but you’ll be glad you took the time to get it right.

Dangers to Excavating Yourself

Maybe you have received the necessary permits and rented equipment for the job. You have big plans of saving on excavation costs but, this task may be more than you have bargained for. Foundation excavation and pouring can be quite dangerous. Educate yourself on the risks before moving forward and make the wise choice of hiring a professional to complete the job for you. Some of these risks include:

  • Hitting power lines below the ground or above your head, results in electrocution.
  • Improper excavation can lead to 
  • Falling into the trenches or holes because the ground is loose from excavating.
  • Dirt and debris dust can cause breathing issues if the proper safety gear is not worn.

Common Reasons Why Foundations Fail

Digging a foundation fails for all kinds of reasons. Some take time and others fail immediately. Some of these reasons include:

  • Failing to remove tree roots. Removing an above-ground stump does not ensure that roots will stop growing, and could eventually disturb the foundation.
  • Backfill soil contains too much water, causing the foundation to fall inward or to absorb the water, creating cracks and leaks.
  • A sinking base can cause the foundation to shift and possibly even crack.
  • Not allowing the foundation to dry long enough before proceeding to backfill and build on top of it.
  • Failing to pour the entire foundation at once. This can allow seams to develop between pours which permits moisture to seep in.

Commonly Made Mistakes

Some mistakes to be aware of during the foundation excavation process include:

  • Failing to get the necessary permits before excavating.
  • Forgetting to measure the size of the equipment you will be renting. Some lots are small and won’t fit just any excavator or cement truck.
  • Failing to plan for excess soil removal before foundation excavation begins. If you fail to remove dirt and are on a small lot, the dirt can fall back into your trenches, and you will need to begin the digging process all over again.

Call Mikula Contracting for Excavation Needs

When it comes down to it, hiring a professional is the safest and often most cost-effective way to complete your foundation excavation. Mikula Contracting has been in the excavation business for more than 70 years. Throughout the years we have encountered all kinds of building sites and situations. This experience makes us the trusted foundation excavation company for residential and commercial builds throughout New Jersey. Let us be your excavation and foundation experts. Call us at 973-772-1684 with any questions you may have or to schedule a time for us to help in your upcoming build. 


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