I found my mason on the side of the road, “no seriously I did”, he was building a foundation wall for someone and I had to drive past the job almost every day and noticed how nice his finish work looked, well that’s about all it took for me because I have seen so much mason work over the years that look like kaka at the end of the job, but this was the nicest and cleanest finish work I had seen in a long time so I stopped and introduced myself, I got the quote from him, it was within the budget so I hired him and his crew but had to wait 2 weeks before he could start, it was OK, that gave me time to get the well up and running and pass inspection for them to have water for when they got started.
Again depending on the soil conditions, this determines what kind of footing you will need. This information should be on the plans, if not the inspector will specify what’s needed as he will know the area better than most, and he would make this clear on the plans (if he didn’t miss it, this does happen) when he does the plan check. Also, your crew doing the work should know exactly what you need and will be able to tell you when you get your quote from them. Once you have the footing dug out all the re-bar will need to be put in and will need to be inspected before you pour the concrete.
A good idea at this point, knowing where the septic tank is going would be to leave a space at the bottom of the foundation wall big enough to get a 4-inch sewer pipe through it, this can be grouted in later.
The most critical part of the whole project is the walls being square, because if these are out of square the whole job will be, and this just creates problems all the way up to the roof. There is a way to correct this if you catch it before you go any further if it is less than 1 inch, outside of this you will need to figure out exactly where the problem is and re-do the work.
Make sure this is right before you fill all the pots in the walls, this also will be inspected, the inspector will be there with his tapping stick checking for hollow spots. Don’t forget the anchor bolts at the top for the sill plate.
CHECKING FOR SQUARE. The 3-4-5 rule.
This is where the 100ft tape measure comes in real handy again if you pull the tape diagonally from corner to corner (make note of the measurement) and do the same on the opposite corners. Both measurements should be the same. Like I mentioned less than an inch can be gotten around (I think they still call this within industry standards), mine was half an inch off, but this can be adjusted with the floor system before you start the log walls, (note; The walls must also be level) I will explain how to overcome the out of square problem in the floor system section.
With my foundation walls, I chose to go a bit higher than I wanted to, the reason being that’s where I wanted the water heater to go and also I would be the one later down the road that would have to get under there, and I like to be able to move around comfortably. I also had 2 crawl space doors put in for easier access at both ends of the building.
Now the walls are up, the air vents are in, the pots are full, the anchor bolts are in the right places and you almost pass inspection. The inspector then advised me to put in a 2″ drain pipe through the lowest part of the foundation wall, this was an absolute pain to put in now the pots were full of concrete, this could have been done when the walls went up! I didn’t question as to why but I should have, it seemed logical should it flood, the water has a way out.
Between you and me, it also opened up access for rodents and vermin to get in and have a place to hang out for the winter and make it their home.
My advice here would be to take a pipe cap and drill a bunch of small holes in it to keep the small animals out and still allow the water to drain.
As it turned out, I did not need the air vents or the 2″ pipe at all but did not know this at the time, I didn’t find out until I got to the insulation stage, where I was then informed that what I had chosen for the crawl space did not require me to have vents or pipe at all. see Insulation.
Don’t forget to leave a gap in the wall for the ductwork to pass through for the HVAC system depending on the system I went with a heat pump, it saved space on the inside not having to have a separate furnace or two somewhere in an inconvenient place.
Good Ideas. This is where the BIFEN comes in, before you back-fill into the footings get your pump-up sprayer out and mix 1 oz of Bifen to 1 gallon of water and spray inside and outside of the foundations and any piers all the way down to the footing and then back-fill, this will take care of any termites and other wood loving insects for the next year.
Next, it would be better for you if you got all the trash and debris out from the inside of the foundations, then get a large rake and flatten off all the dirt, for several reasons, after the building is up you still have quite a bit of work to do under the floor, all your rough plumbing and electrical will be under there and maybe the water heater, if you go that route also put a concrete slab in for the heater to sit on, 3ft X3ft with 36 inch clearance to the floor joists central to where all the hot water needs to get to.
Another idea that will save time and effort later would be to figure out where your sewer line will run and dig the trench for it and lay some pipe in it, unless the code has changed I believe it should have a fall of a 1/4 inch per 1ft or 1 ft every 50 ft.
Depending on the time of year and your completion time, and now that the foundations are complete will you still need the pump, if you are getting into the cold season and don’t have the pump house built and insulated with a heater in it, I recommend taking the pump out and keep it from freezing.
Don’t do what I did! I took the pump out and put it in a dry barn out of the weather (thinking it would be safe) but I didn’t think to empty all the water out of it, You Guessed It, the freezing winter came and froze the water left in the pump and cracked the housing. Yes, it cost me another pump, it wasn’t a cheap one either.
I would recommend getting the pump house built and insulated before the winter sets in.
Hi there Dell.
You've put together a very informative article, so great work!
I love how you approached the Mason directly, based on seeing his current project. I think that more people should directly approach tradesman if they admire their work (it can't hurt can it).
This makes me want to start a building project in my spare time.
Take care mate,
Thanks for the pointers. My husband and I are currently designing our off-grid cabin and I think we've already changed it at least 3 times. You've given me a lot more to think about, we will be building it on property that we already own so that takes one headache away. I'm going to keep reading to see what else I haven't thought of.