Excavation / Pre Construction Preparation

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Excavation Pre Construction Preparation
Excavation Construction Preparation, The "Ask George" Files Excavation Pre Construction Preparation
From Ed:

Hi George Steven. I have read, re-read and referenced your website many times during our pre-construction phrase of building our own home. We are breaking ground in a couple months and want to see if you have any experience/advice/opinions on 'over-excavating'. We have been told by one excavating company to consider over-excavating the dirt where our house pad will sit. Here in Phoenix, all house foundations/slabs are poured 8" thick onto about a 12" house pad (dirt) which is elevated from the rest of the property. Over-excavating digs down about 6-12", packs that dirt, then builds the house pad and packs that dirt. Do you have any knowledge of pros/cons of over-excavating? My research on the Internet has turned very little information on this topic. Your help is appreciated!


Hello Ed,

I am familiar with the process. I have seen it used on commercial buildings a few times. You probably know as much or more than I after the research you have done.

As I am sure you know every area has completely different soil composition. What I did when faced with similar issues was contact several excavating contractors for bids and their opinions. Then I contacted several concrete contractors and talked to them about proper preparation prior to their trenching and forming of the slab.

I also contacted a civil engineer and had him look over my plans and soil analysis and give me an opinion on what was best in my situation. Upon his recommendation I added bell bottom piers and added extra steel for reinforcement.

I am sure I probably spent more on my slab and excavation than I needed to but I sleep better knowing it is not going to break up and shift over time.

I don't know anything about your project but if it were me I would make sure I had several opinions and a good civil engineer look at my plans and give me an opinion.

It may cost a little more and take some time but in the long run it will pay off.

PS. Maybe one of the excavating contractors can point you in the direction of a good civil engineer that can give you an opinion.

Hope this helps,

Excavation Pre Construction Preparation
Excavation Construction Preparation, The "Ask George" Files Excavation Construction Preparation
From Jennifer:

What an amazing site!!

Thank you!

Do you have any suggestions on researching home site preparations, ie grading and land prep?


Hello Jennifer,

Thanks for the compliment.:) What is really amazing is the average person can build their own home! It is a lot of work but you can do it!

Site prep is different for each location and for each region of the country. There are many considerations. If you are in a flood plain of any kind you need to make sure you build your pad for your house up high enough. We are in the 100 year flood plain and we raised our pad 4.5 feet. We dug a pond for about 2/3 of the dirt to raise the pad and the other dirt we had to truck in.

Another consideration is water and utilities. Are they available? Some areas are hard to get water to. Make sure water is available. Can you dig a well and get water is municipal water available? How about electricity? In our area the power company pays for the first pole and 200 feet of cable to the house after that you pay the difference.

Another consideration is trees. If you have trees you must remove the ones that are in the way and grade the lot accordingly. My goal when we built was to save as many as I could. When you grade your lot you must be careful not to put to much dirt around the root system of the trees. If you pile to much dirt on top of the surrounding soil around the tress they die. I lost a couple of big trees due to this.

The main thing is planning carefully where the house is going to go and making it work to fit the land. This was one of the hardest aspects for me when we were getting started. I wanted the house to fit into the natural landscape.

Hope this helps,

Excavation Pre Construction Preparation
Excavation Construction Preparation, The "Ask George" Files Excavation Construction Preparation

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