Okay, soooooo the driveway went in. What’s next? My friend Tyler had done the first round of tree clearing the last couple of months, which gave me a decent sized building site. However, there was a large cluster of 4 trees that had to go. Ty tackled some of it, but one large tree just needed to be handled differently – preferably by someone with lots more experience with trees of its size – and angle.
Well, that’s where Ben came in. Ben had been recommended by George and Jen, the blueberry farm friends from up the road a’ways (good down-to-earth people – usually the only ones I have in my circle). He came with his little excavator (and chain saws) to tackle 3 things: dig out stumps in the driveway area, remove the final tree of the cluster, and put in my posts for my ‘post-and-pier’ style foundation. As it turned out, he ended up tackling a whole lot more than he bargained for – including laying down 3 bank runs of gravel and cutting lots more trees to widen the site. Thankfully, he studied forestry and was able to advise me on what best to keep and what not, which made my decisions a lot easier. Ben’s good at just about everything he does, plus he’s patient under pressure (or so it seemed) – AND he more than saved my butt by rearranging his schedule to fit my project in. Thanks Ben!
So – why did I choose posts? Easy – I felt the area was simply too wet to consider anything else. I had originally thought to place my building on blocks or railroad ties to save money, but it wouldn’t have worked on my wet building site. The weight of the building would eventually have sunk in and made for difficulties long-term and would have required it to be jacked up and put on posts anyway. Had it been a dry location, however, it would have been my first choice, leaving money to use elsewhere.
The other options didn’t make sense for me. A basement would have cost oodles more (which I didn’t have), and I didn’t want a slab. Also, a slab or basement can provide the right atmosphere for mold problems in wet soil if proper steps for ventilation and air flow aren’t taken. With my choice of posts, however, air will flow freely below my home so that mold doesn’t take hold from the wet soil. Drainage will still be needed to route the water elsewhere, but will not be needed quite as quickly (another springtime task!) – nor will the wetness be as much an issue with posts as it would have been with a basement or slab, even with good drainage. Problems can always occur – so why tempt fate?
Besides, I look at things a little differently (as you can tell). Modern techniques have made it so folks don’t look at (or listen to) what their land tells them – the way people used to. Just because modern technology says you can put a basement in on wet land with the proper amount of drainage and a sump pump – doesn’t mean you should. I’ve experienced what happens when flooding occurs in a basement, one that wasn’t in a wet area. It was not fun to deal with, especially when mold developed. My decision, then, was a no-brainer given the amount of water on my site. So, I listened to what the earth told me to do (even if a basement would have been a lot nicer to have).
Once I had decided about the foundation, I talked with several folks about what materials to use for posts – wood beams, old telephone poles, sonotubes filled with cement? And then I saw an EZ-Tube on display at Poulin Lumber in Hardwick. I researched the company and its product (http://www.e-zcrete.com/ez-tube.html) and felt it was a good way to get the job done quickly, as well as to save a little money if possible. I had seen a You-Tube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iaicu30fLvw), also, about pre-cast cement posts and felt it was less cost overall.
As it turned out, the EZ-Tubes work best for situations like mine where variable elevation issues were present and different heights were needed, as my land is on the downside of a mountain. I’m glad I chose them, even though Ben swore through the whole process (joking!), as I ended up needing to purchase additional sections in order to provide enough elevation for future work (plumbing, etc.) to be done under the house.
To make the foundation more solid, Ben placed some bank run gravel in each hole to provide a more stable base prior to placing the posts – patting it down with the scoop on the excavator. He highly recommends it for any site, but especially a wet one.
In hindsight, doing sonotubes might have been easier when it came time for placement in the holes, since a plastic sleeve is a whole lot easier to move around than a 500 lb. post. However, it would have required trucking in cement (big costs, plus lots more tree damage) or renting a small cement mixer and mixing cement on-site (another high cost and was not recommended by my builder friend because of potential variability in end quality). Plus, it would have required a few more bodies to set multiple posts at the same time – costly labor in these parts.
My advice – do your research for your area. Consider all types of situations when determining the best foundation for your project. Don’t just choose a slab or basement because you can – there are pros and cons to every type. Think about what would work best with the land you have. What worked for me may or may not work for you.
Learn to listen to your gut when it comes to making decisions throughout the building process. It could save you a whole lot of trouble and $$ in the long run.