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Digging It!

I have officially broke ground in South Park. This is not a big house but its really crazy to see it marked off on the lot and try and picture walking through it, it looks very small. First order of business was a light Bobcat grading of the lot and setting a Temporary Power Pole which has to first be inspected by the City and then hooked up by SDG&E. Did you know that all new single family construction in San Diego now require fire sprinklers?, doesn’t matter if you are right on the beach without a tree in sight. Not a big deal after all, I found a licensed sub contractor who will install everything at the rough-in stage for $2100. There is a 30′ height restriction in our zone but that doesn’t mean you can be 30′ high at the front of your house. If you draw an imaginary line at the 15′ front setback point and then go up 25′ and create a 45 degree angle back to the 30′ height, this is the envelope you cannot cross.  All bathrooms with a tub or shower also now have to have an exhaust fan with a humidistat, even if there is an opening window. CO2 detectors also now have to be upstairs as well as downstairs for current codes.

Since the house is going to be on a raised foundation, I rented a mini excavator for the day from my favorite place BJ’s and we dug all the footing trenches. I’ve never re-measured and re-squared anything in my life, its such an important step getting the house in the correct position on the lot. We had the property line markers to work from that my land surveyor installed, so we set up strings and then transferred the footing locations onto the ground. A few months back I had a soils test done, they found native soil under about 1-2 feet of fill. Although the footings for a 2 story house only have to be 18″ deep, we had to dig 2-3 feet in order to reach the rock hard native soil. The soils company will now come and re-inspect the trenches before we start on the forms and sign off that its correct. If I hadn’t done the soils testing the City could have, at their discretion, made us take apart the forms and dig the trenches deeper if they felt the soil conditions were questionable at the time of form inspection. This happened to a friend of mine last year. The soil in our area is very good, not expansive and rock hard so this house isn’t going anywhere. Additionally, I plan on using a little more rebar that the minimum building code calls for, just for piece of mind as well. After the soils inspection is the critical part of form-setting which has to be perfect in order to create the level foundation from which everything will rest. Once all the forms are set and rebar in place, then the City comes and inspects it for accuracy before concrete can be poured. Its so exciting to build our own home!

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  1. 11 Comment(s)

  2. By tj & the bear on Jun 16, 2012 | Reply

    WOW, actual activity to report! 🙂

    So happy to see you’ve gotten underway, and you’re right, the house *does* look small when marked out in white lines. Luckily you went with that very open floorplan!

  3. By Tom on Jun 17, 2012 | Reply

    Haha tj, yes, I am alive: ) I think the 10′ ceilings are going to save me. That’s really only 650 feet of kitchen, living and dining room. The garage is almost as big at 400 s.f.

    Upstairs of course is the other 800 square feet. Feels like we shoe-horned it into the lot too! Very typical of South Park though and having the modern spaces inside is going to set it apart from the neighborhood.

  4. By Jakob on Jun 17, 2012 | Reply

    Awesome. Definitely maximizing the use of the space. I don’t think the finished house will look small. Outlines on the ground always look smaller than the 3D work.

    Is that some kind of laser level over by the power pole? Do you use that to level the depth of the digging, so the bottom of trenches are flat and dug to the right depth?

  5. By Luis on Jun 18, 2012 | Reply

    Tom, this is very interesting to see that you are now a homebuilder. I do not know if this is the first time you build a home but if it is, what made you make that transition from rehabbing to building?

    As a rehaber myself I have noticed that there is a fine line between rehabber and builder but in my mind there is quite a lot more risk and capital needed to build a new home. What do you think?

  6. By Tom on Jun 18, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Jacob,

    Yes that is but the bottom of the trenches aren’t critical to be level. As long as we maintain the minimum City requirement of an 18″ deep footing we are o.k.. Like I said we will be 24″ and deeper in all areas just to make sure. The laser will be used when it comes time to set the wood forms that get filled up with concrete. The critical level part is the top of the wood forms because that’s where the floor joists will rest. I’ll show all this as we progress. Great question.

  7. By Tom on Jun 18, 2012 | Reply

    Hey Luis,

    It seemed like a natural progression and I was pulled in this direction when I got the opportunity. My room additions reached over 900 s.f. and building new garages, I’ve basically done a “new house” but not as a stand alone unit out of the ground. My rehabs over the years became more like spec building than house flipping as you know. For me its actually less risk adding square footage or creating real value than trying to squeeze a small margin for doing granite and stainless. Luis, its real competitive in San Diego trying to buy a house right now, anything good has multiple offers so i figured I would build one. Thanks for taking the time to ask, hope all is well with your projects!

  8. By Lou on Jun 20, 2012 | Reply

    Did you have to hire an operator for the mini-excavator or did you have someone on the foundation crew with experience to operate it? I always wanted to try my hand using one of these but I imagine I could make a real mess very quickly!

  9. By Tom on Jun 21, 2012 | Reply

    haha Lou, Yea Its definitely tricky, a friend of the concrete guys came and helped us for the day. I priced getting an operator to show up with his machine and it was real expensive. Renting the machine was less than 400 bucks for the day.

  10. By Brenda on Jun 21, 2012 | Reply

    Wow! This is great. Cant’ wait to see the progression on this project and thanks for detailing the project in writing…so helpful for someone who’s thinking about building their home.

  11. By Lou on Jun 22, 2012 | Reply

    I took a concrete class and the instructor said that his family business usually digs the foundations by hand because it’s more precise and anything they dig has to be cleaned out anyway. I guess it depends on how many hands you have and how hard the ground is.

  12. By Tom on Jun 22, 2012 | Reply

    Funny you say that, we spent all week cleaning trenches by hand with a jackhammer and stepping down the elevations. I couldn’t have imagined doing the whole thing though.

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