I learned from one of the first general contractors I worked for after college that every time you start a new job you are preparing to go to court. I learned to keep a daily diary recording the weather, who was on the job, and what happened. I was never in court (for that) but it’s a practice I try to keep now.

Today is February 22, 2023 and it is starting to snow in southern Arizona, after a night and day of winds at 35 m.p.h. with gusts that might blow a man down. We have the footings excavated and the form boards in place for the slab on grade. The plumber is scheduled for Friday to put in all the drain pipes that need to be under the concrete.

I rented a mini excavator on Saturday the 11th and Russell came and finished the footings Sunday. He makes it look easy, but trust me……it’s not. The outside edge of the footing trench wants to be in line with where the form boards will go for the outside edge of the slab in order to minimize wasting concrete.

mini excavator digging footings
Giving new meaning to the word “mini”
slab form in place
This is the objective, even though there may be a little bit of hand-work left at the end. These 2×8’s were left over from building the chicken coop and we will be able to re-use them in the house.

Steel was delivered on Thursday, the 16th and we finished the forms, 99% anyway, on Friday. After the plumbing inspection we can lay down the 4″ of gravel sub-base and finish tying the reinforcing steel.

image of forms for slab on grade construction

Rough Grading

Santa Cruz County has approved our application for a building permit. Bless their hearts. $2000.00 for a house smaller than 1400 square feet seems reasonable.

Because contractors here are either unresponsive or terribly expensive, we will be doing most of the concrete slab work , and, probably, as much as we can after that, ourselves. We know a former general contractor from the area who is very generous with his time and skills. He has another day job now, and does this kind of thing on the weekends, so we are sort of at the mercy of his schedule.

Skid-Steer Savant
Scraping Off The Organic Material

“The First Cut Is The Deepest”

To my surprise, the first couple of feet of soil on this part of the lot were clay, still saturated even though that far below the surface. Last year, when we excavated for the chicken coop and for the septic tank, the soil was more of a granular sand and gravel type, and that’s what I expected.

Montmorillonite, smectite and bentonite, oh my. Expansive clay is bad for supporting any type of structure, because when it gets wet, it expands with a force that can break dreams.

The next morning I reserved a skid-steer tractor from a local rental place. I was able to dig out the cohesive clay material down to a more granular, and more predictable, substrate.

Here we have the batter boards and string lines which define the outer walls of the new house. The strings locate the top of the slab floor. 18″ below that the bottom of the thickened edge resides, well into durable native soil.
This corner is the lowest elevation and the control point for the top of the slab and for the excavation of the thickened edges.

Next weekend we hope our guy can dig the thickened edges and interior footings. The week after involves setting the forms for the slab, which we will do. The plumber is on notice, since then it is his turn to put in all the drain and water supply pipes.

That’s the way it is. February 6, 2023.