Self-build diary: the groundworks

Written by Craig and LB – Plot 2 (Manuka Cottage) homeowners


After taking down the original house on the plot and clearing the ground, we finally had a site that was ready for the groundworks.


Step 1

To get the ball rolling, we started by setting the boundary lines to split the plot in two, so we could clearly see where the profiles for both cottages needed to go. We then measured the levels on-site in three metre grids, which meant a whopping 100 measurements across the two plots. This was a pretty tense task which Craig kicked off with a stern pep talk about how this couldn’t be wrong… No pressure! Thankfully we remained on speaking terms and got the job done.


Step 2

We then needed to spray paint the outline of both cottages onto the ground. This was the first time we could see how they actually sat on the plot: a very exciting moment for us all but more importantly, it was another step towards seeing where the profiles needed to be.

Craig and I chose a sunny day to set our profiles and enlisted the help of Craig’s father, who like Craig, is a perfectionist. These would dictate the widths of the trenches, along with the height for how much concrete we needed in the ground: not a task anyone wanted to get wrong.

Step 3

We had initially planned to do the foundations ourselves but soon realised that our time (and annual leave) would be better spent in other chapters of the build. After receiving some eye-watering quotes, we enlisted the help of a local ground worker, Adam, and his team who were keen to take on the two projects. Adam quickly got to work on excavating the foundation trenches, setting the finished floor height against the topographical survey. It was then time for the main event: the concrete pour! On a very hot July day, six wagons and 49m³ of concrete per cottage arrived, completing the job.

In terms of the foundations, we all opted for block and beam foundations for both cottages, as we needed a void underneath for the air changes and ventilation due to the methane located near to our site (a story to follow in a later self-build blog). The blocks were laid in the ground up to the damp-proof course (DPC) level, putting in telescopic air vents and the necessary drainage exit lintels. The next stage was to lay the beams out on the block and beam floor. The T pieces span across the full distance of the foundations. These were then filled in between with concrete blocks, creating our sub-base which we could lay our block on top of to give the finished floor level.


Step 4

We decided to make hay while the sun shone and it was a full family affair to brush in the wet mix to seal and bind all of the blocks together for our cottage, which gave us a waterproof seal and peace of mind in case the British summer let us down.

Now we finally had the bases for our cottages, we were able to install the gas membranes and lay the drainage runs.


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