Footings. Oh, the pain of digging footings. And then shifting sand. And then more digging. Having just experienced one of the benefits of being an owner-builder, we were about to get home-schooled on one of the not-so-benefits.
Working your arse off.
When you’re an owner-builder, you’re all about being hands on deck. Getting in there and doing the odd jobs in, on and around the site that no-one else wants to do.
Digging footings is one of those jobs!
Moving around the permitter of where the house will eventually be, footings (trenches) are dug so that concrete can be poured to create a solid foundation for the brick up. In addition, horizontal and vertical reinforcement (reo) bars are inserted to assist with load bearing structures and tying in footings.
Thankfully, a bunch of dig-hardy relatives joined in to help us with this job. If it weren’t for them, we’d probably still be digging.
Before the concrete is poured into the footings though, it’s essential to ensure that any electrical conduits (for things like power to your island bench) along with any plumbing requirements for the kitchens and bathrooms, is placed into position.
With the footings dried and ready for action, double brick footings were then laid to pretty much create the shape of the bottom floor slab, particularly up around the front porch of the house where it drops about a metre to the ground level. In addition, we bricked up a little section on the main floor of the house where we’re dropping the footings down a couple of courses. This section is under the staircase which effectively gives us a decent under stair storage area (read: not-so-secret wine cellar).
Once the brick up was complete, it was time to completely seal the internal footing walls with Bitkote… a thick tar-like waterproofing substance that seals the footings to prevent moisture from entering later in life. For the record, it was not fun. In 35 plus degree heat, smearing that thick, smelly stuff was like pulling teeth, but worse. Especially when you have to apply two to three layers of it. Never to be repeated. Ever.
With all this prep work done, it was time for the steel to come in and be put into place. It’s quite comforting to watch the process, knowing that you have a tonne (or four) of steel being placed into the base of the house to help support and strengthen the foundation slab. And let’s face it, it has to – a heck of a lot of weight and pressure is about to be placed on this as the house is built.
Additional moisture protection is also incorporated into the slab – you can see from the photos that a thick black plastic moisture barrier is placed down under the steel reinforcement prior to the slab being poured.
At this point we should also mention the need to make sure you cover off on termite protection. It’s vital that you implement the most suitable termite treatment under your slab to help prevent any sort of termite attack on your home. We opted for a chemical treatment (termicide) and this was undertaken prior to the waterproofing membrane being placed down. You can read more about the different type of termite treatments available to you on the Building Commission website, where they also have a handy PDF fact sheet for you to download.
The blisters may have healed, but the smell of Bitkote remains. Next up… the slab! *