So now we have the plans, it’s time to figure out how to go about digging a foundation by hand. First I checked local building codes to see what options I had for foundations. Not wanting to hire a builder we needed to be able to dig a foundation by hand. The inspector would accept the plans, but I would need an engineer stamp for the foundation.
Helical screw piles were our first choice for a foundation. They are quick to install, and easy for the necessary equipment to get into our remote location. Calling around I managed to get a quote and it would cost $5,000!
The only type of foundation that does not require an engineer stamp is a spread bottom pier. After numerous searches we found Bigfoot System Footings. These looked like something we could do ourselves and would be a lot cheaper that the $5,000 for the screw piles.
The original plans called for 2 rows of 4 piers. This didn’t seem enough, so we decided to dig 3 rows of 5 (15 total). I’d rather have too many piers than not enough!
Digging a Foundation by Hand
Measuring and marking the location for the cabin, we ran string lines and flagged the location for the holes. We started digging the holes using a post hole digger, but the deeper we went the harder the ground got. Soon we had to get into the hole to break up the ground.
It didn’t help that it was 35 C or 95 F when we were digging!
After all 15 holes were 4 feet deep, we added the Bigfoot System spread bottom piers and back filed the holes. Using a string line and level we marked the level line and cut the sonotubes to the correct height.
Now we needed to figure out the concrete to hold up the Bigfoot footings. Mixing by hand was going to be tough. Time to call around and see if we can get concrete delivered.