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Footings

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Marking The Location, Clean-up, and Obstacles

Hole Layout
Mark Layout Using String Lines

Clean Out Hole
Level & Clean Out Bottom Of Hole

Boulder
Offset Hole Around Boulder

Layout your holes using your batter board string lines and a can of red spray paint. If you're using an auger, the soil is going to fly so mark an oversized circle or big "X" on the ground. That way you'll be able to see if the auger needs to be repositioned because it has drifted a bit while drilling.

Once the holes are dug, invariably youíll end up with a few that arenít quite on center. After the power equipment has the holes roughed out, reset your string lines and check which holes need to be widened and by how much. Make sure to use a plumb bob that you hold up right next to your string lines. Looks can be deceiving. Just standing over your string lines and looking down into the hole doesn't work too well. Mark right on the ground with your spray paint where adjustments are needed.

Tip Tip: Especially if you bring in power equipment to dig your holes, be prepared to do some raking and grading. The soil really flies when the equipment goes to work and youíll want to make sure to rake off the lawn any soil that lands outside the deck perimeter - to keep the grass from being killed. Likewise, make sure to re-pile your lumber in a new location every few days or else youíre going to end up doing some reseeding later on.

Once you get the holes in the right location, confirm that you've dug down to undisturbed soil. When the big equipment is done, there will typically be at least of few inches of soil that was loosened but not removed by the auger. Don't be fooled. Power augers leave a layer of loosened soil that has only been slightly recompressed by the weight of the auger on the bottom of the hole. This makes it look like the hole is clean down to undisturbed soil when itís really not. Always make sure to dig a little at the bottom of each hole with a posthole digger just to make sure all the loose soil is out.

Check Point Check Point - The bearing strength of soil varies depending on it's physical make-up. For example, although heavy clay soils are difficult to dig they are some of the weakest soils and require the largest footings. When footings are undersized, the deck or gazebo supports will sink over time causing the flooring surface to become uneven and putting excessive stress on the connection to the house. When you get a password, we'll show you how to evaluate the capacity of your soil and size the diameter of the footings so your deck or gazebo will stay true. 

Note Note: By International Residential Code (IRC), the bottom of footing holes may not be sloped more than 10%.

Caution Believe it or not, I actually read a story about a guy who reached into a deep footing hole he'd dug, slipped, and got stuck. His buddy had left to pick up supplies just a few minutes prior, leaving this poor fellow hanging upside-down. Eventually, after quite a while and more than a few moments of panic, the trapped builder was able to back his way out of the hole inch by inch. Not fun.

Check Point Check Point - In addition to sizing the diameter of deck and gazebo footings based upon the soil type, it's also important to make sure the footings are thick enough and have adequate reinforcing bar (rebar). When footings are too thin and/or don't have sufficient rebar, the support post or pier can crack or punch right through the footing. Considering the cost of building a deck or gazebo, the small fee to get a password is well worth the investment. BestDeckSite will help you to make sure your new project will last a lifetime. 

It's not that uncommon to hit at least one really huge boulder right where a footing canít be easily relocated. When this happens, dig alongside the boulder to make sure it extends below the frost line and then pour the pier right on top of the boulder. In some cases, where the boulder is only partially interfering, you may pour the footing along side the boulder. Cut the concrete forming tube  to fit up alongside the boulder and increase the footing thickness.

The content under the "How-To" menu is a small sampling of all the material covered on BestDeckSite. For immediate access to in-depth information on excavation, frost heave, soil bearing capacity, and sizing footings, as well as, comprehensive coverage of all aspects of gazebo and deck building, get a password and log-in now.

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