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Hand-dig vs. Equipment rental?  RSS feed

 
Brian McCune
Posts: 27
Location: Kent County, MI
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I'm building a tinyish (18'x18' exterior wall, with 2' thick walls at the base) cob house this year on a rural 1 acre plot that we're acquiring by land contract. I don't want to attract too much attention from anyone (except my only two neighbors that are both cool).

The foot print is guna be about 28'X28' on account of the "curtain drain" to be dug around the drip edge of the 26'X26' roof. I'm wondering what peoples thoughts/feelings are on excavating by hand or by machine. Ianto Evans swears by hand-dig, as it's more sensitive to the site environment and is less conspicuous. It would definitely take more time, but cost much less money, and I'm all about trading my time for money in most equations.
However, factoring in the drain trenches that need to be dug out; "curtain drain", and "rubble trench foundation", as well as the drain off from the build site out to 'daylight', also the number of swales, and ponds, grading, etc... I'm starting to consider the benefits a mini excavator for a week can bring to a well planned and surveyed dig-site. That being said, I have a feeling some township stickler might notice a plot getting a face lift over the course of a week. < on that note, i do intend to cover all of the soil i unearth (except for subsoil, which will be used for cob & pond walls)

Let me know what you think, thanks!
foundation-1.jpg
[Thumbnail for foundation-1.jpg]
 
Roy Hinkley
Posts: 250
Location: S. Ontario Canada
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I have a feeling some township stickler might notice

Are you doing something that requires a permit without getting one? Would you rather the same stickler made you demolish the structure later?
 
Brian McCune
Posts: 27
Location: Kent County, MI
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Roy Hinkley wrote:
I have a feeling some township stickler might notice

Are you doing something that requires a permit without getting one? Would you rather the same stickler made you demolish the structure later?


Good question, and a fair point. I actually have this structure designed into my master plan as an 'accessory structure'. Mostly because I don't want to adhere to a minimum sq ft requirement for occupational permits, and such. Everything about it is permitable under my local township ordinances and state building laws as a non-occupy-able accessory building, (as the roof will be supported with structural timber framing, the motored stone stemwall, etc. all are allowed). The most they could do at that point is give me a fine for building without a permit, and force me to go send in my application for a temporary use structure, building permit, etc. (which needs to be renewed every 6 months). I do have all of the paperwork necessary, mostly filled out and ready to go. In case someone shows up demanding to see permits, a "whoops, i forgot to send this in" might save the day.

It seems to be a waste of resources that I'd rather avoid altogether if I can. I do have a larger structure planned into the design that would meet all standards imposed for a dwelling that I would use more as an education & resource center. The footprint of which will be my annual garden for as long as it takes me to afford such a building.

Thanks for your input, much appreciated.
 
Travis Johnson
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Honestly, that is an excuse any Code Enforcement Officer has heard before and it is not going to work, that is why thy have after-the-fact-permits that cost 3 times as much.

You want to get the permit, then get the mini-excavator and save yourself more grief then the weight of soil you are removing. You might wonder about it now, but you won't when you are using a pick and shovel and hit a wheelbarrow sized rock just under the soil.

Mini-excavators are light and ride on tracks. I have a bulldozer and its weight per square inch is less than a person. In other words a person walking on the ground compacts the soil about twice as much as my bulldozer. The amount of work accomplished even by a small excavator is amazing. You won't regret getting it, nor the piece of mind of sending in for your building permit. There is an age old story; "you can't fight city hall".
 
Brian McCune
Posts: 27
Location: Kent County, MI
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Travis Johnson wrote:Honestly, that is an excuse any Code Enforcement Officer has heard before and it is not going to work, that is why thy have after-the-fact-permits that cost 3 times as much.

You want to get the permit, then get the mini-excavator and save yourself more grief then the weight of soil you are removing. You might wonder about it now, but you won't when you are using a pick and shovel and hit a wheelbarrow sized rock just under the soil.

Mini-excavators are light and ride on tracks. I have a bulldozer and its weight per square inch is less than a person. In other words a person walking on the ground compacts the soil about twice as much as my bulldozer. The amount of work accomplished even by a small excavator is amazing. You won't regret getting it, nor the piece of mind of sending in for your building permit. There is an age old story; "you can't fight city hall".


Very good points, as you've put it, in any regulated build location it would be more wise to abide by all ordinances (including permits). I have since been working on a new design that I hope to translate into sketch up soon.  I think you also make a valid case on the equipment aspect, compression per sq. in. was something I hadn't considered. However, I do think if unskilled and not careful, an earthmover can do much more damage with a machine then by hand. Thanks for your advice everyone! (sorry it took me a while to respond, i didn't get a notification about the thread being updated..)
 
Daniel Ray
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Location: Stevensville, Montana; Zone 4b
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Late to this thread but I'll throw my two cents in.  I dug the foundation for my first cob house by hand and it was an awesome experience. Totally time consuming and one of the most labor intensive portions of the build, but the impact on the site was so minimal that it made it worth it. However, time constraints on my current build forced me to rent a mini for excavating the site and I am still torn on the outcome. Unfortunately it rained the day I planned on excavating and the site is a mess, however the excavation was done in a day rather than a month so there is the plus. 

If you have the time, I advocate for hand dug and will for any future projects I might have.
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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It depends on the soil. It might be doable it might be a nightmare. For the permission I would look around what other people do if many don't get a permission for smal buildings you might get away with it. Call it garden shed.
 
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