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Mini Diggers: Useful Tips for Excavating Foundations

Performing excavation work yourself, such as for a new extension in you home, is very manageable, provided you adhere to correct health and safety procedures. Here are some top tips to help you on your way.

Determining Excavation Depth

In general, strip foundations should be around 1 metre deep, though this may vary depending on the building. After you’ve dug this, you’ll need to call in the District Surveyor, to ensure that the base provides substantial load-bearing capacity. In their analysis, the District Surveyor will most take into account the height, proximity and species of nearby trees, as well as potential for volume change in the surrounding soil.

Setting Trenches

Before commencing excavation, you’ll need to set out a base line for the work (using the corner of an existing wall is a good way to do this). Take measurements to the first point on the base line from two known points on your approved drawing and mark the first end of the base line. Now repeat the process for the other end. With the base line in place, begin setting out the rest of the lines denoting each of the walls. With every step, check and double check your measurements before commencing the excavation.

Excavating the Foundation

Whilst you can use a hand digger for excavating foundations, it’s advisable not to; firstly, because this method will take an incredibly long time; secondly, because mini-diggers are now much more affordable, particularly if acquired 2nd hand from somewhere like Scot JCB. Standard practice for excavating with a mini digger is to work backwards, away from the building if possible. This is to ensure that the digger is always sat on solid ground. As you begin work, be sure to keep a watchful eye out for pipes, drains and cables that may be buried below the site. Of course, if you do see them, you should stop work immediately. As you work, ensure that the trench is both vertical and straight, and deposit the excavated soil in an appropriate place. Excavate soil slowly and carefully, checking the depth constantly. When you’ve reached the correct depth, your work is done, and it’s time to call in the District Surveyor.

Seek Advice

This should give you a fair idea of what is involved in excavating foundations yourself. Before commencing work though, you should always seek advice from a trained professional.

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