Living Offgrid Affordably: Laying The Foundation

| 11/18/2011 11:10:49 AM

Tags: DIY homebuilding, living offgrid, solar power, , Jeff Chaney,

Jeff with his one kilowatt arrayAfter building the campsite in the last installment, Breaking More Than Ground (namely my back), and enjoying it for two years, we are ready to begin the foundation for the storage building. It is the last week of July, 2002, and 98 degrees in the shade! The weather forecast is for an extended period of no rain, so this is as good a time as any to get started.

I will not take the time to explain in detail the proper procedures, which are outlined in the “bible” that I refer to often. I will only mention those operations and details that are of utmost importance, where I deviate from the accepted norm.

The storage building outside measurements will be 20 feet by 24 feet. This size should yield plenty of space for present needs, especially with a half-loft. A house double this footprint will be plenty big enough for us. The storage building will have 720 square feet of floor space, the same size as a 12 x 60 foot trailer. The future house, with 1,440 square feet of floor space, may be big for just us, but doubling the plan is too easy to pass up!

I marked-off the exact placement of the foundation with string, then dug the footer by hand with a pick and shovel. Approximately one week was invested in this operation, in an attempt to achieve perfection. The footer must extend below the frost line, which varies by location. In our area, sixteen inches depth is considered the standard. Since I wanted to do this right, and only once, I decided to go twenty-four inches deep. Since this was only a storage building, my view was that 8 inch block would suffice. I view most building standards as minimums. The footer trench must be uniform and level. Everything else will ride on this foundation. This step drove home the fact that you will expend money or labor in massive amounts.

To save money, I purchased bags of concrete and mixed them with water in a wheelbarrow with a hoe, to pour the footer. This is an awful lot of work, but very cost effective.

In addition to the four outside walls, I poured a footer in the center of the site in a + shape to bolster the middle of the structure. This will support the posts in the front center of the loft floor, and the center of the ground floor sections.

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