WELCOME BACK FRIENDS!
Thank you so much for joining me for Part 2 of my Blog Series – the Four Key People when Building your Dream Home – The Excavator! Now– please don’t all jump, scream, and wave your hands in the air at once! This is where I get honest. I know most of you could HARDLY WAIT for this post and to be blunt, I somewhat put off writing it only because— well, because the job of the Excavator isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about in my eyes! In case you care or did not already guess, I am Jessica and I am right brained. That means that thinking about house excavation isn’t something I pondered for long before this process started. I think in terms of rainbows 🌈 and butterflies 🦋, friends! I once thought I was only here to pick paint colors and awesome furniture. [Can we GodSpeed to that stage?!] And let me tell you– to complete this part of the building process successfully, I DID have to venture outside my comfort zone, expand my horizons, and venture into the unknown shark invested waters! Would this stage be fun? Ehhhhh– Not for me! Ha! Would it be super boring and put me to sleep? Yep, it also did that more than once [but I’m thinking only because this entire house process in general is SUPER EXHAUSTING!] Would I fall asleep at night thinking about holding tanks and gravel? Okay- so I didn’t think this would actually happen, but it DID… BAHAHAHA!!! [and strangely… MORE than one night!] Before this new home construction process began, I didn’t know how much I REALLY had to learn! Lucky for me, my left-brained 🧠 husband is always one step behind me!
So without any further ado, I will try to make this post as informative and brief as possible! You see, our excavator, [and now dear friend]– Ed, actually ended up playing an integral role in this entire process! I learned in a hot minute that had it not been for Ed’s years of excavation expertise, my dream home probably definitely would have fallen FLAT (no pun intended)! Enjoy!
Before I started the custom home building process I thought that an excavator was only responsible for one role- to dig the foundation….Oops! I was wrong (AGAIN!!!) Geesh- I’ve been wrong so many times in this house building process so far, it really has me wondering how my husband always ends up wrong in our marriage. Hmmmm… 🤔 🤷♀️ Read on to see the complex role the excavator actually plays in the process.
SHOP THE POST!
BUILDING A HOUSE: WHAT ARE THE ROLES OF THE EXCAVATOR?
1. DESIGN AND BUILD DRIVEWAY
Some driveways are 20 feet long. Some are over 1 mile! Regardless of the size of the driveway, you will need a driveway built to access your home! Who will build this driveway? The Excavator will! Your lot will need to be assessed and the driveway design that you have decided upon will be built onto your property. Since our lot is large- 7 acres, I always envisioned a long winding driveway to the top of our lot. We are in Pennsylvania and are exposed to all the elements, especially snow. Our driveway had to built with 100 percent accuracy. Why? Because when it snows we need to be able to access our house. I surely don’t want to have to park at the bottom of our lot and walk up to our house on freezing cold days. It’s absolutely critical to be sure the driveway is completed correctly!
2. DEVELOP A NATURAL SPRING ON PROPERTY
My prayers were answered when the excavator saw the capability to develop a natural spring on our property! What does this mean for us? This means we can stop buying so much bottled bottled water! Yes…To saving the environment and the spread of plastic toxins! Yes… To saving some money too! It actually kills me to buy bottled spring water! [First world problem.] With our natural spring development completed by the excavator, we will be able to drink straight from our faucets without having to filter our water. It’s the little things!!! Spring water is better tasting water in my opinion and I’m so thankful the excavator saw this as a possibility on our property when we started working together. Even though the excavator installed a holding tank as well for our natural spring, I’m not certain the spring developed on our property will be our only water source. We will probably have to drill a water well in addition to our spring for laundry and showering purposes. I do more loads of laundry in a day than I’d like to admit! We are hoping that the spring should at minimum provide enough drinking water for our family! For this I am so thankful!
3. INSTALL AND CONNECT SEPTIC SYSTEM
This is a FUN one! I can’t say this one was on my bucket list! BAHAHHHAHA! BUT, let’s be realistic for a moment. We all go to the bathroom. It’s a part of life, people! Making sure this step is completed with perfect accuracy is not a joke! 💩 Can you connect to public sewage or will you need to install a sand mound system? A sand mound system can cost anywhere from 10K-20K and doesn’t last forever. Plugging into public sewage will cost you around $6o a month for life plus the cost of install. The install cost depends on several factors, including distance from house to hookup, terrain, access to property, local rates and code requirements. Neither system you choose will be cheap and neither will last forever. Ugh! Why can’t some things last forever??? Some areas do NOT give you a choice over which system you choose. In our area, we were able to determine the type of system. We decided to connect to the public sewage mainly due to the fact that is was even a possibly for us to do so. Public utilities increase home value to an extent. We also didn’t want to risk the fact that we could be required to plug into public sewage in the future. [This actually happened in the town we live in now. It was not an option to connect to the public system. Wouldn’t it be horrible to spend 20K on a sand mound system and then be required in two years to plug into the public system?] To us– the decision of which route to go was no brainer!
4. LAND CLEARING IF NECESSARY
Our land did not really have that much brush or trees that needed cleared. If your lot does, the excavator will most likely assist in this job before the construction process can take place. Something to keep in mind after you do clear the land, if applicable, is that there is some extra money for your project that can be made by selling the timber to a local lumber company. You also may wish to “select cut” or “high-grade” the lot if trees are in abundance so it is more aesthetically pleasing.
5. LEVEL PROPERTY AND CREATE FLAT BACKYARD
Because our property was on a hillside, if we didn’t excavate the property we wouldn’t have had much of backyard at all– let alone a FLAT backyard. The house we currently live in has a large flat backyard. I knew it was something we HAD to have on our new property. I wanted a space where the kids could play a game of football outside. I wanted an area for a playhouse and a trampoline. What if we decided to ever put in an inground swimming pool? The land would have to be flat. Our land needed excavated properly before the construction of our house even began to ensure all these goals were possible. Fast forward a few years, and our excavator told us he has never moved so “much” dirt around on a property in his life. LOL! I don’t think we really anticipated for how long this step would actually take and how much it would cost to achieve the goals I had in mind! I guess when looking back, the important part is that it was actually able to be done — and done RIGHT the first time! Our property is flat and we will have a large backyard! I’m so grateful!
6. ASSIST WITH HOUSE POSITIONING ON LOT
Of all the jobs of the excavator, this one was my personal favorite. From the moment we purchased our acreage, I dreamed of how our home would be positioned on our lot. I wanted to be able to enjoy incredible lake views from out our front door. Fall is so beautiful in Pennsylvania. I knew I wanted a private backyard area. I knew I wanted the house to look like it was “sitting on a hillside”. I wanted to try to put the beautiful French countryside I dream about into my reality. How the house was positioned was something I knew would make or break our property. I wanted our house to look like it was always “meant to be” on this lot. With the help of the excavator, not only did my house dreams come true, but my expectations were far exceeded! Follow me on Instagram as I’m going to begin giving tons of SNEAK PEEKS of our building process! Link to follow at top of page.
7. DIG FOUNDATION
Here in Pennsylvania, it is the land of FULL basements! We really don’t do crawlspaces nor do we build on slabs only. In my opinion, this is one of the perks of building in this location of the country! One of the jobs of the excavator is to also dig the foundation. We decided we would add to the square footage of our house and do a basement the size of our entire first floor blueprint. Even though we don’t plan on finishing this basement space right away– when we do, we will have the capability to add approximately 2,870 square feet of additional space. Oh, the dreams I have!
8. INSTALL DRAINAGE SYSTEM, PROPER BACKFILLING, & GRADING
Ok! This is a VERY important part of the excavation process! When thinking about construction mishaps, wet basements and crawlspaces are among the most serious! Just do a quick google search of the problems caused by toxic mold in an environment, and you’ll realize your excavator better know what he’s doing! Installing the proper drainage system, along with proper backfilling, and landscape grading is absolutely essential to a dry foundation. The soils supporting a foundation also need to stay at a a constant moisture level to prevent settlement or movement. Most builders seem to have a handle on foundation waterproofing, but it’s the excavator’s job to keep water away from the foundation in the first place! This is a complex job that needs to be taking seriously. I can imagine it’s much easier to do this right the first time than to repair it or eliminate musty smells and mold issues later.
9. DIG INGROUND SWIMMING POOL
This is in my FUTURE dreams, y’all! As you follow my blog, you will learn quickly that I really enjoy thinking and dreaming in my spare time. [Wait! What is spare time?!?] But, really– if an inground pool is something you are thinking about, you need to plan for it from the beginning of the project. As mentioned earlier, if we had not leveled our backyard, putting inn an inground pool would NEVER have even been a option. With the help of the excavator, a location or future location of a pool can be determined. And when it’s time, the excavator will assist with the pool installation process so it will be helpful if he’s on board with the idea from the beginning.
So, now that you know the complex and diverse roles of the excavator, how do you go about choosing the right one for your new home construction project?
BUILDING A HOUSE: THE 3 “P’s” OF CHOOSING YOUR EXCAVATOR (BRING THE 🧀!)
Ask to see work samples! By this I mean– get into your vehicle and actually drive to the locations where your prospective excavator has done work. Ask questions. And then ask more questions. Ask how much experience he has. Ask if he has other workers assisting and if those workers are skilled and have experience. Ask what kind of excavation issues they have run into over the years and what steps they have taken to be sure they don’t happen again. Find out if they are familiar with code. Find out if they know new excavation trends. Make sure the performance of the excavator you choose is top notch!
As soon as you secure a lot, start seeking out prospective excavators. It may not be a bad idea before even purchasing acreage to talk to a reputable excavator and see how involved your specific land excavation project could be. If a lot is too complicated, it could be a breaking point of even purchasing it. Get a detailed bid from the excavator and discuss what it includes. Take note of the roles I listed above and ask how much each of those roles will cost. Be sure they aren’t just including “the digging of the foundation” in the price given. A few years before our building process we began, we met with our excavator of choice and discussed the cost of our overall project. At this time, because our land required tons of excavation work, we had the excavator design and install the driveway, as well as beginning the process of leveling the property and creating a flat backyard. When the time finally came to break ground, our driveway was in place and construction vehicles were easily able to access the property without delay. It was also easier to discuss the placement of the house on the lot because the area was leveled. When considering price, the cheapest excavation price may not be best route. You get what you pay for! What you think you could be “saving” now, could cost you thousands more in the long run if a mistake is made or the job isn’t done properly!
The role of the excavator is a very complex one and choosing someone with a great personality is not just a bonus, but a necessity! See if your personality is a match! Decide if you can work closely with the person. See if he is open to your ideas and suggestions. Is he flexible? Are they an honest company? Do they truly care about their work? Do they have a genuine concern for your project? Will they say something “can’t be done” because they just don’t feel like doing it? I could say we hit the lottery with our excavator and he fit the criteria of the 3 “P’s” were were looking for! We really didn’t have to seek out any other bids, because the excavator we choose for our project just so happened to be our neighbor for the last 13 years. He has done work for us in the past. He has done tons of projects in our community. He is such a stand up guy and one of the of the best people I know. I feel so blessed to have him not only as my neighbor, but as our friend as well. Ed helped turn my dreams into a reality and for that I will be forever thankful! I know there’s an extremely SLIM chance Ed will ever read this post, but if you ever do — Ed Henry Trucking and Excavating – I can’t THANK YOU ENOUGH! And if you’re in the area, and choose to contact Ed for your own excavation needs, make sure you tell him that Jessica sent you!
10 TIPS TO CRUSH THE EXCAVATION PROCESS 💥 👊
1. BEGIN EXCAVATION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Some excavation jobs (like ours!) are massive undertakings. From a TIME and COST standpoint, it’s best to being the process as soon as possible.
2. EXPECT ROADBLOCKS!
Who would have thought our property would run through a designated “wetland area” and we would have to seek special approval and get permits from a Conservation Group in order to put piping through the area? Yes, this actually happened and delayed us several months! Please expect setbacks! Your sanity will thank you!
3. ESTABLISH CLEAR COMMUNICATION!
It’s important to make sure there is clear communication among everyone on team! Be sure the excavator is communicating with the general contractor and vice versa! Make sure all parties are communicating with YOU as well! Reiterate what you’re looking for over and over again. Contractors bounce from job to job. They are also human and could forget something you discussed a week ago- especially If they didn’t write it down. It doesn’t hurt to repeat in detail your expectations and what you expect from the project. Just like a successful marriage, communication is key in this process!
4. SHOW PICTURES OF WHAT YOU WANT.
Most excavators aren’t spending hours perusing Pinterest. Why? Because they are too busy excavating and don’t even know what Pinterest is. Ha! Print your pictures and show them! Chances are as well, they don’t want to look at them on a small phone screen. If you think you’re on the same page, it may be likely you’re not! Ha!
5. BE PRESENT!
It definitely doesn’t hurt to be present on the job site as much as possible. To avoid driving your contractors nuts with the fact you are stalking your project, feel free to bring drinks and snacks to the workers as much as possible! This was my strategy to continue to be on the premises way more than I should have been! LOL! Another tip – when staking out the location of the house, be sure the excavator, general contractor, and yourself are all present. This keeps everything in check and ensures everyone is on the same page! Once your house location is set- there is NO going back!
6. GET ADVICE FROM FAMILY, FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!
Talk to family and friends about their excavation successes and nightmares. Seek out people who can offer valuable advice. Read blogs, peruse Pinterest, and ask around! It doesn’t hurt to do research and become members of house related forums. Attend home shows. Write down valuable pointers in a new construction journal. I learned early on — write everything thing down [unlike me and preferably in the same location from the start]. It never hurts to have advice and learn from others mistakes! [My whole reason of starting this blog!!!]
7. IGNORE FAMILY, FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS!
Ooops! Did I really just write that? Neighbors, family, and friends will criticize you A LOT during this process. Get used to it because if you’re just starting construction, the comments are only just beginning. BAHAHA! You must learn to ignore these comments! This is your house, your project, and YOUR POCKETBOOK that’s gonna pay for it. You will spend hours working to pay it off for the next XX years! You’ll find out soon, if you haven’t already… that everyone knows the right way or cheaper way to do something. Everyone also has an opinion on everything! I can promise you that not everyone will agree with how you did things and not everyone will like your house! Thankfully, I don’t really care what “these” people think. In the end, you have to go with YOUR GUT and YOUR GOALS for your new home.
8. CHEAPER IS NOT BETTER!
You may find someone (or 10 others), who will tell you that they can do the job cheaper! Problem is– if it’s done wrong the first time and needs corrected — IT IS NOT CHEAPER! I’ll be expanding on this tip in future blog posts, but you really do get what you pay for in most areas of the new construction process!
9. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SELECTING THE RIGHT EXCAVATOR!
If you take one thing away from this blog post, please let it be that the role of the excavator is one of the most important roles in your project! Selecting the right one is not something to be taken lightly. What if you mess up and don’t select the right person??? You WILL lose time and you will waste money!
10. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE COST TO GET WHAT YOU WANT!
When asking friends for advice about their new construction process, I have found an underlying theme. In several scenarios I can think of, the excavation costs ended up being way more than they anticipated. There was either not a clear expectation of what the bid included or there was a lack of communication about what the homeowner thought they were getting for the price. Case in point – before we decided on building a house, we met with a local box builder. This builder’s excavation estimate for our property was actually 4 times LESS than what it actually cost to complete the excavation part of our process. My tip- don’t underestimate how much it really costs!
SHOP THE POST!
Well- this post was WAY longer than I ever expected! If you made it to this point, I hope you aren’t huddled on the floor dying of boredom! Prior to putting this into writing, I don’t think I ever realized how much I learned and how important the role of the excavator really was in our project! I hope you have found this post informative and helpful! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
As always, thank you so much for following along on our journey of building a house all the way to completion of #thelaydenlegacy! Don’t forget to come back for Part 3 of my Blog Series, The Four Key People When Building Your Dream Home. Next up – THE GENERAL CONTRACTOR! Yeah! We’re one step closer!