A *Rock* Solid Foundation

If you guessed that this post has a lot to do with rocks, you guessed right!

After wading through (and nearly drowning in) the virtual sea of information online regarding building a foundation, we finally decided to build our cabin with a concrete piling foundation. We decided on this foundation type because of A) uneven ground, B) the fact that site is inaccessible to heavy machinery, and C) our tight budget and unwavering frugality. So it was looking like we would be doing everything by hand, the good old fashioned way.

The first step was measuring and marking the locations for digging the holes for the pilings. The 10′ x 20′ cabin was to be supported by six concrete pilings, arranged in two rows of three with 10 foot spacing.

Mark making marks (say that then times fast!)

Then it was time to grab the shovel, post hole digger, pick axe, and rock bar and set off on our journey underground. While we didn’t find any gold nuggets hiding down there, what we did find were rocks, rocks, and more rocks! This made for incredibly difficult digging, as some of the rocks were of unwieldy proportions -like 150+ pounders!

Not what you want to see when digging a hole
Never underestimate the power of a rock bar

Since we decided to use plastic Redibase footings, we had to dig each of the holes 25″ wide and as deep as possible (ideally four feet)

It took us three days of digging, and we weren’t able to get all of the holes to the desired 4′ depth due to rocks so big that their edges couldn’t be found. However, we discovered that we have great soil for building, as it is incredibly well drained and the amount of rocks and gravel lend high load bearing capacity. Therefore, we decided to proceed, fully aware of the fact that the two shallow holes would be more susceptible to frost heave, but prepared to deal with that down the road.

Rockin and Rollin

Next up was a trip to Anchorage to load up on 2,100 lbs of premix concrete, rebar, 8″ sonotubes, and plastic footings

Ever wonder what 1,500 lbs of concrete looks like?

Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t fun, and sometimes you have to make your own fun. Hauling all 2,100 lbs of concrete up our stairs to the build site was one of those times. It is now my pleasure to debut the Walters Stair Challenge in this brand new video:



We then spent the better part of the next day, leveling, centering, backfilling, and tamping each of the sonotubes and footings. Frustrating work, but worth it in the end. Measure 40 times, cut once, right?

Due to an unfortunate camera mishap, we lost most of our pictures detailing this step. But the two above survived.

Finally, it was time to mix and pour the concrete!

In keeping with our theme of rocks, did you know that gravel is one of the ingredients in concrete?

We filled each sonotube to half full, then stabbed four pieces of 3/8″ rebar (already cut to length) to the bottom, then filled the rest of the way full
After filling each tube, we pushed a bracket/tie down into the wet concrete. This will allow us to attach our beams to the pilings

34 bags of concrete later (we had one bag to spare- now that’s what I call good math!) and we could happily say that we had successfully completed our cabin’s foundation.

Those little devils may not look like much, but those pilings represent a tremendous amount of hard work

Until next time, rock on! Thanks for reading!


4 thoughts on “A *Rock* Solid Foundation

  1. OMG…I grovel in the gravel before you!!! (LOL!) You two are amazing! (Have I said that before???) That is a tremendous amount of work you have done. Great job. Thanks for writing the blog. I love it and appreciate it. Perhaps you will inspire us to do some work on our cabin!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Guys! You are amazing! Such fun for us to reconnect with you after watching you grow up from a baby, John. We’ll keep watching your progress from here in Maine. Love to you both from “Aunt” Lide and “Uncle” Bob.


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