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Excavation for footings or foundation walls shall extend below depth of soil
subjected to seasonal or characteristic volume change to undisturbed soil that provides
adequate bearing. Select the greatest depth required by any of the provisions. The bottom
of footings shall extend at least to the depth indicated on the map .

6.1. Alternate seasonal wetting and drying: This is especially important with expansive soils.
If expansive soils exist, consult a geotechnical engineer to obtain required footing depth.

6.1.1 Footing depth: The footings shall be deep enough to provide required uplift capacity.
(This value may need to be determined for high wind areas after the calculations needed to
determine footing bearing have been completed.)

Various types of earth moving equipment are employed for basement

excavation. Top soil is often stripped and stock piled a bulldozer or front-end loader for
future use. The excavation can be done with a front-end loader power shovel or similar
equipment. Backhoes are used to excavate for the walls of houses built on a slab or a crawl
space, if soil is stable enough to prevent caving. This eliminates the need for forming below
grade if footings are not required. Excavation is carried down, preferably only to the level of
the top of the footings or the bottom of the basement floor because some soils become soft
upon exposure to air or water. Unless from boards are to be used, it is not advisable to make
the final excavation for footings until it is nearly time to pour the concrete. The excavation
must be wide enough to provide space to work when constructing and water proofing the
foundation wall, and laying drain tile, if necessary. The steepness of the back slope of the
excavation is determined by the subsoil encountered. With clay or other stable soil, the back
slope can be nearly vertical but, with sand, and inclined slope is required to prevent caving.
Some contractors only rough stake the perimeter of the building for the removal of the soil.
When the proper floor elevation has been reached, the footing layout is made and the soil is
removed to form the footing. After the concrete from the footing is poured and set, the
foundation wall out line is established on the footings and marked for the placement of the
form work or concrete block wall.

Fig 6.1 bulldozer

Fig 6.2 excavating with an earth move

Generally footing depth is 12 deep or 12 below the frost line. Interior

footings can sometimes be as little as 6to 8 deep depending on the foundation plan. Some
plans permit pads on grade or gravel for interior piers. Check the plan and check with the
local building department if the site is located in areas where frost heave is an issue. Many
builders scratch footings (sink in a bucket to break the ground) with an excavator bucket
and then hand-dig them. Scratching them often goes too deep leaving a good portion of the
footing as loose fill compacted by workers feet. Hand digging them without the aid of an
excavator is hard work but can be made easier with an electric jack hammer using a shovel
bit. Smallest jackhammers are the easiest to use and anything larger is hard on the back. To
drill interior footings with a 24 auger on a skid steer tractor or excavator is preferable. The
auger may jump around if rocks are encountered, but most of the time it does a fine job and
grinds the spoils to small bits for easy hand removal. Some- times pit is necessary to
approach from a side. Generally never try to turn while on a marked line or point so it will
not disturb. When lining up to drill the footing, the bit tends to swing about so find a helper
useful for placing the bit. Once placed, the helper must step out of the way since the bit may
encounter a rock and jump around. After the bit is 6 deep it is usually safe to approach and
the footing should be drilled to the correct depth. It is nearly impossible to tell how deep
you are drilling by just looking at the bit, so have the help of sight, the auger to depth using
a marked rod and sighting across the top of the auger assembly. This method gets us within
an inch almost every time. Choose your help carefully, cheap help can be expensive. After
the footings are dug, fail out the interior footings and pile spoils into the middle of the
chassis rails for scooping out with a bucket loader or load directly into the loader as you go.
Bailing out the footings on the perimeter pier footings is not preferable since excavating the
perimeter wall footing will spill spoils into the perimeter pier footings and they will have to
be cleaned out again. Dump spoils along perimeter of building far enough away to not
disturb our work. Later we can use the spoils for back fill and finish grade. Next dig the
perimeter footings, hanging the bucket 3 or about 1 tooth outside chalk line. Usually this is
best performed digging counter clockwise with an excavator which will give a line of site
along the boom to the bucket on the left side.

Be careful with the bucket placement or you may have to go back and hand
shave the side of the trench for forming. For depth on a level pad, determine the pad
elevation with a laser level and then move the receiver up the rod 1 which gives a 12
footing depth. Have a helper check your footing depth as you go, being careful not to over
dig. If the trench is dug too deep, fill the low spots with clean compactable mist fill and
compact with a jumping jack compactor. Clean the footings and finish cleaning the interior
perimeter pier footings as you go. Fatal accident records relating to trench collapses
highlight the need for employees to be protected against such failures. With proper
precautions, accidents and injuries can be avoided. This section also includes
recommendations intended to assist engineers who may be involved in the design of
shoring. Trench excavations are those where the horizontal width at ground level is less
than the vertical depth of the deeper side. Open excavations are wider than trenches and
include foundations, building sites and the like. Open excavations vary in plan from an extra
wide trench in open ground to an irregular shape defined by adjacent buildings as in city
centre developments. It is difficult to provide standard solutions for the support of these
wide excavations as so many site factors have to be taken into account. It is therefore
recommended that open excavations are designed by suitably qualified and experienced
persons. The hazards to employees in open excavations are not quite so immediate as in
confined trench work. However, it is necessary to safeguard against failures of excavated
faces to prevent loss of life and property


It should be noted that all excavations, no matter what depth, may be hazardous. Modes of
failure will depend on the depth, the soil type or soil types if layered, bedding planes,
vibration, the presence of moisture, rain, or a high water table level, any superimposed
loading close to the edge of the excavation, the time the excavation is open, and any
previous disturbance of the soil. While some types of soil often look stable and may stand
for quite a long time, a false sense of security can build up. Indeed, experienced employees
have been the victims in trench collapses. Some common failure modes are shown in Fig.
1.Soil failure modes. Water table unstable lumps fall into trench Slump failure of soil mass
Centre of gravity of soil strip Rotational slip failure through slippage along bedding planes


All work involving excavations must completed with the requirements in the HSE Act and
the HSE Regulations. Notification must be given to the HSE inspector if the trench is deeper

Removal of soil from an excavation causes unbalanced soil stresses. The use of a shoring
system, or the cutting of the sides of the excavation to a safe slope, will help compensate
these soil stresses. A shoring system, or the design of safe side slopes, are engineering
problems that involve both structural design and soil mechanics. While experience can
guide operators in recognition of hazardous situations, it is only engineering practice that
can provide known safe solutions. Just because a solution worked previously does not
mean that solution is satisfactory for a current situation. There may be additional factors
that need to be taken into account.



Excavation work involves the removal of rock, weathered rock, gravels and/or soil. Amounts
can be small as in shallow trenches for foundations, or many tonnes as in extensive civil
engineering work. Since soil varies in its nature, and water is nearly always present either as
a free liquid or as moisture within the soil itself, it cannot be relied upon to support its own
weight. The sides of any excavation have to potential to collapse; a fall of even a small
amount of earth, or the plant used in the rescue attempt, can maim or kill. Excavation work
should therefore be carefully planned.


In planning a safe, sound and efficient work system, the following questions should be

(a) What underground/overhead services are in the vicinity?

(b) What is the best method of excavation?

(c) What is the best plant for the job, bearing in mind the limitations of access, right of ways,
headroom, overhead cables, bearing capacity of ground and noise restrictions?

(d) What is the best type of support for the sides of the excavation, or can the sides be cut
back to a safe batter?

(e) How can the side support system be installed safely?

(f) What is the best method, if occasion demands, of keeping water out of the excavation
and reasonably dry, so that work can proceed without interruption?


After studying the layout and detailed drawings of the permanent works, the site and
ground conditions should be investigated. Check:

(a) The effect excavation may have on adjoining occupiers, adjacent structures, roads and
underground services such as electricity, gas or water reticulation, and on the safety of
persons in the vicinity.

(b) The nature of the soil to be excavated and its method of disposal, the length and nature
of the haul route, the conditions of tipping or spreading and possible compaction.

(c) The water table level, presence of standing or running water, possibility of flooding by
surface runoff, and suitable means of disposing of discharged water.

(d) The measures for controlling traffic and pedestrians; the effect of explosives if they are
used (especially in regard to excessive particle velocity) on adjacent buildings or structures.


Adequate supplies of suitable support material should be arranged before work starts,
unless other safety precautions have been taken.



(a) Safe access and egress must be provided for all employees at all times. The floor of the
excavation must be kept clear of loose spoil, debris, tools, timber or anything that would
impede employees safe egress in an emergency.

(b) Access to surfaces more than l m above or below ground level may be provided by
means of ladders, stairways or ramps.

(c) In every trench of 1.5 m or more in depth, ladders or stairways must always be provided
where work is being carried out.

(d) Where an excavation, trench or shaft is of such small dimensions that it is not practicable
to use ladders as a means of access or egress, other means must be provided to allow
employees safe access and egress.

(e) Ladders used in an excavation must be constructed of suitable materials, conform to the
appropriate New Zealand Standard, and be maintained in good order or condition. Ladder
runs of more than 6 m high should be broken up with intermediate landings. Where ladders
meet a landing, the ladder below is to be offset from the ladder above by at least 600 mm.
A ladder should extend l m above the landing which it serves, unless alternative handholds
are provided. Landing platforms should be fitted with guardrails, mid rails and/or toe

(f) In deep excavations, temporary stairways should be used as they provide a safer means
of access than ladders. Each flight of stairs should have uniform risers; and landings of the
same width as the stairs should be provided for every vertical rise of 6 m.

(g) Where ramps in lieu of steps are provided as access, the maximum slope should not be
greater than 1 in 6, unless traction cleats are provided at 0.5 m spacing for 1 in 5 slopes, or
at 0.4 m spacing for 1 in 4 slopes. Ramps should not be steeper than 1 in 4


Particular care needs to be taken while backfilling and compacting trenches. The vibration
from the compactors can loosen soil from the trench sides and cause collapse. In addition,
the fumes from the exhaust can fill the excavation. Precautions may be necessary.

6.2 Marking
After completing the excavation process the columns should be marked as per design given
in the drawings. To mark the outline of the foundation on the site using string and pegs. Three
measures are very important:

* the length of each wall must be marked exactly;

* the string must be exactly level;
* the corners must be square: exactly 90

The length of each wall or column is easy to set out on level ground. Simply measure it with
a tape measure, making sure to pull the measure tight. When the site is on uneven ground,
care must be taken to measure the length of the wall along a level line: following the slope of
the ground will throw off the measurements.

Fig 6.2 Marking the foundation outline

To prevent errors, begin at the highest end of the first wall's length and attach the string to a
peg planted at the end-point. Set a new peg every 2 meters to prevent the string from sagging,
and test to make sure the string is level by using a plumb bob. when the plumb bob stops
swinging it will be plumb (straight up and down); the string will be exactly level when it is a
90 to the bob string Repeat this process until the length of string set out is equal to the
planned length of the first wall.

Fig 6.2.1 checking with plumb bob

Once the first wall has been set out, the second wall should be set out at right angles to it
(90). There are several ways to make sure that this angle, and the angles between all the
walls set out are square:

A mason's square is good for distances up to 3 meters. Use it to get started, but don't use it
to check the entire outline.

One of the easiest and most accurate methods of checking large distances for squareness is
to compare the diagonals. Simply measure the diagonal lines from opposite corners of the
foundation. When they are exactly equal in length, all the angles will be 90. On uneven
ground, be sure to use the tape measure along a level line
Fig 6.2.2 using Manson square

Correct marking of the foundations for new walls is important to ensure that foundations are the
right size and in the correct position to take the load of the wall. Good foundations are important to
ensure that no movement can take place - any movement will result in cracks and problems in the
building that the foundation supports. Hence foundations should be marked properly.