BUILDING A SOLAR HOUSE IN FRANCE - CONSTRUCTION - WEEK 1 - basic earthworks
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14 th November we had a call from SOGEDO who we had asked to put in a water supply 2 months earlier. that afternoon they had dug up the road, put in a pipe and meter - all in less than 2 hours. The next day Mr Faye, the contractor to whom we had given the contract for the earthworks, drive, foundations, brickwork, concrete slabs etc., six months earlier, phoned us to say he was ready to start the next day ! Complete coincidence.
The area for the house previously cleared of small trees and bushes in February, still had a lot of rubbish after we had cut and stacked all the wood that was good for fuel, which we had to burn befor the contractor brought his big machines on site.
On Monday morning the big digger started work digging up the stumps of the trees blown down in the hurricane. The driver was Mr Faye's foreman, Francis Guinot, who handled the machine as if it was his third hand. He could make it dance - pivot on the spot, fling roots away into a heap, swing round using centrifugal force to keep a bucket full of earth inside and then tip it exactly up onto a bank. I spent all day on site watching him for the first few days, totally fascinated. I think he performed for me.
Within a day and a half he had scraped all the topsoil off our long drive and the whole area of the house and garage and started dumping stone onto the drive.
At first he worked alone, going off at lunch to fetch lorry loads of stone and taking away loads of clay. At this stage I hung around, having set up our van as a site office. It had a bench and a pull-down table in the back, from the days when we travelled in it and camped all over Europe. I set up a drawing board and Francis Guinot came and had cups of coffee with meand discussed details of the sous sol contruction. Then I made quick drawings to keep up with him.
This is the entrance to the drive which drops quite steeply down to the level of the first flat area of the site which will be our parking place.
The stage causing the most anxiety for me was when Francis Guinot began to excavate the slope to make the cellar and basement level. We did not know how deep the soil was before the solid rock began. Trial holes showed rock all over the site at different levels, but mostly broken up and easily dug with a strong machine. I was prepared to make instant changes in design to avoid paying for expensive digging through solid rock.
The drive with a base of limestone to take the heavy lorries that would be delivering concrete, stone, blocks etc,
Luckily, only the deepest corner of the cellar had a couple of cubic metres of solid limestone to cut into. I was persuaded that it would not take long with the small yellow digger that Francis Guinot had brought, with a hydraulic drill attachment.
Here is the man himself looking at the plans.
Using a combination of the two diggers, it took anly about a day and a half to excavate the levels down to sold rock almost all the way across the lower floors. It was a great relief that the level of the rock followed the slope of the ground, because once one part of the foundatons are on solid rock, one has to dig down to find solid rock for the rest of the foundations. It was in fact so close to the surface that the foundations could be more shallow than they would have been on clay or sandy loam. In the end no changes to design were necessary.
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Album last updated on Dec 30, 2006 - 07:48 PM