Here's what happened between making the trough and the footer pour. It was pretty dry when that
trough photo was taken on June 25. On June 26, it rained. The sky dropped a lot of water that day
and it had a powerful earth moving effect. Overall, it rained more that summer than it has in
that part of NY for any summer in USA recorded history. (click on images for larger versions)
We decided that there was no way we'd be effective at moving the earth without the help of a
mini-excavator. Lifting the mud out from the bottom with the excavator was a challenge. After
a certain height, the mud kept running back out of the bucket. I remember feeling very frustrated.
The mythical Greek punishee, Sisyphus, came to mind. We did get a bunch of the firmer mud out of
the hole, deepened the discharge part and some of the golf course side part of the drainage ditch.
I had this idea to build a fence, and we tried it. We pounded in steel fence posts and put welded
wire fencing with geotextile felt we had sewn to the outside of it on the outside of the posts. After
Chuck's recommendation to use woven geotextile fabric in the footer, we had planned to purchase some of
that and some of the non woven, felt style, stuff for use outside the pea gravel used to improve the
drainage around the outside of the basement, but needing some felt for the fence, we purchased it all
Once the fence was in place, we shoveled lots of mud to the other side of it, cleaned
out the ditch so drainage worked again, and then started rebuilding the footer forms.
I tried to make a shaker for the trough, hoping to encourage the rocks to slide
down it. This wasted a lot of time. The best it ever did was to not shake itself
apart in 20 minutes of continuous running and get a one rock deep layer of the
2s and 3s gravel to dance in place (but not slide down). Here's a photo of one
of the last iterations of building the thing. I tied & later welded lots of
short rebar chunks to the steel angle on the right hand side. We later learned
that conveyors were avialable for rent in the area. I had searched for such a
rental place before we started the trough, but didn't find any. I had thought
early on to build a conveyor, but we decided that would be too expensive.
On July 27th when the forms were all built and we had started putting the big
gravel into the hole, the biggest rainstorm of the summer happened. I'm pleased
to say that the fence and the extra ditch work did their job. It only took a
single day of ditch maintenance to restore the hole to its pre-flood state.
After giving up on the shaker, the next thing we tried was running a little cart
down the trough. We moved about 30 tons of rock this way before we gave up on it.
Here's what really worked for moving the bulk of the gravel. We rented a bigger
mini-excavator with a longer reach for a week.
Once we had the bulk of the big gravel moved, we started filling in the drainage
ditch. A fond farewell to ditch maintenance. First we lined the ditch with
Then we put a little of the pea gravel into the bottom of the felt.
Then we put the "tile" hose with the sock on it into the lining on top of the initial gravel.
Then we filled in the rest of the ditch with pea gravel.
The excavator didn't stay for all of the ditch filling. Once it left, we changed to
Here's the hole on August 21st after most all of the 120 tons of rock have been moved into the hole.
Here it is on August 30th. You can see a lot of dirt has been backfilled with pea gravel next
to the forms at the drain discharge. Also, the vertical forms were finished, and the drainage
ditch for the garage has been lined and filled, and the inside of the garage footer form has been
built and big gravel filled up to the top of it on the inside.
Then we lined the footer forms with the woven geotextile fabric and put in the rebar.
Steve found online some very nice inexpensive
modular plastic chairs for holding the rebar in place. We got in a little bit of
trouble with the horizontal part of the vertical footer forms. They formed a lintel
(a place where the cement was horizontally over air) which wasn't on the architect's
original drawings. We had the engineer come out and he said with three pieces of rebar
instead of two and those being 3/4" rebar instead of the 5/8" rebar we used everywhere
else, the lintel was ok, so that's what we did.
Finally here's a photo of the rebar framework I welded up for the vertical part of
the vertical forms. I include it only because I think it looks sort of nifty and
hopefully rather strong.
Here's a link back.