We had plans to try and break ground for our full excavation during the first week of May. A week beforehand, Shaun walked the lot with the excavator. Things were starting to warm up and dry out, but sections of the site were still soggy. Not great news.

We dug our first test hole in the first week of May. It was sixteen feet deep, but after a day or two it had filled up with 30″ or so of water. And one wall of the hole caved in.

Clay is a pain to work with because it expands and contracts as it gets wet and dries out, respectively. It isn’t great material to put a building on.

Over the next week or so some of the surface water dried up and the excavation crew staged an excavator onsite. They expanded the test hole a bit and cleared out the water to see how fast it would refill.

By the first day of June they were still mucking out the test hole to see how it refilled. There was a seep layer about three feet down that was weeping water. But the crew had some questions about whether we were actually hitting the water table, or if the clay was producing a layer of water higher than the “true” water table. We considered excavating to 3′ down, letting things dry, and then digging again. But for the most part we were in a holding pattern, waiting for things to dry out.

It wasn’t that we couldn’t dig wet soil, but it’s more expensive, particularly with a clay base. It’s heavier due to the water, and takes up more volume due to the expansive nature of the soil. And you need to scrape out things like dump trucks and excavator buckets.

A week later, I met with the excavator to talk about places to “hide” soil onsite instead of trucking it off, since trucking could get expensive with the amount of dirt we were moving around. The site has some slope to it, so we discussed where to stash some soil in the corners without causing drainage issues down the road.

We ended up “truly” breaking ground in the second week of June, scraping topsoil and stashing it onsite so that we could use it to cover the site once we were done.

We were officially on our way.

May 2020 also placed us about a month and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic. At least on the front-end, it was pretty unclear what it would mean to be building in the time of COVID. Summit County allowed builds to continue, with appropriate safeguards, and it was anybody’s guess on how it would impact labor and material prices.

Mini Book Reviews

One quick book review: Your Home Your Style is one of the better interior design books I’ve found so far. I’ve found others I’ve liked (more here), but this one had a nice focus on helping you determine your style for decorating a home and giving general advice to help you within that style (we are self-expressionists and pragmatists, with emphasis on the latter). It doesn’t push a particular style, and the writing style is up my alley. Recommended.