In this article we will discuss the importance of having a concrete foundation installed square and level on a construction project.
I am a retired carpenter that has built many buildings in the northeast as a apprentice carpenter to building construction consultant. I was taught the trade by my family as my Grandfather, Uncle and Father were all carpenters and business owners in construction trades.
My father is the one that taught me that if you start a building properly everything all the way through the building process is easier. In other words you do not have to do any adjusting to another part of the building because the part before was not installed properly. Dont get me wrong here things to get installed wrong, but my father also said when constructing a building you try to find all problems on the drawing that you can and have them fixed by the design professional before you put the materials in place on the actual building.
When I first started in the building trades, layout was a tedious process it took 2 men laying out ahead of the excavation of the building, then transferring the layout into the excavation for the footings, finally transferring the points onto the footing to install the foundation. During each of the processed two men were also shooting grades to make sure that the proper heights on the drawings were adhered to. As you can see there were 2 men working on layout throughout most of the installation of the concrete foundation.
After working with my father on layout for a few projects I when I became a third year apprentice. He worked with me to start layout of a very intricate project with many angles in it. We laid out the footings and put it to proper height (graded it) together then he told me that I was to layout the foundation myself with the theodolite transit and had another tradesperson with me to be my rod man and install the points where I told him to.
It took me a full two days to turn all the angles on this building following the crew putting in the footings, when I got to the final angle I turned it and was very proud of myself that I closed to within one quarter of an inch if being square. This was on a Friday at about 15 minutes before the end of the day. Well my pride did not last long over my accomplishment; my father came over and said how did I do? I said look for yourself, now you have to understand that when I started work we did not have to wear hardhats yet, those laws came into effect about 5 years after this episode. Anyway he looked through the transit at the point, took off his baseball cap threw it and said if you are going to layout a building for me you will do it properly, then stomped away. I was in shock all the tradespeople in ear shoot were laughing.
The next day Saturday I was back on the job by myself to move 4 points so that I was within a sixteenth of an inch, on my own time. The following Monday morning first thing he had me set up the transit so he could check to see if it was to his liking. He said it was better and he would accept it this time, but in the future I better pay more attention when I am laying out building for him.
Even when I shot grades on the walls (top of the concrete) we had to put the grade nails right on the center of the chalk line we put at the top so that the finishers knew where to finish the concrete to. We used 4d finish nails a grade nails they are made if fine wire.
My father built all the buildings he was responsible this way, but let me tell you everything fit in properly and trades people could precut everything and knew that it would fit. One instance I can remember on this building we had 75 foot laminated beams that were for the roof supports on a gym. There where 2 long bolts that went through saddles to hold the beams in place on each side. He usually never worked doing installations like this, but he told me that him and I were going to install the beams. The crane picked them up and set the first in place I lined up my side and then my father slipped the bolts through the laminated beam and the saddle without even using a hammer. Then I heard him yell across to me Start the building properly and end properly meaning that when you start at the bottom correctly everything is easier all the way through, I heard that every time he slipped the bolts through on his side, all the guys on the job were laughing. I got the message and that is the way I did all my projects from then on.
So in closing I say that a foundation has to be installed true and square so that the rest of the building will be easier to construct. I learned this thanks to my father and all the rest of the crafts people that I worked with throughout the years along with many other things.