Planning for Soil Conditions and Setting the Footings

Project: Building an Addition for an Elderly Parent, Episode 1, Part 1

Bob introduces homeowner Howard Brickman, who is building a new addition for an aging parent that will nearly double the size of his colonial home in Norwell, MA. It showcases concrete building technology that is streamlined, efficient, and versatile.


There were some delays in obtaining a building permit because the home is near a quaking bog that serves as a wildlife habitat and natural filtration system for the town. Steve Ivas, an environment consultant, leads a tour of neighboring Black Pond Bog.  Formed by melting glacial remains, the pond is covered by a moss layer that has since formed a 20-foot thick fibrous mat.  At the home site, a hay-bale buffer was created on the property to protect a connected wetland from erosion or runoff during the project.


At every step, time and materials savings speed the construction and save countless hours of labor.  A monolithic pour, or single pour that would normally take three, is used for the concrete slab and frost walls.  ReddiForm's innovative plastic footing ICF forms are used to create and reinforce the structure.  Insul-Tarp is used to create an insulated vapor barrier and reflect heat back into the living spaces.  Fibers are blended into the concrete mix, eliminating the need for a traditional steel reinforced mesh.

Part 1: Planning for Soil Conditions and Setting the Footings
Bob introduces Howard Brickman, who is adding space to his home to make room for his mother-in-law. The house, approximately 2,500 square feet, was built by Brickman 24 years ago and has two stories, four bedrooms, and a full basement. With the addition—a full bedroom, bath, kitchenette, and large living area—the home will roughly double in size. In Norwell, MA, glacial activity left a mix of soil types, large rocks, and groundwater in the area surrounding the home. Steve Ivas, the environmental consultant who helped guide the homeowners through the process of securing permits for the house expansion, gives a tour of neighboring Black Pond Bog, an endangered ecosystem owned by the Nature Conservancy whose boardwalk and paths are maintained by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The pond was formed about 10,000 years ago by a melting glacier. This is called a "quaking bog" because the surrounding plants and trees are growing on a sort of "life raft" on top of the water. Adjacent to the bog are wetlands that are protected by the town because they provide filtering of storm water and a habitat for wildlife, thus maintaining the town's ecological health. The headwaters for this interconnected wetland system are at the job site and will not be landscaped. To protect the site, an erosion-control system consisting of staked hay bales with a silt fence behind them was put in place. Bob talks with Howard Brickman about the challenging soil conditions on this project, describing the high water table and impermeable soils that must be considered for the foundation. To alleviate these problems, several tons of one-and-a-half-inch crushed stone are trucked to the job site. Waterproof Fab-Form plastic footing forms are used instead of typical wood forms to keep the water out and away from the footings. A plastic membrane is placed on the inside of the Fab-Forms to further protect the footings from water. Using this method has removed two of the three steps involved in the standard footing construction process. The forms double as the drainage-pipe material and will stay in place after the pour, eliminating the need to remove any forms once the concrete is set. With Fab-Forms, the slab and the footing with integral drainage can be poured at the same time, allowing for a smaller footing than is typically used in traditional installations.
Part 2: Preparing the Foundation
Part 3: Pouring the Foundation and Starting the Walls
More and more homeowners are converting their houses into multi-generational homes for themselves, their children, and their aging parents. In Norwell, MA, Bob Vila meets a couple making room for a mother-in-law.