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high desert. small house.

Days 195-196: Excavation – Drainage & Grounding Setup

Monday, 1/25
We started the morning by touching base with the gravel/excavation man.  He came over to examine the job and to verify the amount of gravel needed to create the proper drainage slope.  For 6 cubic yards of gravel (increase from 2.7 cubic yards because we had underestimated the length of the ditch – $210), delivery ($45), and the excavation+operator ($375), our total is $630.

It’s another one of those ‘gosh, I wish I didn’t have to pay this much for that’ situations, but in reality, the time saved by hiring it out is very much worth it.  Plus, as mentioned in this post, the cost to rent the excavator, without operator, is $321.  So we’d only save $54 by doing it ourselves.

Then, much to our surprise and delight, he scheduled us for 10am that very morning!  This was GREAT news as we were worried about the next snow storm.  We don’t want the mega trucks on our driveway after heavy moisture as it wrecks our gravel job and digs tire ruts.  We have a full week ahead of us of perfect weather so this worked out great.

So the remaining tasks related to the conduit (cut, thread, attach) will be put on hold for a few days.  Here is the excavation story in pictures –


How our building pad looked before the digging started.  Remember all that gravel spreading work we did?  Gosh it looks beautiful.


The arrival of the dump truck with 6 cubic yards of river rock.


The excavator digging the trench for the drainage pipe.

Excavation #4

The trench is dug and the first section of pipe is in place.  Time to cover with river rock.


The other end of the drainage ditch.  This is the ‘end’ of it – where it will deposit its water treasure on the cholla garden.  Look at all that nice gravel we spread about.


The excavator hit a major run of ledge so they had to create a whole new ditch to the the left of the initial attempt.


Quick and easy – a 20 foot trench for the ‘modified ground ring’ mandated by New Mexico electric code for new construction without a ‘Ufer ground’.

Brian called me at the end of the day and said that it took them 45 minutes longer than they had expected so I needed to bring another $50.  This was understandable and expected, given the second trench attempt.  At that point, new total was $680.

Upon arriving at the scene, I received some more news – we needed an additional 6 cubic yards of gravel (the guy’s initial estimate had been 2.7; which increased to 6.0 when Brian told him the pipe length was 25 feet longer than initially expected.  So now, double it).  We will have to pay another $45 delivery fee and another hour of operation ($75).  So, the totals –

  • River Rock – 12 cubic yards at $35 each ($420)
  • Delivery – twice ($90)
  • Excavation – rental and labor of operator ($500)

A total of $1010.  Wowee ka-zam.

I was a little frustrated when I heard all of this.  My thoughts went to – well, if we had rented the equipment ourselves, we wouldn’t have to pay for the operator and we probably wouldn’t have had to pay for delivery twice.  But, as Brian reminded me, the rental would only operate for 8 hours.  Considering the expert had been working for 6 hours and didn’t finish, it is unlikely that we, without ANY experience, could have completed it within our allotted time.

Also, another frustration occurred regarding the french drain install.  Brian was counting on the main guy – who was familiar with french drain installs – to be there the whole time.  Thus Brian did not research how to gauge 1/8″ per foot or 1/4″ per foot drop with a level.  When the time came to lay pipe, another guy had taken the main guy’s place and this other guy asserted that having one quarter of the bubble over the the line in a spirit level meant 1/8″ per foot drop (the minimum drop you want).

Once the first 30ft leg of drain pipe was laid in the trench, with great difficulty in achieving anything near 1/4 bubble over the line, Brian suspected the drop was well over 1/8″ per foot and called the main guy.  The main guy said (IIRC) 1/4″ per foot was more like 1/8 of the bubble being over the line and 1/8″ per foot was like the bubble just  grazing the line.  Anyhow, everything got installed with enough slope in the end but that first leg ended up taking too long and half of it ended up being a bit too shallow for optimal french draining.

Tuesday, 1/26 (Part 1)
The second delivery of river rock and excavation completion was scheduled to happen between 8-9am.  Brian decided to try and get the grounding rods and copper wire in place before they arrived so that they could use the machine to bury the grounding setup.  This goal required making the necessary purchases at the electric supply depot, getting the setup in place, and contacting the electric inspector to lure him over to okay it…all before the bobcat operator arrived.

After making some calls and getting changed into work clothes, it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it in time.  So, Brian met the guys at the house, oversaw the completion of the drainage ditch, paid them and then started the grounding project.  As this post is already pretty picture-heavy, we’ll continue the with grounding rod in the next post.

The rest of the drainage pipe is put in place.

The rest of the drainage pipe is put in place.

The gravel is smooshed in and smoothed out.

The gravel is smooshed in and smoothed out.

The end of the drain pipe will shoot the water into the cholla garden.

The end of the drain pipe will shoot the water into the cholla garden.

One Comment

  1. Drainage excavation needs to be precise and done correctly to ensure your drain remains unblocked and running free.

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