House update: exterior backfill and slab footer leveling

We got the outside of the footers backfilled. Which also means we got our garage pad excavated since that’s where the dirt for the backfill came from.

Before we backfilled, however, we had to put rigid insulation around the footers. This helps to insulate the pad so that the house is easier to heat. We chose to go with extruded polystyrene (xps) since it seemed more durable to us. Also, our plans say it has to be at least R-7 and this 2 inch xps foam is R-10 and was easier to find at our local big box hardware store than the right kind of expanded polystyrene (eps). 

We also spent a couple days ripping our form bords down to the right height and reattaching them so that they become the forms for the finished slab. I like that we were able to reuse materials. In addition to the wood, we had put all the forms together with screws, which means we were able to save those when we took the footer forms apart and use them again. Once the slab is poured, these forms will come down and one more row of insulation will go down, then we’ll backfill the rest of the way. And I am sure all this wood will find it’s use on the homestead.

We rented an excavator that Pops operated for us. He’s a wizard in that thing! But then, that’s what he did for a living for 30+ years.

Excavating the garage pad (and getting us fill dirt)

The Hubs and I took turns operating the little bobcat we also rented. Would have been nice to have something a bit bigger, but that’s all that was available on short notice. We used that to move the dirt around the house.

Almost done with the exterior backfill

And since we had the machine there, we decided to finally move the huge boulders into their permanent positions. 

These gigantic boulders came out of the hillside when we excavated for our well. We knew they would come in handy for landscaping and retaining. So that’s exactly how we used them.

Play boulders


The new garage pad with big boulders as a retaining wall

Just a couple days after finishing the backfill, we took off on a big family vacation that has been in the works for two years. 

The Castle Rock Family at Mt Rushmore

We got back from vacation this past weekend, and now it’s back to work!

First thing our hired hand and I did this morning in was some rebar work that needed to be finished. It was one of those jobs that would have been easy to forget.

Then we worked on leveling up the forms. They were pretty close to level, but needed a bit of adjusting here and there.

The first thing we did was go around with a transit level and measuring rod and see where the forms were high or low. Princess Girl and Pajii helped out today as well.

A transit level is basically a swiveling scope mounted on a tri-pod. You make sure it is perfectly level by using the adjusters, then site through it to a measuring rod or tape measure.

The site through the transit

Once we figured out the measurement that was most common, we called that measurement “grade” and brought everything else up or down to meet it. 

Sometimes we had to detach the form from the supports and pry the form up a bit and re-attach. But for the most part, we had to get some spots down a bit. Because there was not enough wiggle room in the system to push the boards down, I came up with the idea to plane down the high spots. We would find two “grade” spots not too far from each other, put a chalk line on it, then use the electric planer to take off the excess down to the mark.

Princess girl was in charge of the camera for a bit – obviously!

It worked great!

Planing down the high spots


That’s all we did today. Tomorrow I am going to order some fill dirt and we’ll start backfilling the interior on Friday (gotta work my summer job on Thursday). Tomorrow we also have some more bracing to do on the forms now that they are level. Don’t want those suckers to move a millimeter!

Then, over the weekend, we start trenching for interior footers and plumbing! This progress is so exciting!

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About Maridy

Hi, I'm Maridy. Me and my husband and two girls (age 11 and 4), along with a tiny dog and a huge dog currently live in a 33ft trailer while we build our house on on our homestead property in Northern Nevada (Castle Rock Homestead). My father-in-law also lives with us on the property in his own trailer, and we have chickens and rabbits as our first homestead animals. Join us on our journey to building our high desert homestead from the ground up!

2 thoughts on “House update: exterior backfill and slab footer leveling

  1. Vickie

    Good morning! Wow, you guys really are DIYers! We won’t be pouring our own footers because that’s just something we just don’t know how to do, nor do we have friends or relatives that do. Hopefully our footers will be poured this month. We’ll see. Those huge boulders look like they are being put to good use! Have a great day… and don’t work too hard (hahaha).

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    1. Maridy Post author

      Work too hard? Ha! This house would probably be build a lot faster if I did work harder. But I don’t want to kill myself, and the family still wants a functioning wife and mom, so I take things easier when I need to.

      And yay! You’re almost ready to do footers? Does that mean you finally got your permit?

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