If you have any building project planned in Dorset, Hampshire or the South West generally, one of the first – and last – teams you’ll need on the plot is groundworks specialists. The term ‘groundworks’, which is almost exclusively used in the UK, is used to cover a whole range of different services, but in essence, it covers site clearance, installation of footings and foundations including provisions for drainage and utilities and landscaping afterwards.
Initially, it’s often a legal requirement, and usually key to the success of any building project, that the site is subject to a full ground investigation before any work begins. This helps identify potential problems which may impact on the finished building, and could be caused by previous uses of the land – contamination with chemicals or unused mine working for instance. Soil conditions are also checked – these determine what kind of foundations are needed to keep the structure stable and avoid slippage or subsidence in future years.
Site clearance comes next, which involves removing the topsoil, levelling the ground where necessary and the construction of any retaining walls needed to create level platforms for the development and prevent the soil from slipping or collapsing, as well as erosion.
Once this has all taken place, the groundworks team can move onto the design and construction of the substructure, which includes excavations and foundations as well as any basement construction. This again might involve the construction of retaining walls, often made from reinforced concrete, stone or brick/ blockwork. Steel fixing and formwork may also be used to strengthen and improve the load bearing capabilities of the foundations. This all stabilises the ground and the substructure of the building.
The purpose of the foundations is to support the eventual structure, transferring the building’s load down into layers of soil – or rock. How deep the foundations go depends on how far down it’s calculated they have to stand to be position on soil, or rock, that has sufficient weight bearing capacity. Other factors that might affect the sort of foundations needed include whether there’s water present on the site, the type and use of the building being constructed, and whether there are any sensitivities to vibration or noise. Accessibility to the site is another consideration.
Taking all this into account, groundworkers will then construct shallow or deep foundations. These may incorporate either temporary or permanent drainage and other utilities, or alteration of existing water provisions or electricity cables. Deep foundations are required where the surface soil’s load bearing capacity is insufficient for the type and nature of the building, and include pilings, steel or reinforced concrete pillars which, when placed correctly, will help transfer the loads from structures down through the weaker top layers of ground to stiffer soils or rock below.
Groundworks may also involve any necessary or aesthetic landscaping, such as including driveways on residential projects or surfacing of roads and car parks on commercial developments.
Tricourt Piling and Foundations Ltd has expertise in all areas of groundworks listed above, as well as underpinning for existing structures. If you need assistance with a project, domestic or commercial, don’t hesitate to get in touch.