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How to Dig Holes for Container Footings

dig holes for shipping container house footings project

Each mundane chore completed brings us a little closer to the day we can finally move into our new shipping container house. So even seemingly boring chores such as digging holes for the container footings can be more exciting than you expect. 

A standard brick house requires foundations in order to keep the walls secure and the building safe. As a shipping container is already a structurally sound object, foundations are not necessary to keep up the walls. However, in this case, something is necessary to keep the containers stable as we will be living in them.

Here are a few reasons why:

  1. If the shipping containers sit on something stable and level, our home will be level. There’s nothing more annoying than a slightly sloping floor where you expect it to be level. (Think about the last time you stood in a caravan or mobile home that wasn’t completely level)
  2. As we are bolting several containers together and then adding a roof to make the house, we cannot afford for any one container to move, as this will cause stress on other sections of the metal work
  3. Rain, animals and/or ants might undermine a container lying directly on the ground, causing a container to move out of place. See point 2
  4. It will give us a means to keep the containers off the wet ground, which will help reduce corrosion 

Therefore, our plan of action is to place each container on concrete blocks; the footings. This will also allow us to “tie” each container to the ground, keeping the house even more stable. But, the first job is to dig some holes!

holes for container footings

Digging for the Container Footings

Digging holes for concrete footings
Inspector Dog Making Sure Louis is Doing a Good Job

Thus, Kevin and Louis began the tough work of digging several square holes in what turned out to be extremely hard clay. Kevin and Louis spent days digging into the hard ground and not getting very far. They had to quickly came up with a solution to soften the dirt. The best way to soften hard clay is with water but with Cape Town’s current water situation we couldn’t just connect up the hose pipe. (Looking to save water? See our post about a brilliant shower head.)

We saved all our excess disgusting dirty water from digging holeswashing dishes and laundry for throwing in the holes and slowly we managed to dig through the layers. (This is the part where I was hoping we would dig up some hidden pirate treasure, but we didn’t). Kevin and Louis did a large percentage of the digging themselves, but did in the end hire some strong men to finish the work. 

The Next Step for the Container Footings

Now Cape Town’s rainy season seems to have begun in earnest and we are all grateful for every drop as Cape Town so desperately needs the water. However, now that we need the holes to dry out so that we can fill them with concrete, they are continually being filled with rain water! We do have a bit of time as we are waiting for the structural engineer to conduct a soil analysis and let us have his recommendation for the required hardness of the concrete. 

rainstorm water
The after-effects of a rain storm: The holes for the container footings can no longer be seen under all the water. Mind your step!

2 thoughts on “How to Dig Holes for Container Footings

  1. Full marks to Inspector Dog for ensuring that the holes are expertly executed! Those are some fine-looking holes indeed. The rain could have been a bit more cooperative, though, and made an appearance before commencement of works rather than after.

    1. We’ve put in some drainage channels so that rain has somewhere to go other than our holes. It is making a difference. We’ll just have to watch the weather before arranging concrete to be poured into the holes. I’ll give Inspector Dog a pat from you. 😉

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