Backfilling, Drainage and Landscaping - DIY Series

Be sure to inspect the property before any backfilling occurs. Backfilling is simply pushing back excavated soil to fill in the construction ditches. This step normally occurs after the first floor is framed on the house, but it is not a firm rule in the industry. Most contractors choose to frame the first floor to add more weight to the structure and stiffen the walls. Do not be alarmed, though, if you see your exactor moving earth before the first nail is hammered. Make sure there is agreement regarding when the back filling should occur.


Do not allow your contractor to backfill too quickly; otherwise, the strength of your foundation will be compromised. There are a lot of owner-builders and contractors who will rush this portion of the build so they can hurry up and move on to the next task; this is a mistake. It takes up to 28 days for concrete to cure to 75 percent of its designed strength, so if you are backfilling within a few days of pouring the foundation, you could cause the walls to slant inward.

A note to remember about backfilling is to make sure the dirt is not compacted around your foundation walls. This will have an effect on water drainage for years or until the earth has completely compacted. In some cases where the overhang is protecting the edge of the ground, the soil does not ever completely compact. Some owner builders add gravel and crushed rock around the foundation, rather then grassing it there, to help improve any drainage issues that might occur.

When taking into account what type of drainage system you need around your foundation, consult with your foundation contractor to see what they suggest in addition to what the building inspector suggests or requires. They may have good information, and also differing opinions. Be sure these meeting are happening on-site because no one should guess what type of soil and grade you have on your property. Each piece of the land is different and should be treated accordingly. If possible, arrange the meeting so both the foundation contractor and the building inspector are present at the same time.

There are many different materials to choose from during the installation process. With a few weeks of planning ahead, just about anything can be bought into your building site and installed. Do not risk quality when attempting to cut costs, otherwise; you could have a nightmare on your hands. These are some materials you will need for drainage installations:

  • Drainage pipe
  • Geootextile
  • Catch basins
  • Pipe couplings
  • Pipe anchors
  • Drainage gravel

Before beginning, if you are unsure of where your utilities are hocked up, call in the utility company service to mark off where all the utilities are located on the property. Some places offer this service for free. Utilities to watch out for include power, telephone, water, gas, and cable. Some municipalities require that these markings be done ahead of time. Be sure to check and make sure before any digging occurs.

The land should be dry before any excavation occurs. The holes dug can quickly become flooded, so it is essential to wait out poor weather and allow the property to dry after storms. Mark out where any natural springs are located so they can be avoided, if possible. This information is available on your zoning map in most cases. Your drainage system will perform much better when installed dry, and there will be no sedimentation occurring in other areas.

Note that sometimes drainage pipes can either break or loosen from heavy equipment. Do not allow the pipes to be buried until they are inspected to ascertain they are not broken and to ensure they will not leak. These inspections are common practice, so the contractor should be helping through this process. If not, request that they do so.

Not everyone builds their home in the middle of a city or out on a farm. Those occasions frequently call for specialised assistance and expert advice. The materials that work in ordinary situations do not usually fare well on islands, near water, and other wet environments. Building a vacation cottage, for instance, is not such simple project unless you know the nuances of the area. In general, construction wood and concrete are common materials for building. When building near the sea, they do not do well.