Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather

 
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:35 AM   #1
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Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


I've never had to build any decks in the colder months - here in Eastern PA. But luck would have it that I have a shed to build, and hopefully it's going to start this week.

I hope this doesn't sound dumb, but can you dig pier holes (and pour concrete) when part of the ground is frozen? I'm not sure how bad it is, but this weekend was in the 20 & 30's. This week calls for daytime highs in the upper 30's & 40's, with low dipping into the 20's.

Any insight would be great.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:40 AM   #2
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


this is the result of digging in frost this it the boom on our 1994 cat 245D



ths machine its self

Frost is one of the worst things to be ripping on in the cold weather

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Old 12-08-2008, 11:43 AM   #3
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


yikes, how much did that cost to repair???!!
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:53 AM   #4
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


Quote:
Originally Posted by bradjacob View Post
I've never had to build any decks in the colder months - here in Eastern PA. But luck would have it that I have a shed to build, and hopefully it's going to start this week.

I hope this doesn't sound dumb, but can you dig pier holes (and pour concrete) when part of the ground is frozen? I'm not sure how bad it is, but this weekend was in the 20 & 30's. This week calls for daytime highs in the upper 30's & 40's, with low dipping into the 20's.

Any insight would be great.
Are you digging in someones yard?
At those temps the frost isn't likely
too deep even in exposed dirt.
One would be surprised at how much
insulation established turf will provide.
My experience is that frost penetration
is far less when there is good ground cover
than when the site has been stripped.
Once you are below your maximum frost depth
the ground heat will help protect your pour.
For post holes, just covering the opening with
plywood scraps will be enough unless it will
drop below the low 20's.
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Old 12-08-2008, 12:36 PM   #5
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


Quote:
Originally Posted by neolitic View Post
Are you digging in someones yard?
At those temps the frost isn't likely
too deep even in exposed dirt.
One would be surprised at how much
insulation established turf will provide.
My experience is that frost penetration
is far less when there is good ground cover
than when the site has been stripped.
Once you are below your maximum frost depth
the ground heat will help protect your pour.
For post holes, just covering the opening with
plywood scraps will be enough unless it will
drop below the low 20's.
Yeah, this is someone's lawn area with pretty nice grass. I think I'll be alright, as it hasn't been that cold and that constant.

Thanks for the info.
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Old 12-08-2008, 02:55 PM   #6
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


If you are just putting in a few Sonotubes for a deck and run into frost that is down a foot or so, you can still do it with some planning and preparation.

One method that is used here for posts and sewer lines is to pile a lot of charcoal over the area and let it burn. When it goes out, cover overnight and probe for frost the next day. If there is still frost, clean out the ash and reload with charcoal for another chance.

Once you start to auger and place the tubes, keep it covered with insulated blankets and do everything as fast as possible to prevent re-freezing and keep covered. Mix the concrete with hot water or buy heated concrete or use Type III cement. Cover immediately with insulated blankets.

I just saw a basement being dug today (-4F yesterday morning and 14F to 25F for a high today). I imagine they will cover the footing areas for the night, pour and cover the footings tomorrow. They may get a course of block or the corners up tomorrow also. - The blankets were already on the job and the sand was being heated. The block work will take about 2 days and be covered along with the exposed footings. No 8 hour days for the mason contractor, just good planning and quick construction when needed. - Very common if the house is sold or if it is a spec home to use the nail bender, plumbing and electrical labor during the winter. It is really not a big cost in the end for the GC.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:15 PM   #7
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


I haven't heard of using charcoal but have heard of hot sand from an asphalt plant or a ground thaw unit the charcoal seems like it would work pretty good but idk how much i like the idea of fire over nite. one thing we have done is light rags on fire with diesel fuel and let it burn over the area were gonna dig the hole for a bound or something and that works pretty good weve done that in 2 - 3 inces of frost
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:54 PM   #8
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


You need a lot of charcoal and start it early in the day. Check later when it is done and then cover for the night and repeat to hold or thaw more.

Around here, no one uses heated sand from an asphalt plant because they usually do not have good masonry sand. A corrugated pipe in laid down and the driver dumps the sand on it. Then the contractor can dig out an end, put in a propane torch and cover it for a day or two to keep in the heat and protect from any snow (usually not much snow). The hot water can be picked up from some suppliers if you have a good sized tank to make it wothwhile. It is heated on site with propane under a 55 gallon barrel. It sounds crude, but works if you are accustomed to the weather and plan ahead.
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:57 PM   #9
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


Quote:
Originally Posted by john1066 View Post
this is the result of digging in frost this it the boom on our 1994 cat 245D



ths machine its self

Frost is one of the worst things to be ripping on in the cold weather
No frost tooth for that bad boy?
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Old 12-08-2008, 07:58 PM   #10
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


1066,

Ouch! that looks like it hurt. Nice looking CAT. You'd think that a big machine like that would have an easy time of it in frost. Compared to one of my Akermans that weigh only 40% of that machines weight.

We do have a ripper tooth that makes frost a lot easier. BUT! It sure does make a difference in who is operating a machine with that ripper on it. I'm having a nightmare sitting here thinking about what has happened letting some people try and pull on frost or ledge.
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Old 12-08-2008, 08:01 PM   #11
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


It always looks like any idiot could do it
when you watch a good operator.
Until Any Idiot tries it!
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Old 12-08-2008, 09:06 PM   #12
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


we don't know what really caused it ecept it was in worcester mass up on top of a hill and it was about -5 degrees that morning the operator fired her up and the first bucket he took he heard a loud crack he then climbed up on the boom to check it out and made the call back to the yard that was at 7 am at noon time it was back in the garage which is 50 miles and they were already starting to cut it apart and rebuild it. the operator wasn't too happy because when the lowbed came up to get it so did everyone on the jobs checks for layoff. we do have a ripper tooth but haven't used it if we are doing alot of digging in the frost we either use the hammer or the D8L with the ripper. I don't think it helped that we always have a 72" bucket on that machine but o well both 245's are on light duty since we bought the new one

Last edited by john1066; 12-08-2008 at 09:10 PM.
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Old 12-08-2008, 09:06 PM   #13
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


If we have enough notice and enough blankets we cover that area with concrete blankets for a few days prior to working. The blankets will actually thaw the soil below if temps aren't so bad.


Digging heavy frost just sucks, and ends up breaking equipment as you have seen.
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Old 12-08-2008, 09:15 PM   #14
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


Cold soak in the steel doesn't
help much either.
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:22 PM   #15
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


thats true but like we say if you wana play with the big boy toys you need to be able to pay with teh big boys
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Old 12-08-2008, 10:33 PM   #16
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


I dug and set 12 footings a couple of weeks ago. The ground had no frost when we dug but the night time temps over the next few days were slightly below freezing. I covered every pier with straw, then plastic and then some snow on top of the plastic. This was on a Thursday. I gave it a few extra days to set and we framed it on the following Monday as everything was good to go.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:17 PM   #17
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


now that i think about it my dad told me about a time where they were working at the General Motors plant in framingham mass and during the winter to keep the frost from setting in they rented snow cannons from a ski resort and would cover the site with snow to keep the frost from setting in.
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Old 12-08-2008, 11:48 PM   #18
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


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Originally Posted by john1066 View Post
now that i think about it my dad told me about a time where they were working at the General Motors plant in framingham mass and during the winter to keep the frost from setting in they rented snow cannons from a ski resort and would cover the site with snow to keep the frost from setting in.
I'm pretty sure it all depends on the ground condition before the snow is on the ground. I dug and set 24 or so posts for a fence the 3rd week of December last year. There was about 2 feet of snow on the ground but the snow had come quickly (about 2 days before I dug) and had insulated the ground and the digging was really easy. After back filling around the posts, I just piled a bunch of snow back around the base of the posts and everything set great.
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Old 12-09-2008, 07:17 PM   #19
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


I am not too far from you there is only about max of 4" of frost in bare dirt. Just throw down some blankets or some hay and plastic.
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Old 12-09-2008, 07:17 PM   #20
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Re: Digging In Dirt And Cold Weather


BTW.......John, that is a nice 245, care to let me run her for a day ??

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