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  • The trenches which have to be dug for the foundations of walls may be excavated by hand for single small buildings but where, for example, several houses are being built at the same time it is often economical to use mechanical trench diggers.

    If the trenches are of any depth it may be necessary to fix temporary timber supports to stop the sides of the trench from falling in. The nature of the soil being excavated mainly determines the depth of trench for which timber supports to the sides should be used.

    Soft granular soils readily crumble and the sides of trenches in such soil may have to be supported for the full depth of the trench. The sides of trenches in clay soil do not usually require support for some depth, say up to 1.5 m, particularly in dry weather. In rainy weather, if the bottom of the trench in clay soil gets filled with water, the water may wash out the clay from the sides at the bottom of the trench and the whole of the sides above may cave in.

    The purpose of temporary timbering supports to trenches is to uphold the sides of the excavation as necessary to avoid collapse of the sides, which may endanger the lives of those working in the trench, and to avoid the wasteful labour of constantly clearing falling earth from the trench bottoms.
    The material most used for temporary support for the sides of excavations for strip foundations is rough sawn timber. The timbers used are square section struts, across the width of the trench, supporting open poling boards, close poling boards and walings or poling boards and sheeting.

    Whichever system of timbering is used there should be as few struts, that is horizontal members, fixed across the width of the trench as possible as these obstruct ease of working in the trench. Struts should be cut to fit tightly between poling or waling boards and secured in position so that they are not easily knocked out of place.

    For excavations more than 1.5 m deep in compact clay soils it is generally sufficient to use a comparatively open timbering system as the sides of clay will not readily fall in unless very wet or supporting heavy nearby loads. A system of struts between poling boards spaced at about 1.8 m intervals as illustrated in Fig. 39 will usually suffice.

    Where the soil is soft, such as soft clay or sand, it will be necessary to use more closely spaced poling boards to prevent the sides of the trench between the struts from falling in. To support the poling boards horizontal walings are strutted across the trench, as illustrated in Fig. 40.

    For trenches in dry granular soil it may be necessary to use sheeting to the whole of the sides of trenches. Rough timber sheeting boards are fixed along the length and up the sides of the trench to which poling boards are strutted, as illustrated in Fig. 41.

    The three basic arrangements of timber supports for trenches are indicative of some common system used and the sizes given are those that might be used.

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  • A cavity wall is built as two leaves separated by a cavity. The purpose of the cavity is to act as a barrier to the penetration of rainwater to the inside of buildings. It is practice to build a cavity wall directly off the foundation so that the cavity extends below ground. A requirement of the Building Regulations is that the cavity should be carried down at least 150 mm below the level of the lowest dpc.

  • Two or three courses of dense, semi-engineering or engineering bricks were laid in hydraulic lime and later cement mortar. There is little likelihood of these dense bricks fracturing under moderate settlement. Because of the dissimilar colour and texture of these bricks to that of facing bricks and the cost of the material this form of dpc is little used.

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  • Beds of natural slate were quarried and the heavily compressed, dense material that was formed in layers was split to thin slates that were sufficiently impermeable to water to serve as an effective dpc.

    Two courses of dense Welsh slates were laid at first in lime or hydraulic lime and sand, and later in cement and sand. The slates were laid on a bed of mortar in two courses, breaking joint as illustrated in Fig. 36. Because of the small units of slate and the joints being staggered this dpc could remain reasonably effective where moderate settlement occurred.

    To be effective the edges of the slates should be exposed on a wall face and not be covered, which made a deep, somewhat ugly joint.
    The majority of external brick walls are built as a cavity today and it would be laborious, wasteful and therefore expensive to use a separate slate dpc in each leaf of the wall.


  • Up to the twentieth century, damp-proof courses in walls were not common. The inevitability of some moisture rising in walling on damp soils was accepted. Infrequently a few courses of dense bricks might be used at the base of walls as a solid bearing for walls and to act as a dpc to an extent. With the extensive building, both commercial and domestic, that occurred after the Industrial Revolution it became more common to use one of the rigid systems of dpc in the form of bricks in lowland areas and slates where the natural material was quarried and was comparatively cheap. With the introduction of bitumen felts, and later the synthetic sheet materials, bricks and slates were largely abandoned as dpcs.


  • Mastic asphalt, spread hot in one coat to a thickness of 13 mm, is a
    semi-rigid dpc, impervious to moisture and water. Moderate settlement in a wall may well cause a crack in the asphalt through which
    moisture or water may penetrate. It is an expensive form of dpc, which shows on the face of walls as a thick joint, and it is rarely used as a dpc.


  • Polymer-based sheets are thinner than bitumen sheets and are used where the thicker bitumen dpc mortar joint would be unsightly. This dpc material, which has its laps sealed with adhesive, may be punctured by sharp particles and edges.


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