This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
Having now considered the material and the most important of the tools with which the carpenter performs his work, we shall pass to a consideration of the work itself, and see how a building of wood construction is put together.
In undertaking the construction of any building, the first thing to do is to make a thoughtful examination of the piece of ground upon which the structure is to be placed. This is very important as the character of the soil upon which a dwelling is located will very largely determine its sanitary condition, and will influence to a great extent the health of the occupants. Very often a difference of a few yards in the location of a building will be enough to cause the difference between a perfectly dry cellar and one which is constantly flooded with water. Water is, indeed, the one thing above all others which must be guarded against, since it is impossible to keep it out of a cellar which is sunk in damp ground, unless some elaborate system of waterproofing is employed.
Below the surface of the earth there is always to be found what is known as "ground water." This stands practically always at a level, and is not met with so near the surface on a slight knoll or other elevation as in a depression. If possible, a house should be located on comparatively high land, so that the floor of the cellar does not come below the ground-water level. Below the surface of a hill, however, there may be a stratum of rock which will hold the rain water and prevent it from sinking at once to the ground-water level. Such a ledge of rock causes the water to collect and then flow off in small subterranean streams, which will penetrate the walls of a cellar if they happen to be in their path.
A good way to discover the depth of the ground-water level or the existence of rock ledges beneath the surface of the ground, is to dig a number of small, deep holes at various points of the site. These should be carried below the proposed level of the cellar bottom. A suitable location for the building may thus be chosen.
If, however, it is not easy to make so thorough an examination of the site as this would allow, another method may be employed. This consists in the use of an instrument called an "auger," which is very much like an ordinary carpenter's auger or bit, though much larger. The auger generally used is about 2 inches in diameter. It is driven into the ground, and as it descends into the hole which it bores it brings to the surface small portions of all the different kinds of material through which it passes. This material may be preserved and examined at leisure. The character of the site may be determined in this way.