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.
For illustrations in connection with the following pages, the construction of a city house is selected, on a corner lot 100 feet front on the Avenue, by 150 feet deep, on side street, a party wall on the inside line. The house is to come out to the Avenue sidewalk line, with coal vaults under sidewalk. The Avenue in front is paved, with curb and sidewalk in place. There are no improvements of this character on the side street.
A careful outline of what the specification is to treat should be made before any of the actual writing is begun; and inasmuch as the scheme has been developed on the drawings, and the only object of the specification is to supplement these, a most careful study of the drawings should be made, keeping in mind the question of conditions and materials. Notes should be taken of the different classes of subjects which will supply the headings for the specification; and very largely on the arrangement and completeness of these notes will depend the success of the specification, which should never be begun until the last note is taken and the whole arranged in proper sequence.
With the completed scheme in mind, the site is visited and studied as carefully as were the drawings. It is found that a fence is necessary to prevent careless teamsters driving over the adjoining property. The curb and sidewalk have been placed under the direction of the city authorities, and must be carefully protected. There is a large tree on the lot, which, with two in the street, must be saved. In matters of this kind it is useless to stipulate that the contractor is to be responsible for any damage to the tree, and then leave it unprotected. After some teamster has damaged it, there is nothing the contractor can do to put it back or to pay for the damage. A definite protection should be included in the contract work. There will be little use to try to preserve sod or shrubs. When the work is completed, it will usually be found that the grades are changed just enough to destroy the sod, and the shrubs had better be located elsewhere. All the room on the lot will be valuable to the contractor for working space and piling material, which point he will not fail to see in making his bid; or - to put it otherwise - if he is confined to narrow quarters and required to protect the grass and shrubs, he will add a round figure for the additional work and inconvenience.
The city authorities must be consulted relative to the amount of roadway which may be used, the guards they will require in the way of barricades, temporary sidewalks, and red lights at night.
The question of where the sewer and the water main are to be tapped must be settled; and it is usually better to have both connections made under a special contract before any work is done under the general contract, as the sewer will possibly be needed to keep storm water from the excavated space, and water will be needed at once for masonry work. If the street has been paved, it is probable that both sewer and water main have been brought to the curb.
It will be of advantage, if, at this point, the owner will have three or four small test-holes dug. Borings are of doubtful value; and often, in uncertain soil, a great additional expense is entailed after the award of the contract, on account of necessary substructure work. Often clauses are inserted in the specifications, requiring the contractor to be responsible for any bad spots found, and to do all necessary work to make them good, so that test-pits are considered unnecessary. Since, however, under such conditions, the contractor will always figure for the worst, and the owner pays for it, it is better to know just the kind of bottom you are to have for the building. In digging these pits, the knowledge of the various kinds of soils to be encountered will be of value. The specification writer can with certainty know how much good material can be used for filling and grading of the lot, and how much worthless material must be hauled away. If any sand is encountered, tests should be made to determine its value for mortar. (See later "Studies in Materials".) This knowledge will have its influence on the bidders in making up their proposals.
It is not here presumed that the case under consideration involves extensive protection of adjoining walls, or that excavation is to be carried below, or shoring done. Such cases are comparatively rare; and, as each case involves questions not of a general nature, it is outside the scope of a paper of this character to discuss this phase.