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Foundation Rebar

Rebar tying and chairs

Tying rebar

There are two options for tying the rebar.  Either plastic cable ties or wire.  I use cable ties.  The argument for cable ties is that they will not rust.  I find cable ties are quicker to use than wire.  If using cable ties then it is sensible to use strong ones.  Regular tie wraps are rated at 18 - 50 pounds, but for rebar tying I recommend using at least 60 pound rated.  For really critical joins you can even use 120 or 175 pound rated, but that's overkill.

Details on where to get cable ties can be found here .

Cable Ties Bundle 11in 65lb  

Use wire cutters (both side cutters and end cutters) to cut off the tails, but typically leave half an inch of tail in case you need further tightening later.

End Wire Cutters  End wire cutters

Chairs to support rebar

To support the rebar the right distance from the bottom of the footing trench and over the slab, it is necessary to use what are called "chairs".  The easiest and most cost effective chair to use is a thin plastic one such as these plastic rebar chairs .  You want ones with a wide base so that the force is better taken by the EPS polystyrene sheet underneath.

Rebar Chair Unmodified  Rebar Chair Drawing

These plastic chairs can also be purchased in a version that is 1" shorter, ie 2-1/4".

When necessary I modify the plastic chairs to the height I want using a small band saw.  A particular need is to make chairs that hold the rebar edge 1.5" from the surface.  Use wood jigs to cut the plastic chairs uniformly.

One And Half Rebar Chair Jig 

One And Half Rebar Chair Ready To Cut 

One And Half Rebar Chair Cut To Length 

One And Half Rebar Chair Ready To Cut Top 

One And Half Rebar Chair All Cut 

Box Of One And Half Rebar Chairs 

One And Half Rebar Chair With Rebar Tied 

Spacing rebar off the walls

It is necessary for the rebar assembly to not move about in the footing trench.  It would be particularly bad if a sharp end of rebar were to puncture the waterproof membrane.  The solution is to use rebar chairs horizontally to the wall of the footing trench.  On a stirrup they are attached using a cross formed by two cable ties and then some PL-Premium adhesive to stop the position rotating.  A chair can also be tied onto the end of a rebar straight using a cable tie through a drilled hole.

Rebar Chair With Holes Drilled

Chair Tied On End Of Horizontal Rebar

You can also use PL-Premium adhesive over the cable ties to make it very secure.

Horizontal Chair With Ties And Glue 

Safety first

Cut rebar is very sharp and also will impale you if you fall on it, so OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration ) requires safety caps.  They are made of high impact plastic with a metal plate embedded in them.  They need to be OSHA compliant to guard against impalement.  Detail on purchasing is here .  Put them on any pieces of vertical rebar as soon as they are placed.

Rebar safety caps

Also put safety caps on any horizontal rebar that might poke you in the eye.  On horizontal rebar some people use the lower cost non-OSHA rebar safety caps.  These are available from here .

Horizontal rebar safety cap

Even when using safety caps, it is important to also wear protective eye goggles or glasses because the cut ends of the cable ties used to secure the rebar can also do you a lot of damage.


Foundation Design

It is worth looking closely at the AutoCAD drawing of the overall foundation design to see where all the rebar goes.

Foundation Exterior

 Foundation Exterior (Cropped)

Here is the drawing version for the internal concrete walls...

Foundation Interiorwalls 

Foundation Interior Wall Cropped) 


Marking vertical rebar positions

From previously there are screws in the top of the batterboards to indicate the outer edges of the Form-a-drain.  What is now needed is a batterboard string between the two current strings that indicates the position of the vertical rebar.

For external walls, add a batterboard screw that is 1' 9-3/4" from the outer form-a-drain edge screw and add strings along all the footing trenches.

The positions of the internal wall vertical rebar are slightly offset (1.25" difference) compared with external walls, but again the positions will be as per your AutoCAD drawing.  The following drawing shows the internal wall vertical rebar positions relative to the existing batterboard strings...

Vertical Rebar Positions Internal Walls 

To summarize the above drawing for internal walls, the vertical rebar string needs to be 2' 4-1/2" from the internal wall outside form-a-drain outer edge.

Where the strings cross at a corner, is the exact position of the corner vertical rebar.  Other vertical positions along the trench can be found by measuring in 1 foot increments from the corner position. 

Mark rebar grid positions

Measuring in from the string in the perpendicular footing allows marks to be put on the slab protection EPS and on the outer form-a-drain.  To do this, use a plumb-bob and a wooden stick marked with 1' marks.

Put marks on slab edge

Setting Rebar Vertical Marking Plumb Bob 

Use half inch colored tape to show the positions.

Marking Tape Colored Half Inch

One edge of the half inch tape indicates the vertical rebar position and the other edge is the horizontal rebar position that is offset by half an inch towards the building center.

Setting Rebar Vertical Marking Stick Tape 

To avoid getting confused, mark with a circle the edge of the tape that is the vertical rebar position.  Mark the other tape edge with a line to represent the horizontal rebar position.  There is no particular need to number the positions, but you can if you want.

Setting Rebar Vertical Marking Tape 

At the center points of the building (the building cross) the spacing will be less than 1 foot because the 1' grid is from the corners working towards the center.  The actual dimension (vertical rebar to vertical rebar) in my case is 7-1/4" for both north-south crossovers and east-west crossovers.

Mark on outside of trench

Also put tape pieces around the outside of the footing trench to show the 12" grid positions.  Again mark one tape edge with a 0 to represent the vertical rebar position and the other edge with a line to represent the offset horizontal rebar position.  Obviously the markings need to be as per your AutoCAD drawing that details the positions of the vertical wall rebar.  Use a plumb bob off your batterboard strings to find the positions to mark.

Setting Rebar Vertical Marking Outside Stick

Setting Rebar Vertical Marking Outside Tape 

You need to try to avoid moving the tough-liner after adding the marking tape.

Mark cube positions

Eight inch wooden cubes are used later to support the groove planks and the walkway.  It is good to mark out early the places where the cubes will go.  The cubes are in the spaces between the crosshatch grid of rebar that will go over the slab.  The positions of the cubes are as per your AutoCAD drawing.  It is worth doing it in CAD because on a large foundation it can get a bit complicated figuring out how to avoid the rebar grid.  The cube edge is 3' 3-1/4" from the vertical rebar string in the case of outside walls.  For internal walls the distance is usually 2' 9-1/2", although it is a bit more at the corners.

Mark the cube positions on the slab protection EPS using tape.

Cube Position Marking Tape 

Cube Position Marking Tape Corner 


Make Footing Stirrup Assemblies

The structural engineering for the foundation calls for stirrups manufactured from half inch basalt rebar.


The bottom of the stirrup is supported off the bottom of the footing trench by 3.25" plastic rebar chairs to the bottom of their U.  Smaller rebar chairs are used on the sides to position it properly within the trench.

Two of the following are also used...


Finally this piece goes horizontally half way up the footing...


It is good to do as much rebar tying work as possible before going down into the footing trench.  Use a jig to form an assembly from the different rebar stirrups.  You need to make a few hundred of the foundation stirrup assemblies.  Tie them together using cable ties

Foundation stirrup assembly jig

Add small wood blocks on a plywood base to form the jig.  Where there are going to be cable ties it is good to cut an access hole to make it easier.  The dimensions for fixing the wood blocks will come from your foundation AutoCAD drawings.

External wall stirrup assembly...

Measurements Foundation Stirrup Jig 

Internal wall stirrup assembly...

Measurements Foundation Stirrup Jig Internal 

Here is the finished external wall jig that also has cable tie access holes.  It also has cut slots in the edges where the rebar chairs will go...

Foundation Rebar Stirrup Form Board 

The internal wall stirrup assembly is different from the external wall case.  Here is the internal wall jig (sitting on the external wall jig)...

Internal Wall Stirrup Assembly Jig 

Make foundation stirrup assemblies

Lay the various stirrups into the jig.  For both external wall and internal wall cases there are two versions of the sequence of adding rebar stirrups.  This makes two variants of the stirrup assemblies.

The sequence for the Green variant (and Cyan variant) is...
    Big U
    Middle Big L
    Inner Big L

For the Red variant (and Magenta variant), reverse the sequence.

For my house I need the following number of pre-made stirrup assemblies...
    External wall Green variant         90
    External wall Red variant             90
    Internal wall Cyan variant           48
    Internal wall Magenta variant     48

At the corners, individual stirrups are used rather than stirrup assemblies.

On the stirrup assembly jig tie the stirrups together with cable ties at the places where there is a jig hole.  If a stirrup is a bit warped then you may occasionally decide to add an additional cable tie.

Also add rebar chairs to the assembly, both at the bottom and the sides.  At the bottom use 3.25" chairs and at the sides 2.25" chairs.  Put the rebar in the chair U and then add two cable ties in a cross.  Then once the assembly is off the jig spread PL-Premium adhesive on the joint to stop the chair position rotating.  Gluing on just one side is sufficient.

Foundation Stirrups Tied Cross Cable Ties 

Tied And Glued Bottom Chair 

Here is the built assembly on the jig (complete with rebar chairs)...

Foundation Stirrups On Jig 

Remove the assembly from the jig.

Foundation Stirrups Tied Assembly 

Here is the internal wall version...

Internal Wall Stirrup Assembly 

The assemblies go every 1 foot along the external wall footings.  They should all be shown on your CAD foundation drawings.

Foundation Stirrup Assemblies Stacked In Yard

Stirrup Assemblies Stacked On Slab

Site Rebar Stirrup Assemblies Built Stacked 

Lots Of Rebar Assemblies On Site


Footing External Corners

Adjust liners

Make sure the ToughLiner and underlying waterproof membrane are in the right position.  You want the slack to be at the sides of the trench and you want to ensure that there is slack both above and below where the horizontal side chairs will be.

Add assemblies either side of corners

Either side of the corners, add one completely orthogonal stirrup assembly and one very slightly angled.  This is enough to be tied to the three inner corner pieces and a few more of the further in corner pieces.

Don't put horizontal chairs on the inside for the very slightly angled stirrup assemblies as the inside edges will be cable tied tightly together.

Stirrup Assembly For Corner 

Work from one side of the corner to the other side in order to get good access for cable tying.

It is useful to use a straight wooden stick between the marker tape on each side of the trench.  Adding an 8" piece of wood on the end takes out the differences in the slab level compared with the outer Form-a-drain.

Cross Trench Straight Stick

Cut to make horizontal #4 corner pieces

At the corners use #4 angle pieces.  They will overlap by at least 22.5" (ie at least 30 times the #6 rebar diameter).  In practice the legs of my corner pieces are 2 (24") as they are the corners cut from my rebar straights that have a bend in the end.

The bend pieces are made by cutting off the corners from the straights that have a bend in the end.  Each leg is 2' and the corner is 6" so it leaves a straight offcut piece that is 16 foot long.

Even though it is not a requirement of the structural engineering, it is good to provide continuity between the horizontal rebar in the footings round the corner.  As there are 13 pieces of horizontal rebar that means each convex corner needs 13 corner pieces.  It is not a concern that you will be joining #6 and #5 rebar straights using #4 diameter corner pieces (given that it is not a structural engineering requirement even to have corner pieces).

My main house has 8 convex corners so that means I need 104 corner pieces.

The bend pieces will not all be within the stirrup assemblies and even the ones that are will be in different places inside the stirrup assembly.

Internal wall footing corners do not require corner pieces because these are all crosses and the horizontal rebar can be continued across the cross, all be it with a slight joggle of their position between an internal wall footing and an external wall footing.

Horizontal straight rebar at corners

When at 45 degrees the Big U stirrups are not wide enough to go to the corner of the trench.  A horizontal rebar straight with a chair on each end will work ok in the corners to hold the stirrup assembly in the right place laterally.  In practice there is lots of bunched up polyethylene sheet in the corners to make a relatively flat surface for the chair to rest on.  This also keeps the liners properly fitted into the corners.  A sensible length of the rebar straight is 5'5".  Fix rebar chairs horizontally on the end using a cable tie through a hole drilled in the chair.  Also fix 3.25" chairs near each end and in the middle to hold the rebar the right distance off the bottom.  In addition to crossed cable ties it is good to also use some PL-Premium adhesive on the chair joins.

Glued Horiz 45 Deg Rebar With Chairs

Corner Horizontal 45 Deg Footing Rebar 

It is useful to mark on the horizontal 45 degree rebar the positions where the bent corner pieces will cross the 5'5" long rebar.  Measured from the inside end the cross points are...

    6-1/4" inside
   1' 7-1/8"
   2' 10-3/8"
   4' 4-1/4"
   5' 0-3/4" outside

Add angled stirrups at corners

These are the same stirrups but placed at an angle in the corners.  They cannot be pre-formed into stirrup assemblies because the dimensions of the assembly need to be different at the corners.  You need to form modified stirrup assemblies in situ at the corners.

Foundation Stirrups At Corners 

At the corners, tie the stirrups to the 45 degree horizontal rebar using cable ties.

First put in place the Big U stirrups.  Then tie in place the Big L stirrups.

Corner Stirrups L Pieces In Place 

Note that even at the corners it is the position of the vertical rebar (that will go up into the walls) that determines the position of the stirrup assemblies.

In practice you will do most of your work from one side of the corner and incrementally form the corners.  The important thing is to ensure you never snooker yourself such that you cannot get access to do the tying.

Put in place bent corner pieces

Thread the corner pieces through the variants of the stirrup assemblies used at the corners.

Corner Rebar Added And Tied 


On the inside of the curve use cable ties to attach them such that they are in the right places to mate up with the horizontal rebar that is not yet added.  This uses a few extra cable ties but it is worth it to hold the corners together.  The positions for the horizontal rebar can be found from the orthogonal stirrup assemblies on each side of the corner.

The corner pieces on the outside will not span the full complement of angled stirrup assemblies.  You will find it easier to add these after the horizontal rebar has been added to the trench.

Corner Rebar In Place Tied

Add diagonal straight rebar across corner

There will be some offcut pieces of 3/4" and 5/8" rebar from the cutting process (see later) and it is an added bonus to fit these at 45 degrees across the corners.  It all helps with the strength of the foundations.

Angle Rebar Straights Corner 

Use #6 rebar of lengths 8', 6'2", 5', and 3' 2-1/4" at the bottom.  Use #5 rebar of lengths 8', 6'2", 5', and 3' 2-1/4" at the middle.  Lay them into the U tails of the stirrup assemblies and you only need to cable tie them in a couple of places to keep them in place.

Add Big Horizontal at 45 degrees

As a final step on the corner add a horizontal big horizontal stirrup at 45 degrees on the corner just for good measure.

Big U Fitted At Corner

First orthogonal stirrup assembly

The last piece of what it designated the corner assembly is the first stirrup assembly that is orthogonal in the trench that you will be doing next.  It is important to get this stirrup assembly in exactly the right place as all other stirrup assemblies will be set relative to this.

The stirrup assemblies are positioned such that on the stirrup assembly the rebar center of the top edge rebar that goes against the vertical is on the "horizontal" edge of the 1/2" marker tape.  This is to make sure the vertical rebar added later will be in the correct position.  Use a straight wood stick with an 8" spacer on the end between the marker tape on the slab and the marker tape on the outside form-a-drain to see where the vertical rebar will be.  Use a spirit level to get the bottom of the stirrup assembly in the right place.  Once the first stirrup assembly is in the right place you can at least on the inside edge fix it by cable tying it to the horizontal corner bent pieces.  Fixing the outside edge will have to wait until the first horizontal rebar has been fitted and tied to the corner.

Cross Trench Straight Stick

The corner assemblies should now form a stable "corner-stone" that can help hold everything in place.

General notes on methodology

Once you have done the first corner and the first set of horizontal rebar then you can increment on from there along the trench and then other trenches.  The important thing is to make sure you never snooker yourself.

You can add the complete set of stirrup assemblies along the trench before you implement the corner on the other end.  To do this you will have to have the bottom horizontal rebar positioned relative to the 45 degrees corner straights so you have something to tie the bottom of the stirrup assemblies to.  Note that you cannot permanently tie the horizontal rebar at the corners unless you have the corner pieces rested in place.


Horizontal rebar

Cutting horizontal rebar

Typically in a trench for each horizontal position will be one uncut length and one cut length.  It is good to work out the cut lengths in AutoCAD so they don't have to cut them in situ.

Opinion and code varies, but at absolute minimum they must overlap by at least 22.5" (ie at least 30 times the #6 rebar diameter).  I chose to make the overlap at least 3'2" (38") to be conservative.  In the calculation for how long the cut piece should be, assume the 19'2" rebar straight only provides 16'.

After calculating what the cut lengths need to be, use some judgment to increase the overlaps to avoid waste given that there is no point in having a bunch of little offcuts.  Sometimes increasing the cut length to 19'2 (and thus avoiding cutting) is the right thing to do.  Sometimes increasing the cut length to 9'7" (ie half of 19'2") is the right thing.  These rounding ups make particular sense where the extra can extend into internal wall areas.

For each footing trench make a drawing to show the lengths of horizontal rebar required in each trench.  The red figures give the figures that were decided on.

Furthest west (and the furthest east) north-south footing (2 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths Furthest West 

East-west corners (4 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths East West Corners 

Portico north-south short edges (4 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths Portico North South 

Portico east-west long edges (2 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths Portico East West 

Internal north-south long walls (2 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths Internal North South 

Internal east-west short portico walls (2 off)

Footing Rebar Lengths Internal East West

Overall cut list

If you want to you can do all the cutting in one go prior to moving the rebar to the appropriate places.  You can form an overall cut list.  It is also worth listing the uncut 19'2" lengths to help with moving logistics.

#6 rebar

19' 2"                    (2 x 13) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 9) + (2 x 9)   + (2 x 18) + (2 x 9) = 26 + 36 + 18 + 36 + 18 = 134

14' 2"                    (2 x 2) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 4 = 4

13' 0"                    (2 x 1) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

11' 0"                    (2 x 2) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 4 = 4

9' 7"  (halving)     (2 x 0) + (4 x 9) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 4)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 9) = 36 + 8 + 18 = 62

6' 2" (offcut)        (2 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 1)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

5' 0" (offcut)        (2 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 2)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 4 = 4

#5 rebar

19' 2"                     (2 x 5) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 4) + (2 x 4)   + (2 x 8) + (2 x 4) = 10 + 16 + 8 + 16 + 8 = 58

114' 2"                     (2 x 1) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

13' 0"                     (2 x 1) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

11' 0"                     (2 x 1) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 0)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

9' 7" (halving)      (2 x 0) + (4 x 4) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 1)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 4) = 16 + 2 + 8 = 26

6' 2" (offcut)         (2 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 1)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

5' 0" (offcut)         (2 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (4 x 0) + (2 x 1)   + (2 x 0) + (2 x 0) = 2 = 2

Personally I tend to just cut the rebar to the right lengths as I need it.


Add horizontal rebar

Add bottom horizontals

Start by adding the #6 rebar straights in the bottom locations for the current end of the trench.  Cable tie the ends to the corner assemblies.  They end with 1" on overlap over the corner 45 degree pieces.

Four of the five positions are obvious on the stirrup assembly.  Use a wooden measuring stick to set the position of the fifth one.

Jig For Setting Extra Low Rebar Ext 

Jig For Middle Foundation Rebar Position

Note that typically at each location the horizontal is actually made up of two pieces to get the necessary length.  It will be one full length piece and one shorter cut piece.  Alternate which end of the trench gets the long pieces and which the short.  As there are 5 bottom locations, make the two outer locations (and the middle location) be the full length pieces.

Bottom Horizontals First Length 

Add stirrup assemblies (of the correct variant for that section of footing) into the trench one at a time by threading the bottom horizontals into the assembly and then work the assemblies along the trench until they are in the right locations as indicated by the colored tape positions.

You want some membrane slack above the side chairs and some below. 

Slide the rebar assemblies in at an angle with the horizontal rebar chairs held in the right place with your hands so they don't break.  Make sure you are not pulling the foundation linings out of their correct position and make sure there is equal slack in the linings on both sides of the trench (and above and below the horizontal chairs).

Set the correct position of particularly the bottom of the stirrup assembly using a 4' long wood jig with notches one foot on center (5/8" wide notches).

One Foot Rebar Spacing Jig Four Foot 

Cable tie the two outer bottom horizontals to the bottom corners of each stirrup assembly.  This will hold the stirrup assembly in its right location.  Note that it is good that we are only tying the bottom of the stirrup assemblies because it allows some adjustment of the top when later adding the vertical rebar.  For the moment the stirrup assemblies will stay approximately vertical because of friction with the side chairs against the footing sides.

If you find they are flopping around then you can use 8' long wooden notch sticks to temporarily hold the tops of the stirrup assemblies.

One Foot Rebar Spacer Sticks  

Note that many of the footings span across the building center cross and as such the variant of stirrup assembly used will change half way along the trench.

When you get about half way along the length of the footing, add the second lengths of bottom horizontal rebar in the right locations (alternating long and short).  Initially you can push it well into the trench length to keep it out of the way.

When you get about three quarters of the way along the footing, cable tie the second lengths of horizontal bottom rebar in the right locations such that they will overlap by about 1" what will be the 45 degree corner piece at the forthcoming corner.

Bottom Horizontals Second Length 

Add other horizontal rebar

Also at about three quarters of the way along, add all the other horizontal rebar, both the full length and the cut shorter length pieces.  It needs to all be in the right general locations relative to the stirrup assembly rods, but it does not matter if it droops down.  Initially push it all as far in as it will go to keep it out of the way.  Make sure the ends of the rebar do not risk puncturing the membranes.  Also when feeding it in it is good to use a plank of wood to protect the edges of the footing at the end.  It is ok to bend the rebar to get it in as it will happily spring back.

Stirrup Assembly Variants In Trench

Stirrup Assemblies In Trench Tied

Once all the stirrup assemblies have been added to the footing trench the middle and upper horizontal rebar can be cable tied in the correct locations from above.  Lay a plank across the trench and lay on it to allow you to reach down into the trench.

Internal wall footings

The same basic techniques are used with the internal wall footings.

Internal Wall Footing Stirrup Assemblies Half Way 

Internel Trench Rebar Done 

Part Done Internal Crossover Rebar 

Above View Stirrup Assemblies In Trenches 

Site North Side Stirrup Assemblies In Trenches 

Site All Footing Rebar Stirrups Done

Internal cross corners

Where internal wall footings meet external wall inner corners are a little complicated because of the 8" offset and the need for angled stirrups.

Internal External Footing Crossing Stirrups 

At the cross points where and external footing meets an internal footing there is lots of crossover for the horizontals from one trench with the horizontals from the other trenches.  Because of this there is no need for angled horizontal bars.


Placing and trimming wood cubes

The 8" wooden cubes go in the places previously marked with tape.  The top surface of the cube will be the most accurate slab height reference when pouring and screeding the concrete.  The height of the top surface of each cube needs to be set using a self leveling laser and adjusted as needed to be the exact height required for the slab.  It is worth letting the wooden cubes be outside in the rain for a while before doing any trimming so that any expansion will have already taken place.

Make wooden cubes

The cubes are designed to be easy to remove after the concrete has set.  Screws are only used at the top and the heads are covered with tape to stop the heads being filled by concrete.  At the bottom, tape is used to stop the wood warping out.

Wood Block 8in Cube 

Establishing the height

Position a self leveling laser such that it projects a horizontal beam over the whole jobsite at the height of the top of the batterboards.  You will need to do the height measuring at dusk so you can see the red line better.

Self leveling laser

It is worth also using a target on the far side of the jobsite so you can maintain good consistency.

Laser Target

In my case the top of the batterboards also corresponds to the standardized finished (south side) grade height.  The slab height and therefore the height you want the tops of all the wood cubes to be is 2'2" below the grade level laser line.  Use a length of white PVC pipe with a marker at 2'2" and some plus and minus markings so you know how much each cube needs to be adjusted.

Marked Pipe For Slab Height 

If the slab area is a fraction high in some areas then it will be necessary to shave a little off the bottom of the cube sides to ensure the top of the cube is accurately at slab height.  If the slab area is too low in a place then use tape to add wood shims under the sides.

Number the cubes and their locations so that you get all the adjusted cubes back in all the right places.  Also write on the cubes the amount that needs to be shaved off the bottom or added to the bottom.

Here's a cube that happened to already be at the right height...

Wood Cube Found To Be Right Height 

Here's one that is found to be 1/8" too high...

Wood Cube Height Marking 1/8in 

And here's one that was found to be 1/8" too low...

Wood Cube Height Marking 1/8in Too Low Done 

Adjusting cube height

If the wood cube is a bit high then trim the appropriate amount off the bottom.

Trimming Wood Cube 

If the height of the cube is a bit low then tape 1.5" wide shims on the bottom to increase its height by the appropriate amount.

Adding Shims To Wood Cube 

Shimming external Form-a-drain

With a self-leveling laser check the height of the outer form-a-drain.  If it has settled down a bit then use foam adhesive to glue on a long wooden shim of the appropriate thickness to increase the height slightly.

Shims On Outer Form-A-Drain 

The shim wood is used as the concrete screeding edge.


Install vertical footing rebar

This bent length of vertical rebar does not need to be tied with cable ties as there are plenty of things that hold it in place.  Tying at the bottom is too difficult to reach and tying at the top is undesirable because you want some position flexibility for later adding the groove planks.  At the bottom, the bent leg is constrained by the U tails on adjacent stirrup assemblies.

The verticals go 12" on center in areas that have a wall above.

The bent legs are never shortened, ie they are always 2'6" long.  They are angled to fit them in.  On the external wall footings there is more space inwards so the legs go inwards.  The legs go away from the building center cross.

Legs From Vertical Footing Rebar 

The legs are constrained at the bottom by placing them in the U tail on the adjacent stirrup assembly.  Just cable tie them to the middle horizontal bar of the stirrup.  Don't tie them at the top.

For internal wall footings, alternate the legs in and out, always away from the building center cross.  Where there is a wall opening directly above the internal wall footing you do not want any vertical rebar (or groove plank).

The length of the rebar above slab height is given in your AutoCAD drawings as it varies depending on the door and window openings.  There are some cases where the full length of the #4 rebar could be used, but it was decided that having this flopping around too far above slab height would be unmanageable.  Even when it could be longer, the maximum height above slab height will be 3' 6-1/2".

When cutting the bent end rebar you need to add 2' 11-3/4" to the outside of the curve.  So the cut lengths are...
    3' 6-1/2"        6' 6-1/4"
    1' 6-1/2"        4' 6-1/4"

As you add each vertical piece of rebar, add safety rebar caps on the top.


Form top groove

Key notch plank

The 3.5" groove is formed by lumber cut to 2.5" x 1" with half inch EPS glued on the bottom and sides.  They are also as a final step wrapped in tough-liner (use staples on the seam at the top).  The EPS makes it easier to remove after the concrete has set.  The 3/4" holes in the planks hold the vertical rebar in the right place.

Cut the 2.5"x1" wood from lumber that is 8' long.  You can get two pieces from a 2x6.  Join the planks together using a couple of 1/4" wood dowels in the end and some PL-Premium.  Arrange the bow of the planks such that the joins are the highest point and the bow is down in the middle.

Groove Planks With Dowels 

A jig is used to glue the EPS to the outsides.

Groove Plank Gluing Eps 

For both the external and internal footings, the 3/4" holes for the vertical rebar are not in the center of the planks.  There is 2" of plank on the outside and 1.5" on the inside.

Start by making the corners (as these are the starting point for measuring the rebar hole positions).

Groove Plank Drawing Dimensions 

Join by drilling holes for the dowels in the side of a second plank.  Glue the corners with PL-Premium.  Use a T-square to get it a true right angle.

Groove Plank Corners Glued Right Angle

Once the glue has set, drill 3/4" holes in the groove planks to correspond to the vertical rebar positions, which are 12" on center. 

Wrap the groove planks with tough-liner as this all helps to make them easier to remove after the concrete pour.  After stapling, cut a cross at the hole position in the tough-liner to let the rebar go through.

Groove Plank Wrapped In Toughliner

Corner Groove Plank Wrapped In Toughliner

Fit the corners over the rebar first

Fitted Groove Plank On Corner

This is typically a 2 person job.

Fit straight groove planks

In addition to the two dowel pins, glue then together with PL-Premium.  Make sure they are tightly together (so the assembly is not artificially long).  Use a clamp to pull them together (with a temporary screw in the side of the groove plank).  To strengthen the join use a 20" long piece of 2x4 screwed on (with a hole for the vertical rebar).

Pulling Groove Sticks Together In Right Place

Internal walls

Need the grove plank on the internal concrete walls too.  Note that there is a 1.25" offset relative to the plank on the outer footing. 

Groove Planks At Internal Wall Join 

Internal Corners Foundation Wood Spacers

It is often helpfull to use bits of spacer wood to get the groove plank the right distance from the outside. 

Internal Crossover Grooves Etc 

Having the key notch lumber in place while pouring the concrete is useful as it will help show the required concrete level.  The top of the planks will be at the same height as the outer Form-a-drain and the wood cubes.

In order to take out bow in the groove planks it may be necessary to attach on edge 2x4s to the middle of the top side.  These are attached with  just 2 screws so they can be removed for final screeding after the concrete is starting to harden.

Site Some Foundation Goove Planks 

Cross trench jigs

About every about 6 feet there is a 2x4 assembly across the footing trench.  It hooks over the outer upper form-a-drain.  A 12" paving slab is used to keep it weighted down.  At the other end it is supported by an 8" wooden cube that sits within the rebar grid on the slab area.  The cross trench plank supports the groove notch plank that has 1 foot pitch holes for the vertical rebar. 

Groove At Corner Drawing 

Here's the drawing for the most common jig type that is used on the outer footings.  In my case I need 34 of these.

5' 4"    Outer footings    34 off

Jig For Vertical Rebar Drawing

Cross Trench Wood For Groove

Where possible it is good to stick to standard dimensions for the jigs that support the groove planks, but in some cases they need to be non standard to ensure they don't conflict with the rebar positions.  Also making some non-standard allows the number of 8" cube boxes to be minimized.  Plan it out on your AutoCAD drawings.

Foundation Walkway System 

Here are the other jig drawings.

6' 6"    Outer footings portico middle    4 off

Cross Trench Wood Portico 6ft6in 

5'9"   Internal footings    10 off

Groove Jig Internal Footing 

6'7"   East west internal at corners    4 off

Groove Jig Internal East West 

7'7"   North south internal at corners    4 off

Groove Jig North South 

Add paving slabs

At the form-a-drain end of each cross trench jig add a 12" square paving slab to keep the end resting tightly on the top edge of the form-a-drain.

Screw cross planks to groove planks

Set the position using a plumb-bob from a string off the batterboards.  Set the string to be the outside position of the groove plank which is 2" further out than the center of the vertical rebar.

Screw In Batterboard For Groove Board Edge 

A "pusher" wood clamp or a "puller" wood clamp can be used to adjust the position of the groove plank so that the edge lines up with a plumb-bob off the batterboard string.

Wood Spacers At Outside Foundation Corner

Setting Groove Plank Position Plumbbob

Walkway system

This walkway system will stay in place even while doing 90% of the concrete pour for the foundations.  It consists of 8" wide planks between the 8" wood cubes.  It is designed to not get in the way of the rebar that will be over the slab.  The planks get screwed to the wood cubes (2 screws each end) and thus ensure that the cubes do not move and thus the groove planks do not move.  The lengths of the planks are as per your AutoCAD drawing.

Walkway On Cubes Foundation

Walkways South Portico Foundations 

Put tape over the screw heads so the heads do not get clogged with concrete.  The planks can be removed as needed during the concrete screeding.

Walkway With Tape Over Screws 

The 8" high blocks will stay in place during the concrete pour and concrete setting.  The screeding is done off the top edges of the 8" high wooden cubes.  The holes in the slab left will be filled with bagged concrete later.

Stiffening and adjusting

This is an optional piece of 'on-edge' 2x4 screwed on top of the cross trench jig.  It stiffens the jig and provides height adjustment.

Self leveling laser

Use a self leveling laser and a length of white pipe to get the key notch plank height exactly right.  Use wood shims under the stiffening 2x4 to adjust the height of the groove plank.

Sticks to hold top of vertical rebar

The sticks are about 1.5" square with 3/4" holes in the right places (typically 12" on center).

Sticks At Top Of Vertical Rebar

Stop the sticks falling down using a few cable ties on the vertical rebar. 

Cable Tie Holding Wood Up 

Fit rebar safety caps

Rebar Caps Fitted On Verticals 

Adjust vertical rebar height

The vertical rebar is currently not specifically tied but rather is relying on friction with other rebar, together with the groove planks, to hold it in place.  Potentially the tops of the vertical rebar will be at different heights.  Use a self-leveling laser to set the tops of the vertical rebar to be...

     3' 6-1/2" above slab height for long vertical rebar (1' 6-1/2" above batterboard laser height)
    1' 6-1/2" above slab height for short vertical rebar (5-1/2" below batterboard laser height)

EPS strip to stop concrete overflow

This is optional and in practice is not required.  If the EPS area around the outside of the external footings is a little low then a thin layer of concrete may cover it.  This thin layer of concrete is not a big problem.  The membranes go outwards so there is no danger of a sharp concrete edge puncturing the membrane.

If you really want to stop it then you can add a thin shim of EPS.

Eps Strip On Foundation Edge

Site Foundation Groove Planks All Done


Rebar over slab area

Chairs and spacing

Slab Rebar Chair Spacing Diagram 

The north-south rebar for the first layer is supported by chairs cut to give a 1.5" distance to the outside of the half inch rebar.  That means the center of the north-south rebar for the first layer is 1.75" above the polystyrene surface.

Next the east-west rebar for the first layer is added and that will have its center 2.25" above the polystyrene.

Then the east-west rebar for the second layer is added using 3.25" chairs.  That makes its center 6" above the polystyrene.

Lastly the north-south rebar for the second layer is added.  Its center is 6.5" above the polystyrene.

The concrete coverage over the north-south rebar for the second layer is 1.25".  Having only a 1.25" coverage is fine because this is the warm dry inside of the house envelope and of course the rebar is non-rusting basalt rebar.  Within reason, the nearer the rebar is to the edge the more upward force the slab can take.

Lower layer on slab area

The over slab lower layer rebar alternates between straights with a bend and pure straights that go across the footing to a rebar chair on the outside (or right across in the case of an internal wall footing).

Alternate Slab Rebar Across And Into 

Slab Rebar To Horizontal Chair 

In the case of internal footings, for the lower layer, bent ends are also alternated into the footing.

Rebar Bends Into Internal Footing 

In practice you will mainly find you are using bend end rebar, sometimes with the bent leg into the external footing and sometimes with the bent leg into the internal footing.


Where joins in the #4 rebar are required, make the overlap 3'6" or more if cutting would result in unusable offcuts.  Alternate where the joins are.  When straights are needed, the slab area is a good place to use up the #4 rebar that had previously had the bend ends cut off.

Joins On Slab Rebar First Layer 

The angled rebar has a bend radius of 6".  The bent leg does not need to be cut as a 2'6" bent leg is fine.  The bent vertical leg goes down the inner edge of the footing trench.  The vertical leg must be tied in two places with cable ties to ensure it cannot slip down and puncture the waterproof membrane.

On the slab area the angle pieces rest on cut short rebar chairs.  Regular 2-1/4" chairs are modified on a band saw to support the bottom edge of the rebar 1.5" from the deck.  The concrete chairs can go directly onto the 1" EPS that covers the slab area.  Use cable ties to attach the rebar to the chair.

Cross Slab Rebar On 15 Chair 

Use wood jigs to help you quickly and consistently cut the rebar chairs.

Bottom layer, North south

Add the north south bottom layer rebar first.  Fit 1.5" cut rebar chairs at the north and south edges.  Tie the rebar to the stirrup assemblies in the footings.  The bent legs are at the position of the vertical rebar.  The straight pieces have a rebar chair tied horizontally on the end and the chairs are positioned tightly against the outer footing wall.  Do not at this stage tie the 1.5" chairs to the north south rebar because the cable tie to the chairs will also later tie to the east west rebar.

North South Slab Rebar Done First 

Only tie the tail ends together after the north and south edges have been tied. 

First Slab Rebar Layer North South Laid Out 

Only use one cable tie at the joins between straight rebar and the long legs of the bent rebar or else it will be later hard to add support chairs over the slab area.

Bottom layer, East west

Next add the east west bottom layer rebar.

In my case, when the bent leg is in the internal footing and the long leg goes out to the edge of the foundation, it is necessary to cut the long leg to a length of 17'3" (from the outside of the curve).

Fit and tie 1.5" cut rebar chairs at the east and west edges.  The cable tie through each chair ties to both the east west and the north south rebar.  Once the east west rebar has been added then you can also ties the north and south edges to the previously added chairs.

Add first layer support chairs over slab area

The next step is to add 1.5" cut rebar chairs over the body of the slab area.  This also ties the north south rebar to the east west rebar to form the one foot squares.  Use wood jigs to set the spacing to achieve a nice regular 1 foot grid.

Slab Rebar Jigs To Get Foot Spacing 

Use a 2 foot offset pattern for the placing of the chairs.  Where there is not a chair (with its associated cable tie) then add cable ties as needed (ie where the two are not fully touching at the cross-over).

First Layer Slab Rebar On Chairs 

Site Last Slab First Layer Rebar 

Upper layer on slab area

As with the lower layer, the upper layer alternates between a rebar piece with a bend in the end and a purely straight piece.  The ends of the straight rebar droop down a bit in order to avoid the groove plank for the wall.

The leg of the bent piece goes vertically down near the vertical rebar.  In the case of the purely straight rebar, it goes over the footing trench and terminates with a horizontal rebar chair tied on the end that is positioned against the external wall of the footing trench.

The east-west rebar needs to be placed before the north-south rebar in order to achieve the correct rebar chair spacing as described above.

The first task is to secure both the east west and the north south rebar around the edge of the slab area.  All the other top layer rebar is tied to this and thus is well held in place.

Upper Slab Rebar Corner Tying

Where needed, the bottom end of the rebar chair is attached to the lower rebar using a cable tie through a hole drilled near the bottom of the chair.  A cable tie can also used at the top if required using another hole (with the rebar sitting in the U).

Upper Slab Rebar Chairs At Edges

Site Part Way Upper Slab Rebar 

Site Ready For Foundation Rebar Inspection

Site Foundation Rebar All Done

Slab Rebar Double Layer 


Deck column rebar

Vacuum out footings

Realistically water and some soil will have fallen into the footings.  Use a powerful wet/dry vac to suck out all the loose soil and water.

Tie first stirrup at column base

All the way up the deck column are stirrups with 12" on center.


The first stirrup sits flat on the rebar set into the wood forming at the base of the column.  Use about 4 cable ties to tie it to the support rebar that was previously set into the wood forming.

Column Stem First Stirrup 

Cut vertical bent end L rebar

Columns are poured in two stages - the bottom foundation part and the top part that goes up to the concrete deck.  There will be a cold joint between the two, which is fine, but it is best to put the cold joint where it will not be visible.  A good place for the cold joint is an inch or so below what will be the final grade in that area.

The vertical rebar is provided by straights that have a bend in the bottom end.


The length of the long leg (measured from the outside of the curve) needs to be 3'6" longer than the length necessary to reach the height of the first concrete pour.

Deck Column Side Showing Rebar 

Add and tie vertical L rebar

Feed the bent rebar pieces in from the top.  The pieces in the corners of the stirrup are offset outwards with the rotation in a clockwise direction.  The pieces that are half way along the sides of the stirrup are offset inwards and in an anti-clockwise rotation direction.

Deck Column Footing Plan Showing Rebar

Tie the vertical rebar to the stirrup and also tie the bent legs to the rebar in the footing that is located into the wood forming.

Fit and tie other column stirrups

Feed the stirrups down over the vertical rebar.  Use a wooden jig to hold them with the right spacing while tying them to the vertical rebar.  Alternate which corner of the concrete blocks the tails of the stirrups rest against as this is what keeps the rebar assembly properly positioned within the column.

Deck Column Wood Spacer 1 Foot 

Deck Column Rebar Above 

Column Stem Stirrups Tied 

Fit and tie lower footing rebar straights

A total of 16 #4 rebar straights are used in the footing.  They are all 3'10" long.  The first eight (inner and outer) are easy to tie because they rest on the rebar that is already set into the wood framing.

Fit and tie upper footing rebar straights

The four inner upper rebar straights tie to the vertical rebar so that they are about 3" from the top of the footing.  After the inners have been tied they provide a platform to tie the four outer upper straights.

Deck Column Rebar Footing Side 

Rebar Closeup Column Footing 

Extra Angle Bracing For Tall Deck Column 

Foam Round Column Pipes 

Replace wood top slats

After the rebar has been added you need to be careful to ensure no soil falls into the column footings.  Use wood slats to completely cover the top of the outside of the footing.  If there are any gaps the cover with either polyethylene or filter fabric.  It is ok at this stage to do some backfilling with soil around the column forming if you want.

Ensure groove planks are right height and right place

Go round using a self-leveling laser and a marked piece of white pipe to ensure the top of the groove planks are all at the right height.  If necessary add extra bracing/straightening pieces of 2x4 on the cross trench jigs or along the groove planks to get everything correct.