We were ready to get started around the beginning of October, but our neighbor to the north asked us to hold off on getting started because he had an access road to his backyard that cut across the north edge of our property, including areas that needed to be excavated. We decided not to start off on a bad foot with our neighbor and waited to get started while he got the cement for his pool poured.
It was amazing how quickly things started moving once the large equipment was brought on-site. The first picture was taken on the morning of the 27th, the second picture was taken just 5 hours later.
Here's a video of the bulldozer in action:
First they cut the slope of the hill out down to the level of our footings and created a large flat pad.
Ok. Now that we had a nice flat area for our house, we had to dig down to find virgin soil. Apparently when the road was built they pushed all of the excavated soils, rock garbage, etc. onto the lots in the area and buried it. I don't think that we came across anything too surprising, but I heard that when they were excavating our neighbors house they pulled out an old car... The excavation at the front of the house was already down at virgin soil, but we had to go down an additional 10' or so at the back of the house to reach virgin soil.
Now we had two options, we could place our footings down at this level (on virgin soil) and then pour 10' tall concrete foundation walls OR we could bring in structural fill (i.e. dirt that has been tested by a geo-techincal engineer and certified that it can withstand the weight of our structure) to fill the hole up and bring the grade back up to where we needed it for the footings. We were super lucky that we had access to $10/load dirt and that this dirt was a high-quality sandy soil that ended up being suitable for structural fill.
The light brown piles (in the photo below) are the dirt that was used to fill in the hole that was dug. Every 6" the dirt was watered and compacted and every 18"-24" the backfill was tested by our geo-technical engineer for compaction.