Field Construction

Building the Stadium!

All Football Clubs need a stadium and we are no different - This is the story of how we converted part of our backyard into a champions league quality field.

Our field is a 45x65 foot natural grass field.  That's plenty big for 3v3 games and good skills training for our budding soccer stars.    Future plans for the field include lighting, a scoreboard, and video cameras to live stream games.  But - for now - just a really good field to play on!

The Big Dig

Started out by leveling out the yard.  The yard originally had a 7.5% slope which was about 8 feet from high to low spot.  So we had to level it out - we left a 1.6% slope to maintain proper drainage away from the house - we had to dig down almost 4 feet on the high end and in Austin rocky soil that's not easy!  Here's the beginning of the big dig and leveling process:

Here's the Kubota Backhoe Loader Tractor that we rented from Home Depot - this thing was really really nice - did a great job - was easy to use and ran like a charm the whole week we had it.  

I had not operated a backhoe before this project.  I watched a few YouTube videos and after about 30 minutes of operating it I was pretty decent and by the end of the week I was reasonably proficient - definitely not a pro - but good enough for backyard work!

I was just starting to get the hang of this at this point - but started making better progress as we went.

This picture gives an idea of how sloped the yard was before we started (and like an idiot I didn't take any good "before" pictures so this is the best I've got!

You can start to see how far down we had to dig here - we ended up down about 3 feet 8 inches from the high point at the corner just to the right of the orange flag. 

Pulling up one of 2 tree stumps - and look at all that rock in the dirt - It was a real pain to dig through!

Here you can see down the sideline as we dug down the high side of the field. 

We ran into a bolder here and were trying to figure out how big it is to dig around it.  My dad helped a TON on this project - would not have gotten this done without his help!  Thanks DAD!  More about that bolder down a little in this thread!

Made good progress the first day.  Our internet cable ran across this area of the yard so we had to dig that up and hang it over the workarea - had just enough clearance to get the backhoe under it.

After digging up the high side we had ALOT of dirt piled up around the field.  We needed to move it and dump it on the low side of the field.

Here's my dad moving the dirt from the high side down to the other end of the field. 

Here you can start to get a good idea of how we dug out the low side (on the right) and how we started piling the dirt we dug up on the low corner of the field (in back left of the photo)

Rock Hammer Time

After a couple days we had made good progress but we had a HUGE problem - that bolder we found early on was actually a HUGE rock face just below the surface.  We needed to cut off about 8 inches across 150 square feet of rock face.  You can see in the above picture the white area in front of where I'm standing is the rock we needed to get rid of. 

So - we rented an air hammer and I went to work!

This is BRUTAL work.  I hammered away for 12 hours while my dad was leveling out a few areas and moving dirt around.  The hammer plus chisel weighs about 100 pounds and you're constantly repositioning it.  I was exhausted after this!  And I swear I'll never do this again! 

Rented an air hammer from Home Depot.  This thing was a beast! I ran it all day long and by the end it was hot to the touch but it did the job! 

You can see alot of the rock I had chissled up around this picture.  Plus my dad had already moved a couple of loader fulls away as well.  It was ALOT more rock than I realized we needed to move.

Taking a break - this is really tiring work.  Trying to say hydrated but by the end I was getting calf cramps and was totally exhausted.  I can't believe there's people do this for a living!  The videos on the left show how I had to work on a spot for a couple minutes to get a tiny little chip picked off the top.

When I was finally done with the air hammer this is what it looked like.  The picture on the left was after we took a little dirt and filled in over the top of most of the rock.  - And that's my son - Hunter - learning to drive a tractor!

Flattening out the Field - the BAD WAY!

Now that the rock face has been chiseled down we can resume leveling out the rest of the field.   The plan here was to drag the dirt we had dug up and piled up in the low corner and spread it out to level out the field.  We planned to use the loader to pack the dirt down as we moved it around to make sure it settled.  

We started moving all the dirt we dug up to spread it out over the low side of the field to build it up.  

This is where we REALLY REALLY BADLY screwed up.  We built the low side up just a little too high.  We made it level and didn't have any slope to it This was a tremendously costly mistake since this is all clay based soil - it does not let water through and we piled it up level with the rest of the soil and water won't drain out of this soil which means it pools - badly - and we ended up with bad water drainage problems!  

More on how we dealt with this later on!

We moved all the dirt we had dug out of the high side and spread it out and we still needed more dirt so we ordered 25 cubic yards of top soil to finish the leveling process and to spread as top soil over the whole field when we were done.  They couldn't back the truck down the driveway so they dumped it at the street and we brought it down load by load to the field.

My daughter wanted a turn on the tractor so she got her chance too!  We've got a whole family construction crew now!  

The picture on the right is what it looked like after we got the first half of the top soil spread.  to level everything out - you can't see it well here but the darker soil at the top is not top soil - it's the clay soil we dug up on the high side - it didn't have much top soil on it. 

I realized it was going to be much easier and better if we piled all the topsoil at the other end of the field so we moved the topsoil from the high end to the low end (next to where we had already piled all the clay soil we dug up initially).    My Dad is a wizard with this loader.  He grew up on the farm and started running the loader when he was about 6 years old - it's like riding a bicycle I guess you never forget some things.

In the above videos we were using the loader to dump dirt (clay soil and top soil) and then using the bucket to back-drag the dirt out to rough level it out.  This loader didn't have a float option so we had to manually try to keep the bucket level which is....impossible!

We're making progress leveling this bugger out - but it's slow progress and we can tell it's not working all that great. 

We decided to rent a rotary level so we could keep tabs on how well we were doing.  

Using the laser level to measure the height at each stake.  This worked great to figure out the slope - but we needed to measure much more frequently. 

Here is where we made another mistake we later fixed.  We staked out every 6 feet and used the rotary laser level to measure the height to see how much we were sloping.  6 feet intervals is WAY too far apart if you want a smooth and flat surface.  We ended up with huge variations and a few low spots that retained water which was the big mistake.

Here's the low corner  - we built it up about 2 feet.  and it runs right up to the ravine next to the property.  

I don't have a good pic of this but we ended up filling this all in with dirt to level it out all the way over the top of the rocks.  

Re-burying the internet cable - I'm amazed we didn't screw up our internet in this project - but at least we got that part right!

Leveling DONE!  Or so we thought - this turned out to be just the beginning!

Laying Sod!

We had 10 pallets of grass delivered to cover the field and most of the surrounding area.  I didn't think we could lay more than 10 pallets in 1 day and you don't want this stuff sitting around so I figured we could get more brought in a few days later to fill in the rest of the field if needed.  

Here's the first delivery.  My Mom & Dad, my whole family, a couple of my son's friends and my buddy Rob helped us out with laying sod - and without all of them we definitely wouldn't have gotten the 10 palettes down in 1 day.  

We had the whole family helping and it was a big job!

Very important to water as you go - Jenni was running the hose around and doing sections as we went.  Best wife ever!

We were done with the field at this point.  We had about a half palette left and I put it down around the permiter of the field and then we ordered more! 

4 more palettes of grass inbound! 

And DONE!   Now it's just water and watch it grow and get ready to play some soccer!

OH CRAP! This is Terrible

About 4 days after we got the sod down I realized we had 3 HUGE problems.  

#1.  The field is SUPER lumpy.  You can sort of see in these pictures how lumpy the field was.  The pictures do not do it justice.  For a soccer field it was completely unplayable.  There were about 100 spots all across the field where there were 3 inch drops or humps.  Bad enough you would roll an ankle if you were just running across it and a soccer ball would never roll straight across it.  

#2.  We had big patches of grass that were not coming in well at all.  

#3.  And - Even if the grass came in and even if we could smooth out the humps and divots with some top dressing there was a HUGE 3rd problem.  It's tough to show in a picture and I didn't take any close up pictures of this - but we got a huge rain storm that came through - I was excited for the grass to get a great dumping of rain.  BUUUUUUT - about 2 hours after the rain finished we had a shallow pond on the field.  In the below pick you can kinda see how at the far side of the field it doesn't slope down (it's basically perfectly flat on the far half of the field).  And water was just pooling on the field.  4 days later it was still squishing out water when we walked on it. 

What I learned was that the dirt we dug up and used to build up the field on the far side was a heavy clay soil and once it's saturated water does not drain out of it.  So - what was happening is that water would drain off the high area of the field down to the clay soil and then just sit there - and since it was level it just collected there and didn't drain off.  After a lot of internet research I learned that even with a little slope it wasn't going to drain through this soil well enough.  

We were NEVER going to be able to play on this field the way we built it.  

PART 2 - Oh CRAP! we gotta Redo this whole project 

OK - lesson learned!  We decided we needed to tear up the grass and start over.  Put in under-field drainage through the clay soil and then properly level the field before re-laying sod.  HOLY Crap - we're just getting started - and this project just doubled in size and cost - UGH! 

We thought maybe we could only pull up half the grass that was over the clay soil and in all the spots that were too lumpy for a soccer field.  So we marked out all the areas we wanted to 

I started by popping up grass tufts with a spade.  I spent an entire day doing this and the roots were already established in most areas after 2 weeks so it was tough to get under the tufts of grass with the shovel - this is how far