Going Deep: Breaking Ground Where Winters Are Long

As our Wisconsin home project gets underway, understanding the local soils and seasonal changes will determine the foundation’s future durability.

SussexLogoFmaroongray-1In Wisconsin, the soil likes to dance during the winter, making it a land of two seasons: winter and road construction. This is not a land of slabs, but a land of basements. Winters are hard. It’s a given that freezing and thawing of the ground will test structural integrity, so we install footings well below the frost line, ensuring stability for the life of the home.

In southeastern Wisconsin, the depth at which groundwater refuses to freeze is 4 to 6 feet beneath the surface. To cater to the dreams of homeowners longing for ample storage space, theater rooms, or doggy daycare, most builders in the area excavate below this line, providing full-height basements.

Topsoil Scrape

After some months spent planning, the VISION House Sussex, our project in partnership with Green Builder Media, officially got underway with this groundbreaking.


Land with History

The site for the VH Sussex has a rich history that stretches back to the mid-1800s. Drawn by the allure of affordable land and the promise of prosperity, a family of 12 embarked on a journey from New York to Sussex in 1843. They seized the opportunity, acquiring the land at a mere $1.25 per acre.

Through the passage of time, this treasured land remained a family asset, passed down from one generation to the next. When, ultimately, it sold, it became a sought-after prize, traded back and forth between investors and developers. Nobody was quite ready to take the big leap into major development.

That changed when the 60-acre plat became the property of Neumann Developments. With meticulous planning, the land has been mapped out into a 300-homesite mixed-use development. 

The developer has tried to integrate nature and community, emphasizing the benefits of both. Common amenities such as expansive neighborhood trail weaving through the countryside invite exploration, a connection with the outdoors, and a casual meeting place for residents.


Community overview of Vista Run, a beautiful plat of land in Sussex, Wisconsin with a notable backdrop of Ausblick Ski Hill.

A Limestone Legacy

As we’ve excavated for VISION House Sussex, we’ve encountered fossiliferous limestone. If you’re not familiar with this type of rock, it’s the calcium-rich remnants accumulated 520 million years before the crock-pot, when a shallow sea enveloped the lands of Wisconsin. It’s the same sedimentary rock that you might find in Florida or parts of the Southeast that were once submerged.

Some homeowners value the limestone for landscaping, so if we were building for a customer, we’d check in with them about whether to retain some of the stone-like chunks of limestone for statement pieces around the yard.

Our excavator uses a GPS-equipped machine, to make sure the site is exactly where it should be. This also reduces wasted labor and oversized holes. Sometimes digging through the limestone requires extra chiseling and hours, so why overdo it?

Approximately 40 truckloads of dirt were loaded by the excavator and driven offsite by the haul truck. We left a few mounds of topsoil and fill-dirt onsite. The topsoil will be utilized by the landscaper in a few months, and the fill-dirt will be poured around the foundation walls when the excavators return in a few weeks.


Sneak peak of the foundation process; footings of the home being poured with a concrete mixer truck and conveyor truck.


What’s Next?

Concrete, and lots of it, is around the corner. We’ll be following up in my next journal entry with detail about the foundation process, the preceding milestone for framing.