Not only does water follow the path of least resistance, but it accumulates really, really well! When you have a prepared footing, ready for the concrete, it can quite easily take on two foot of water from a one inch rainfall. Trust me. I KNOW this!
The first guy who leveled out our building site did a wonderful job. It didn't hold water. It was amazing and it made me very happy. Guy no. 1 could not come back and dig the trenches for the footings. He was already over booked with pond building for the summer. It took awhile to find someone to dig the trenches. This was a problem that we ran into over and over. We are a small project and there is a lot more money to be had building McMansions. So guy no.2 came and dug the trenches. In the process of digging the trenches he also re-shaped the building site. Instead of flowing away, every single drop now flowed TO the trenches. Now every time we got rain, there was water in the trenches. To make matters worse, we had dug the trenches for both the garage and the house. You have to realize as well that these footing trenches were intended to hold up masonry walls. They aren't a little something under a floating slab. We are talking a trench that is approximately two feet wide and four feet deep. They are a substantial size.
There is a secondary problem with a flooded trench. The side walls get soaked and then collapse. After the first collapse, I contacted guy no.2 again. He told me that it wasn't possible to open up the trench again. He wouldn't be able to get back in there. Where his back hoe had sat previously was now the front part of the trench. I had found a local guy who was going to help me get the trenches poured. He had checked in with me and gave the situation a pretty dim out look. So. guy no.3 just didn't see how you could get equipment in there either. He didn't have a single idea on how I was to handle my moist collapsing trenches.
So, I handled it the only way I could think of... with a shovel. This might also be a good time to point out the natural characteristics of clay based mud. Sticky and greasy is an understatement. Once you had a shovel full of mud you were going to keep a shovel full of mud. It wouldn't come off!! So you would dig a scoop of mud out of the hole and then spend the next four minutes getting it scraped off the shovel. So I gave up on the shovel as a digging tool. The shovel was used to pull mud away then it was picked up by hand and thrown out of the trench. In some places it wasn't even good for that. After awhile the sandy bits were going right through the gloves I was wearing. The fingertips were gone. I kept working barehanded. After awhile the sand was getting under my fingernails and separating the nail from the finger. As I had no gloves and no options, I just took the handyman's best friend, duct tape and taped up my fingers and kept digging with my hands. But it worked!! The trench got cleared. I got the base of the footing framed and son in law, James helped me get it poured.
After this, the rain became torrential, but at least the bottom of the trench was solid. That would help. I re-dug the trench again by hand but there was too much collapsing this time and I only got a third done. More rain, more collapsing. It was becoming a nightmare. Then my kids, in their compassion, planned a family workday. They came and brought food to grill and friends to help and we got it completely dug out. James found the best gloves ever!! They are called mud gloves and are coated with rubber over the palms and fingers. They totally saved my hands!! They saved EVERYBODY'S hands, because no one could get a shovel to work in the sticky, sticky mud.
To make a long and depressing story short. We had a little more collapsing but with another family work day we did get the foam forms in. There were any number of difficulties to getting the concrete poured... like the day we needed to get concrete the plants were closed for the funeral of a local concrete plant employee. The day after the funeral there was rain. We did successfully pour the foam forms the second time they were set.
The garage trenches are another story.. They have taken on so much water that the thousand dollars worth of forms are now just garbage. Bob, my gravel guy, also does some dirt work. He and his son came over one evening to bury an electric line. With out asking they just went ahead and started digging out the garage trenches... Bless them! But it led to our usual conversation.
"Bob, I didn't think you could come in and re-dig a trench"
"Who the hell told you that?!"
P.S. for those who would like a lesson learned from this experience..... the minute you get a trench dug, also dig a drainage line and the FIRST thing you do is get a drain tile laid in!!!!