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How to Build a Bulkhead

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A bulkhead is used in a concrete footer where there are steps up or down. These bulkheads allow a change in concrete height, and serve as a stop gate for wet concrete. They are generally made from lumber and plywood and can be readily removed after the concrete has dried. You can build a bulkhead in 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the size and scope of the project.

Measure the width of the footer that will receive the bulkhead. Add an extra 6 inches to the final width. Measure the widest -- rather than the narrowest -- part of the footer at the step down.

  • A bulkhead is used in a concrete footer where there are steps up or down.
  • These bulkheads allow a change in concrete height, and serve as a stop gate for wet concrete.

Record the measurement on a writing pad if you have more than one bulkhead to build. Sketch a plan view of the footer with the locations of the bulkheads noted. Note each measurement as well.

Lay out the bulkhead measurements on a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood. Bulkhead heights are to be built in 8-inch increments. However, sometimes the steps up along the footer are doubled to 16 inches. Lay out the width and height, and square it onto the plywood.

  • Record the measurement on a writing pad if you have more than one bulkhead to build.

Snap chalk lines to connect the measurements. Put on safety goggles, place the plywood on a saw horse, and carefully cut out the bulkhead with a circular saw.

Cut 2-by-4s that correspond with the perimeter measurements of the plywood. For example, if your bulkhead is 24 inches wide and 8 inches tall, then cut two boards 21 inches and two boards 8 inches. Build a frame out of the 2-y-4s, laying them flat on the back side of the bulkhead. Attach the boards with 3-inch screws.

Drive the bulkhead into the soil with a hammer at the footer step-down. Place 2-by-4 stakes on the back side of the bulkhead at an angle and into the side of the footer bank. Attach the bulkhead to the stakes with 3-inch screws.

  • Snap chalk lines to connect the measurements.
  • Build a frame out of the 2-y-4s, laying them flat on the back side of the bulkhead.
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