What is The Role of an Excavating Contractor?

In the world of residential construction, few entities carve as defined a niche as excavating contractors. They lay the groundwork—quite literally—for what's to come, ensuring that what follows is stable, safe, and sustainable. Among these contractors, VersaGrade stands tall, particularly in the vast landscapes of Nevada and California. But what is it that makes this Reno-based contractor so special? Let's delve into the world of excavating, with VersaGrade, the premier general contractors in Reno.

VersaGrade: A Specialist in Residential Sitework

When you think of residential sitework, the imagery of vast tracts of land being prepped for housing subdivisions might come to mind. It's a massive task, one that requires precision, expertise, and an unyielding commitment to excellence. This is where VersaGrade shines, specializing in large tract production subdivisions.

At the heart of their service offerings lies foundation excavations. Be it conventional footing with stem walls or slab on grade foundations, VersaGrade has mastered the craft. The foundation is just the beginning. They excel in the preparation of underground utility services—everything from electrical and fiber optic lines to sewer and natural gas preps. Impressively, they are a qualified Gas Backfill Contractor, which means gas line installations are left in the capable hands of the governing utility company.

Beyond the Basics: Grading and More

Every building's exterior is as crucial as its interior. VersaGrade's commitment to ensuring the integrity of what lies outside a home is evident in their flat prep services. They ensure accurate grading and aggregate base for exterior concrete flatwork. Furthermore, their final grading services are unmatched—be it drainage swales, berms, or retaining wall prep, they follow grading and plot plans to the tee.

A special mention here is their use of auto grade laser control systems. This cutting-edge technology ensures accurate grading with incredibly tight tolerances—a testament to VersaGrade's dedication to precision.

The Extras that Elevate

However, VersaGrade doesn't stop at the essentials. Their expansive list of additional services speaks of a holistic approach. From subsurface drainage systems to street cleaning and SWPPP compliance work, their portfolio is both comprehensive and compelling.

Residential Projects: A Legacy of Excellence

A company's reputation often rests on its clientele and portfolio. VersaGrade's list reads like a who's who of residential construction. From Artisan Communities and Ryder Homes to giants like Lennar and Pulte, VersaGrade's footprint is undeniable. Their work on numerous residential tract projects and custom homes for such prestigious builders is a testament to their quality and reliability.

Innovative Solutions for Today's Challenges

Innovation is the lifeblood of VersaGrade. Their approach to soil retention systems is a case in point. By using a diverse array of manufacturers and installation techniques, they provide cost-effective solutions tailored to specific project needs.

Their services extend to tie back & anchoring systems, ensuring structures are stabilized from lateral loads. Their prowess doesn’t stop there. With expertise in shotcrete operations and injection bore drilling, they offer solutions for everything from erosion protection to seismic retrofit upgrades.

The Heart of VersaGrade: A Journey through Time

At the core of VersaGrade's success lies its founder, Bob Fehling. A graduate of California State University At Chico, Bob embarked on a journey through the U.S., building everything from earthen dams to interstates. These experiences honed his skills, propelling him to the forefront of the industry. Eventually, his path led him to VersaGrade, transforming it into the powerhouse it is today.

To understand VersaGrade is to appreciate the intricate ballet that is excavating contracting. Their story, woven with precision, expertise, and a deep commitment to excellence, resonates with anyone who values quality and dedication. As we look towards the ever-evolving landscape of residential construction, one thing is clear: VersaGrade is not just a contractor; they are pioneers.

Versa Grade: The Go-to Civil Contractor in Northern California

When it comes to construction projects in Northern California, choosing the right civil contractor is of utmost importance. The success of any project depends on the expertise, experience, and dedication of the contractor. We will introduce Versa Grade as the ideal choice for all Northern California civil contraction needs. With its local roots and extensive experience, Versa Grade stands out as a trusted partner in the construction industry.

The Versa Grade Difference

Versa Grade's success story is rooted in its rich background and the visionary leadership of its founder, Bob Fehling. With a genuine passion for construction and an unwavering work ethic, Bob embarked on a remarkable journey that started from humble beginnings and led to the establishment of Versa Grade as a renowned name in the industry.

At the heart of Versa Grade's differentiation is its unwavering dedication to quality, integrity, and exceeding customer expectations. Bob's steadfast principles of delivering exceptional craftsmanship, fostering transparency, and treating clients with the utmost respect have become an integral part of the company's DNA. This resolute commitment to excellence has earned Versa Grade a commendable standing as a reliable and trustworthy civil contractor.

A Versatile Range of Services

Versa Grade offers a comprehensive range of services that cater to both residential and public works projects. Whether it's site development and grading, underground utilities, road construction, or any other aspect of civil contracting, Versa Grade has the expertise and resources to handle diverse construction needs.

One of the significant benefits of choosing Versa Grade is their ability to adapt to the unique requirements of each project. Whether it's building a residential community from the ground up or undertaking a large-scale public infrastructure project, Versa Grade's skilled team can deliver exceptional results. Their versatility allows them to seamlessly transition between projects of varying sizes and complexities.

Awards and Testimonials

Versa Grade's unwavering commitment to excellence has garnered them the prestigious SIR Award, a testament to their exceptional reputation in the industry. This esteemed accolade symbolizes the company's unwavering dedication to delivering top-notch workmanship, adhering to stringent safety standards, and consistently surpassing client expectations.

But don't just take our word for it—here are a few testimonials from delighted clients who have had the privilege of experiencing Versa Grade's exceptional service firsthand:

"Versa Grade transformed our vision into a reality. Their attention to detail, professionalism, and timely delivery exceeded our expectations." - John Davis, Residential Project Owner.

"Working with Versa Grade was an absolute pleasure. Their knowledgeable team provided innovative solutions and ensured our public works project was completed to the highest standards." - Sarah Adams, City Planner.

Innovation and Environmental Sensitivity

Versa Grade prides itself on staying ahead of the curve by embracing modern construction technologies and methods. Their commitment to innovation allows them to provide cutting-edge solutions for clients' projects, resulting in improved efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Moreover, Versa Grade is dedicated to environmental sensitivity and sustainable construction practices. They prioritize using eco-friendly materials, implementing energy-efficient strategies, and minimizing waste throughout the construction process. By integrating these practices, Versa Grade ensures that their projects not only meet the highest quality standards but also contribute to a greener future.

In conclusion, when it comes to civil contracting in Northern California, Versa Grade is the go-to contractor. Their local roots, extensive experience, versatile range of services, and commitment to quality and customer satisfaction set them apart. Whether it's a residential project or a public infrastructure endeavor, Versa Grade has the expertise, resources, and dedication to deliver exceptional results.

If you're seeking a civil contractor in Northern California, consider Versa Grade for your next project and experience their unparalleled service firsthand. Trust in their expertise, and you'll witness your vision transformed into a reality, with quality craftsmanship, innovation, and environmental sensitivity at the forefront.

Contact Versa Grade today and take the first step towards a successful construction project.

The Process of Hiring a General Engineering Contractor and What To Look For

If you're planning a construction project, finding the right sitework contractors and general engineering contractor is crucial to ensure that the project is completed safely and to the highest standards. In the Reno area, it's important to work with experienced and reliable Reno engineering contractors who have a strong reputation in the community.

Where To Begin?

Start by researching sitework contractors and general engineering contractors in the Reno area. You may find that many people will recommend Versa Grade for your general engineering needs. 

General engineering contractors must be licensed to work in the Reno area, so make sure to confirm that the contractor is licensed with the state's licensing board. Additionally, make sure the contractor has the necessary insurance to cover any accidents or damages that may occur on your property.

After verifying licensing and insurance, request quotes from Reno general contractors. Provide each contractor with detailed information about your project, including the scope of work, timeline, and budget. This will help them provide an accurate quote for the job.

Look for a contractor who has years of experience in sitework and has successfully completed similar projects in the past. Experienced contractors are more likely to have the skills, knowledge, and equipment necessary to complete your project on time and within budget.

Consider Quality and Price

When comparing quotes, look for a contractor who is committed to delivering high-quality work, prioritizes safety, and communicates clearly and frequently throughout the project. Don't base your decision solely on price.

Finding the right sitework contractors and general engineering contractor for your construction project in Reno requires careful research and consideration. By following this process and taking the time to find the right contractor, you can ensure that your project is completed safely and to the highest standards. Contact Versa Grade for all your sitework and general engineering contractor needs in the Reno area.

Micropiles and Soil Nails: What Projects Benefit

What Are Micropiles?

Micropiles are small diameter piles, typically between 3-12 inches, that are used for foundation underpinning and new construction. They can extend up to 200 feet, and provide deep foundation support for a variety of structures.

Micropiles can be useful in areas where space limitations exist or where soil conditions are not practical for the installation of helical piers or piles. They can be used in a variety of difficult soil and ground conditions such as clays, sands, silts, gravels and cobbles—even rocks and boulders.

With their versatility and bonding capability to soils, micropiles are useful in many applications including:

What Are Soil Nails?

Soil nails are usually installed on an angle to stabilize and reinforce the face of a slope or a wall, and they are often designed in a grid pattern. Similar to micropiles, they are drilled and grouted into place. Some soil nail applications also include a reinforced shotcrete surface for additional stability.

Which One Is Right For My Project?

foundation preparationMicropiles and soil nails are essentially the same thing; the difference is in their application. Micropiles are used in tension and compression as load bearing tendons. They are made of high-strength steel casing, rebar and grout. Soil nails are typically used in steep slope or wall stabilization where the nails are installed beyond the soils’ failure plane (angle of internal friction). They use grouted, tension-resistant steel nails to reinforce the soil and create a retaining wall during excavation.

Both applications utilize a hollow bar steel tendon with a sacrificial cutting bit that is installed with a rotary-percussion hammer. During installation, a neat cement and water mixture is pressure injected down the hollow bar and through the cutting bit into the soils surrounding the hollow bar/tendon. This method of installation is called Injection BOring (IBO). IBO piles and soil nails develop their strength, in both compression and tension, by the summation of the steel tendon plus the strength of the annular soil-cement bond with its surrounding soils, referred to as the area of influence.

The area of influence is the annular area in which the soils are cemented together. Micropiles and soil nails can be installed in almost any soil condition with excellent load bearing characteristics which makes them an ideal alternative in rocky or high blow count (high density) soils where helical pile installations are not conducive.

For more information or to speak to a  Reno contractor, give Versa Grade a call at 775-284-1964!

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I Have Foundation Cracks – Should I Be Concerned?

Foundation cracks worry a lot of people. Home inspectors may tell you that they need to be repaired, and to consult with foundation repair contractors/residential foundation contractors. Home buyers may see problems that call for your foundation fixing but walk away from a potential transaction or ask for a reduction in the sales price. Truth is, most foundations have cracks. It is the type, size, and orientation of a crack(s) that determine whether or not there may be a problem.

How do cracks form?

From the moment concrete is placed, it begins to shrink via the hydration process. Extensive research has been conducted to evaluate why and where concrete tends to crack. As a result, several standards have been put into place to reduce, eliminate, or control the locations of cracking.

There are several external factors such as temperature (both ambient and concrete mix), water content, humidity, and placement practices that all play a role in how concrete performs.

Controlling the spread: fixing foundation

There are two common means of control done by our residential foundation contractors. The first, Expansion Joints, are designed to permit expansion and contraction of concrete masses. On the other hand, Control Joints are saw cuts or tooled joints in concrete sections to allow it to crack at specified locations. The addition of reinforcement in the pour, such as rebar, will also help curtail cracking.

However, in the end, most concrete pours crack during the curing process. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) spells out the technical aspects here, but the California Department of Transportation adopted an easier to read specification for concrete shrinkage. .05% - .08% for every 12’ feet. This works out to about the width of a dime every 12’.

Warning Signs of Foundation Problems

The question is: “Are the cracks in my foundation normal? Or do I have a foundation issue?”

foundation repair“Hairline”, or small cracks, are typical in most foundations. They generally are vertical and are not offset. That is to say, that one side of the crack has not moved up or down, or in and out as opposed to the other side. They are also generally the same width from top to bottom. These types of cracks are generally considered normal and are usually of small concern. Water can get into these cracks, and if it freezes, can actually break off pieces of concrete making the crack bigger. The best way to address these cracks is to have residential foundation contractors seal them up with paint, caulk, or a variety of readily available sealers that will prevent water infiltration.

However, any crack wider than ¼” may be cause for concern and a need for fixing the foundation as it can allow for water infiltration. The type of crack is also important. Diagonal cracks & cracks that are wider on one end vs. the other may be a sign of movement. Cracks that are offset, or groups of several cracks are also likely a sign of distress. These types of cracks should be looked at by a professional to determine a cause and remediation. All structures settle over time. The purpose of a foundation is to allow the structure to settle as a unit at a slower rate. If you have foundation problems, you are likely to see interior sheetrock cracks, doors misaligned within the jamb, uneven floors, tile cracks, window frame separation, and even walls pulling away from the house.

To wrap up, here are some warning signs that will need to be evaluated by a foundation repair expert:

These can be signs of water infiltration, movement or distress in your foundation.

Versa Grade - Foundation Fixing Experts

In summary, concrete cracking can be the result of a poor batch of concrete, poor placement and/or curing methods, less than adequate installation of expansion and/or control joints, or the result of non-uniform foundation soils movement. Concrete cracking is generally classified as structural or non-structural. Structural cracking may require monitoring and potentially remediation, while non-structural cracking is mostly cosmetic in nature.

If you start to see threatening cracking in your foundation, give one of our residential foundation contractors a call at 775.284.1964 or send us an email! We will be happy to come out and take a look as your foundation crack repair experts!

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Stoker Project Basement Wall Repair 3/17/16


Residential homes around Reno Nevada built between the 1920’s -50’s were typically built with unfinished basements for food, coal, & dry storage.  A fair amount of these basements were constructed with little or no reinforcing steel.  It was not uncommon for the structures that did have reinforcement, to consist of old fence posts, bailing wire, or any other scrap iron a builder could find.  Along with added square footage, basement level foundation systems also served as an added layer of protection for structures built on expansive soils.  The practice was to support the structure on soils well below finished grade so seasonal moisture change (i.e. rain & snow / summertime drying) would not affect the foundation. The Stoker Project was an excellent example of this type of construction.


Originally constructed in 1954, the Stoker Project was a single story structure built on a basement that extended under the entire footprint of the upper living area.  The soils in the area are Alluvial Fan Deposits of Peavine Mountain and consist of gravely to sandy clayey silt with andesite fragments common.  These soils are highly expansive and reactive to moisture content.   Water intrusion in the basement had always been a problem for the owner, and over time, the swelling of the clays against the basement walls had pushed hard enough to break the walls and cause structural damage to the framing components.   No reinforcing steel was observed in any of the concrete breaks, some as large as 1” in width.  The rear wall of the basement had a large bow from top to bottom, and was pushing into the interior walls while pulling away from the upper level floor joists.  Damage was significant enough to warrant the installation of temporary shoring supports until VersaGrade repair crews could arrive with fixing foundation solutions.


VersaGrade was contacted by the Owner to help design the repair plan, & K2 Engineering was retained as the project engineer.  The Owner had constructed a deck and hot tub enclosure along the wall in question that had taken quite a lot of time and effort.  This added a surcharge to the wall which contributed to the walls failure and adjacent interior framing. Our goal for fixing the foundation was to support the wall in place without demolishing the deck or hot tub enclosure.  As such, all construction operations took place inside the basement.  Because reinforcing steel was not present, a whaler system needed to be installed to help distribute the lateral forces.  Prior to the installation of the whaler, solid steel Ram Jack 1.5” square bar Helical Anchors were installed through the wall using a hand held torque drive motor.  The mid points between the anchor installations were supported vertically by the installation of Fortress Stabilizations ™ – Carbon Fiber support straps.  The straps were epoxied to the concrete wall, & Kevlar straps embedded into the epoxy.  These Kevlar straps were then connected to the structure framing to prevent overturning of the wall.  The final bracing came from the installation of the whaler that consisted of a 10” wide continuous steel channel bolted to the wall & tying the system together.  Fixing foundation can be a long and difficult process and even though the space constraints were a challenge, the project was a total success.  The wall had been stabilized, and the Owners hard work on his deck had been saved.

VersaGrade used the Ram Jack Portable Hydraulic Pump and 2.5K Hand Held Drive Motor for the anchor installations.

Total No. of Ram Jack 1.5” Square Bar Helical Anchors Installed: 5

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J & J Nevada - Seismic Retrofit & Tenant Improvement with Micropiles


J & J Nevada was a project involving a seismic retrofit and tenant improvement to an existing warehouse in Sparks, Nevada.  Additional truck docks were required to be installed, changing the structural characteristics of the tilt up concrete building.  The installation of a moment frame on the interior of the structure required some relatively high loads to be addressed in tension and compression at specific locations.  VersaGrade was contacted early in the design phase to help determine the best foundation system to address these loads.


Originally built in 1979, the warehouse was constructed for General Motors Corporation as a parts distribution center.  The 634,000 Square Foot facility included dozens of truck dock openings and an interior railroad spur for the unloading of train cars inside the building.  The soils are predominately Alluvium of the Truckee Meadows, consisting of pebble to cobble sand, silty sand, and sandy silts overlain by scattered, well rounded volcanic & granitic cobbles.  Due to the rocky nature of the site and limited soils investigations, VersaGrade concluded that the use of Micro Piles would be the best system to meet the required loads.  Pile groups of 3-4 would be necessary to achieve the 140 Kip allowable loads at specific points along the perimeter foundation.


VersaGrade, Inc. was awarded the subcontract to install 40mm Contech Systems Micro Piles along with a custom Ram Jack bracketing system.  K2 Structural Design & Ram Jack Engineering were contacted to help design the bracket that would carry a 35 kip allowable capacity (70 Kip Ultimate) in tension and compression for each pile.   Each bracket was designed to work on shear strength alone, and attach directly to the tilt up panels themselves as there were no footings to attach to in some locations.  Six each 7/8” diameter epoxy doweled bolts (per bracket) were used to secure the brackets to the face of the concrete tilt-up walls.  A 5 ½” diameter x 8’ long steel guide sleeve was then inserted through the brackets and set to elevation.  After bracket installations were complete, VersaGrade installed Contech 40/16 Micro Piles with a 4” carbide cutting bit down through each guide sleeve.  The Micro Piles were installed to an average depth of 21’.  One of the challenges of the project was higher than expected grout usage during the Micro Pile installation due to unconsolidated material and fissures.  Some piles took in excess of 35 cubic feet of grout to complete.

VersaGrade used a Komatsu PC-160 Track-mounted hydraulic excavator with an Excavator Mount TEI 350 Rock Drill and ChemGrout CG600 Batching Plant for the Micro Pile installations.

Total No. of Contech Micro Piles and Ram Jack Custom Brackets installed: 14

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Step 2 - New Construction Pile Fixing Foundation 12/23/2015


STEP 2 is a private non-profit organization that has been serving Northern Nevada since 1986.  Its mission is to provide comprehensive, coordinated services related to the treatment and recovery of chemically dependent women and their families.  The 12,000 square foot expansion project adds a 20 bed residential housing component and storage facility to the already existing Mathewson Family Counseling Center and Transitional Cottages.  The design vision of the project is to accommodate the everyday living needs of women and children in distress.


The project site is located north of the Reno / Sparks Area in Nevada on the foothills of Peavine Mountain. The area is predominately made up of Alta Formation soils components that contain hard volcanic rock, highly expansive clay minerals, and corrosive soil properties.  The soils investigation confirmed the project site would not be conducive for conventional foundation construction.  A deep foundation system was decided to be the best course of action, but due to the soil properties and its inconsistent nature, no one foundation system type could be utilized.  VersaGrade was contacted early in the design process to help determine the best and most economical approach for this problem site to prevent fixing the foundation if issues later arose.  It was determined that a mix of deep foundation types that included Ram Jack Helical Piles and Contech Micro Piles would be necessary to overcome these problem soils.


VersaGrade, Inc. was awarded the subcontract to install Ram Jack Helical Piles and Contech Systems Micro Piles on two adjacent project sites.  One site was “The Living Center” and the other was “The Storage Facility”.  Both building foundations were similarly designed as a pile and grade beam system.  Since the soils were highly expansive, the entire foundation system was designed with a 6” void space under it to allow the clay soils to expand and contract without contacting the foundation system.  6” thick by 10” wide Sure Void was installed along the bottom of all grade beam trenches to provide the separation between soil and grade beam.  Lateral stability which is normally achieved by the weight of the building on the underlying soils, was alternately achieved by the use of angled (Battered) piles installed at load points throughout the buildings footprint.

The Living Center foundation plan consisted of 95 vertical piles and 22 angled piles with working loads of 34,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds respectively.  Installation depths varied wildly with helical piles ranging from 10’ - 60’ to achieve adequate load carrying capacities.  Where helical piles could not be installed due to solid and fractured rock obstructions, Injection Bore (IBO) Micro Piles were installed to a depth of 20’ with a 4’ unbonded length.  The Storage Facility foundation plan consisted of 62 vertical piles and 14 angled piles.  The grade beam design on both buildings was only 10” wide, which made layout and installation techniques critical.  Pile migration during installation of 1.5” was unacceptable.

VersaGrade used a Komatsu PC-160 Track-mounted hydraulic excavator with a Pro-Dig two stage 12K drive motor for the Helical installations and an Excavator Mount TEI 350 Rock Drill and ChemGrout CG600 Batching Plant for the Micro Pile installations.

Total No. of Ram Jack Helical Piles installed: 150

Total No. of Contech Micro Piles installed: 43



New Guy Anchors 5/18/2015

A project for NV Energy required the installation of Helical Anchors for guy wire supports on power poles that needed to be replaced.  Access was the challenge for this project as the power poles were in common areas and behind houses with limited space.  One of our Compact Excavators equipped with a Hydraulic Torque Drive Motor, was able to access and work within these limited space areas for these installations.  11 anchors were installed in less than 6 hours!

Fixing Foundation of Manzanita 5/15/2015

A residential remodel posed some interesting issues when it was discovered that an enclosed patio portion of the structure had settled over 3".  The plan was to underpin two columns that supported the patio and re-level.  This proved to be an issue once the footings were uncovered. Fixing the foundation was a task that needed to be done. Both column foundations were different and not of standard construction.  One was constructed on a deep drilled caisson, and the other had a massive amount of concrete poured around it.  It was decided that the original plan was not feasible, and that supporting in place was the best option.  New Construction Helical Piles were installed for fixing the foundation and a new concrete grade beam connecting the columns to the piles was designed and constructed.  Though re-leveling was not an option given the existing conditions, we were able to stabilize the structure against future settlement and allowed remodeling to continue.