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What Is a Batter Board?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A batter board is a board set up at a specific location on a building site to assist construction crews with orientation of foundations, structures, and other features. Batter boards are commonly used in excavations to outline foundations, but they have other uses as well. Construction crews can create them from timber or use reusable products that can be quickly and easily installed at a job site. These products are available through hardware and home improvement stores as well as manufacturers.

Layout of batter boards requires measuring equipment and levels to precisely position each batter board in the right place. Once boards are in place the crew has to be careful about knocking into them, as this could knock them out of kilter. This can be a problem when they are being used to square off a foundation, as the foundation might be pushed out of alignment. The issue may only be apparent as the crew starts to frame and build, and realizes that the foundation is slightly out of balance.

Setting up batter boards takes time. The construction crew needs to perform some careful measurements to position each board in the right place and to make sure it is set at the right height. One use for batter boards is in the delineation of survey lines around a property to situate a house in the most appropriate position. The construction crew can extend string from each batter board to create an outline of where the house should be.

Another common use of batter boards is in the development of foundations and footings. The boards go into the excavation at a desired height, and the crew uses string to mark out foundation heights and start to set up for footings. These footings, usually made from poured concrete, will stabilize the foundation and create a firm base for the rest of the structure. Mistakes with batter board placement can result in issues like a foundation out of plumb or off center.

Reusable batter board products can be moved from job site to job site. They include a set of posts that can be driven into the ground and a movable board that can be positioned along the length of the posts to the desired height. A slider that fits over the board can hold string to allow the crew to stretch string between boards for the purpose of outlining proposed foundations and other features.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AboutMechanics researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By lluviaporos — On Dec 07, 2011

@bythewell - I'm not sure the batter board is supposed to be used as part of the mold for concrete. Usually they use it to mark out the spots that are going to contain the concrete though, with string to make them as straight as possible.

I remember whenever I tried to align my measurements I always somehow managed to get something wrong.

In the end I just gave up and called in the professionals to do the stuff like laying foundations and I stuck to doing things like putting up the drywall. Activities that I couldn't mess up!

By bythewell — On Dec 06, 2011

@KoiwiGal - My dad was never a professional builder, but he did dabble in it on weekends and he always scrupulously put up a batter board to ensure that his foundations would be straight.

I think, most of the time he ended up using the batter board as a container for the concrete as well, since it was there anyway.

I'm not sure if professional builders do that, or if they put it a few inches away from where the actual construction takes place and just use it as a guide.

At any rate, my father's methods definitely worked. We still use several of the structures he put up around the farm when I was a kid.

By KoiwiGal — On Dec 06, 2011

Oh, so basically a batter board is the kind of frame that you put up on the ground before building anything to make sure that it's all going in the right place and facing the right direction.

I remember the builders doing that when they built our house when I was a kid. I also remember that they were really touchy about it, although I didn't understand that since I was too young.

All I knew was that the men were being very nice to me until I decided it was a good idea to use the batter board as a tightrope and try to walk along it.

Then, all of a sudden, they were grumpy, even though they hadn't minded my climbing all over the other parts they had laid out.

It makes sense now though, if they had spent a lot of time making sure that those boards were in just the right place.

No wonder they growled at me.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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