Drawing Building Foundations

When everything seems to be chaos around us as we deal with Covid-19 and a global pandemic, for those of us with hobbies and our health, we can retreat for a few hours from the whirlwind at the moment.

For the layout, I have a lot of buildings to build, and I want to be able to work on the scenery such as ballast and roads before I get to all of them. That means, I need to make the foundations for all the buildings first. These will be blended into the scenery for the most part, but will provide me a solid and known base for building the rest of the structures later.

Recently when visiting my friend Pierre’s layout, he told us how for some buildings with concrete foundations, he had used MDF, cut to size, with sanding primer applied, sanded, and then painted concrete colour. This approach would work for me, using MDF I can prepare the foundations, install them, and scenic around them, then add the buildings later. As well, the MDF can be drilled for lighting drops for the buildings, and, for some of the buildings along the front edge, it will let me install pins to align the buildings but keep them removable.

Measuring the mockup of Barrymore Fibres (part of Toronto Carpet Factory) at Mowat and Liberty.

I’ve had mockups on the layout for a while of the buildings to get a feel for their size. As I’ve been testing trains now that the track is laid, I have started to get a feel for how the layout functions, and how the buildings feel. I have been wanting to do this for a few weeks, but having a Saturday with no sports to watch, and official advise to stay home and avoid unnecessary interactions in public, today seemed like a good day to clean the office and measure/draw the building footprints.

Using the Blue Bendy to measure the corner of the backdrop behind the building. With my high benchwork, a gap at the back won’t be visible anyways, but I want to start with attempting as tight a fit as possible.

Some buildings foundations are super easy, literally just a rectangle, and it was just a case of determining the right dimensions now that track is down. For others, they have complicated angles to the backdrop or cutouts for Hinde & Dauche around the door jam hidden behind the backdrop. At the end of the day, I have drawings now of the foundations for all 17 buildings that are going on the layout. It took 16 11×17 sheets of the graph paper (some buildings took multiple pages, other pages took multiple buildings), and am ready to start organizing to buy the necessary MDF for the job, and figuring out what tools I need to acquire or if I can get it done at a friends place who has a wood shop (though even in that scenario, I need to consider the right tools for adjusting the cut pieces here).

It was nice to work my way around the layout going building by building and thinking about what they are all going to look like, and getting a sense of how much building I have to do in the next few years, it’s daunting, but certainly not insurmountable.

3 thoughts on “Drawing Building Foundations

    • Hi Ken. For a few buildings 5/8” which gets me more or less to the sill height of boxcar doors. For others I am debating between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. The 1/4 is all I need, from past experience I’m not 100% it won’t curl after cutting from environmental conditions in the layout room, but I’m hoping the use of the sanding sealer on the edges after it’s been cut will prevent that from happening. We shall see in time I guess, I think I’ll have plenty of time for the foundations to acclimatize to the room conditions before I get to final buildings.



      • Stephen, I found out sealing MDF with liquid CA glue does wonder. It also harden the material which makes it easier to sand to a very smooth finish that takes paint well.

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