Plumb Start

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Well, I am still working on HVAC, but the plumbers finally got started.

The trick is to keep the house warm enough long enough for the pipe solvent (glue) to cure. Once they get all the drain lines, the supply lines should be fairly easy.

Mighty Mighty

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's a Brick. House.

Between the craziness of the holidays, children in the hospital, and trying to squeeze in a little work on the inside of the new house, I haven't gotten around to writing about the exterior brick work that was complete a couple of weeks ago.

Special Delivery October 20: BRICKS!

October 21, Alexander Masonry began laying the first bricks for our house wrap, and had completed the rear of the garage by the end of the first day.

In less than a week, they had finished the entire back of the house.

About this time, Ernie tells me he is a little concerned that the front of the house might look at little too monotonous, since our house is so wide (huge), that's a lot of brick. He described a little pattern he could make around the windows and the doors to break of the monotony. After Cathy and I discuss is, we tell him to go ahead. The next day, he says he has several limestone blocks from a demolition they did this Spring. Since they've become hazards in his yard for kids playing around, he was going to just get rid of them, but then it occurred to him that they might look good strategically placed at the corners of our windows and doors. Since he was going to throw them out, he wouldn't charge us for the limestone.

I think the limestone accents turned out great (and you can't beat Free). They used our leftover roofing felt to spread out on the front porch to protect it while they worked.

About two and a half weeks from the start, they had finished the entire brickwork and cleaned up.

Ernie's crew did a beautiful job, and did it very efficiently. The entire house is wrapped in brick and ready to be trimmed, now for the much slower process of finishing the interior.

Dried In

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today, we officially reached the "dry-in" stage of construction. With walls, windows, doors, and shingles, we are now mostly protected from the elements.

And yes, those are pallets of bricks in the picture on the right -- our brick-mason starts tomorrow!

And for the first time, we can actually do dome parallel work on the house. Up until now, everything has been sequential (i.e. first they dig a hole, then they pour a basement, then they frame the house, then they put on a roof, etc.). Now as the brick-mason spends a few weeks getting our house all nice and wrapped, we can simultaneously start working on interior rough work -- hvac, plumbing, electric.

Yard (New House Top Ten)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

This is the first of ten in a series of the Top Ten things I am most looking forward to in our new House.

The Yard is listed as number one, because this is really the Straw.
All the other things listed in the Top Ten are grand luxuries that we are eagerly anticipating -- but ones we would likely be very tempted to live without if there wasn't an underlying motivational factor for us to move -- and that is the Yard.

Our current property is only 0.18 acres, giving us a back yard of less than 2800 square feet. But it's not really (or not entirely) the size that is the problem -- we certainly lived in homes with smaller. The entire back yard is graded downhill from the back of the house to the water retention pond that is about 40 feet from our back door. Now compound that with the fact that, up until a month ago, our Neighborhood covenents prohibited erecting fences on properties that are adjacent to the retention pond, and that means that the least safest place for our kids to play is right in our own backyard.

If you tripped over the threshold as you walked out the back door, you would likely end up tumbling all the way into the pond. How many people can say that their own back yard is the last place they would let their kids play unattended? I wonder, if the covenants had changed to allow this before we embarked on construction, would we still have done it?

Our new property is over half an acre. After we build our new house 40 feet off the road, our new back yard will be large enough that it could house our entire existing .18 acre property twice, with room to spare. And it is flat. All the way back. We'll actually be able to let the kids play outside -- maybe even (gasp) unsupervised.

Top 10 Features of the New House

Quite a few people have asked what our favorite feature, or what we're most looking forward to in our new house. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), I can't narrow it down to just one. We are, after all, building our dream house. Below is the top ten list of the Features I am most looking forward to in the new house. Each one of these will probably warrant its own blog post, so I'll update this list to link to each individual post as it is created.

  1. Yard

  2. Piano Room

  3. Kitchen and Pantry

  4. Garage

  5. Mud Room

  6. Master Closet Space

  7. Master Bath

  8. Foyer and Loft

  9. Front Porch

  10. Basement

The Great Frame Up

Saturday, October 9, 2010

They started our framing on Sept. 22 -- and officially finished yesterday, Oct 8. They originally estimated 6-7 working days -- it ended up being 10 working days, but they were spread across 16 real days. Still, not bad to go from bare concrete to fully framed in just over 2 weeks.

They had all the walls, internal and external, first and second floors, done in about 5 working days.

But then came the roof. Setting roof trusses took a day, then the roof sheathing, then they had to stick frame the covered porch roof.

And then yesterday, they completed their final "punch list". Monday, Benchmark Remodeling starts in with our window and door installations.

Classic Truss has done a fine job with the project -- from turning our design into engineered drawings, then a framing package, and assembling it all. My biggest frustrations with them have been a lack of communication. Sometimes, this lack of communication has caused a bit of stress, and leading me to believe there were big problems. For example, they needed 3 weeks lead time before they could be on site to start framing. When our foundation crew started work, I called Classic Truss to give them that 3 weeks notice, but no one ever returned my phone messages or email messages -- I bugged them for a week and half with no response, thinking the whole time that there was either some big problem, or they weren't going to be able to get me in their schedule, but then, I finally got ahold of the business manager who said, "oh, yeah, we got your first message over a week ago, and put you in our queue and have started the pre-assembly. We could probably be onsite early next week". Which was actually Earlier than I needed them -- but if I had just gotten a simple phone call, there would have been much less stress. These same kinds of incidents happened throughout the framing, when I would call either the business manager or crew supervisor because of some small issue I discovered, they would often take days to respond, leading me to catastrophize that they would refuse to fix it, but inevitably, they would already be taking care of the problem by the time they called back. In all, I am very happy with their work -- my only complaint is their lack of responsive communication.

"Special" Delivery

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

*my mobile phone rings*
Me: Hello, this is Eric.
Cindy: Hello, this is Cindy from Lowe's. I am calling about your delivery order.
Me: Yes?
Cindy: Yes, we have pulled your order and have scheduled to deliver your doors and windows to you tomorrow between noon and 2pm.
Me: That sounds good.
Cindy: Will you have someone available to accept the delivery?
Me: Um, well, probably not, can you just leave everything inside the garage?
Cindy: Well, we can place everything in the garage, but we would need to have someone there to let us in.
Me: Um, the garage doors are part of your delivery.
Cindy: Yes?
Me: So, there are no doors on the garage yet.
Cindy: Yes?
Me: So, you can just leave everything, including the doors, in the garage.
Cindy: But we would need someone there to let .... Oh, right.

At least the delivery actually made it to its destination.

Let the Frames Begin

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Monday was backfill day ... Tuesday was delivery day.
We were expecting the framing package to arrive on Tuesday, just not so early. I was out for my morning run, passing by our lot around 6:30 am, and the trucks were parked there already. The lead driver said they were just waiting for daylight before trying to back into the lot and unload.

I finished my run, heading home, grabbed the camera, and drove back to the lot. By the time I got there, they were just about finished unloading.

This morning, they got started building, beginning with the load bearing wall in the basement. Most of the walls are pre-assembled in segments at their facility, but the walls in the basement are being traditionally stick built. The supervisor called me about mid-day to let me know that it was raining pretty hard, and they were going to have to break for the day. Apparently, though, the crew returned after the rain let up this afternoon, and worked until 7pm. They got all the trusses and sheeting for the first floor on.

We have a Floor!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Well, they started two days later than we had planned, but Friday, they brought out the pump truck and started pouring slabs.

We effectively have three separate slabs -- the basement floor, the garage floor, and the front porch. They decided to do only two of the three at this point.

They decided that the front porch slab would be best if poured after the framers have the first flooring system installed. I'm not sure how that's going to work with gettin my loan draw for foundation work, and squeezing in the slab pour while the framers are on site, but they assure me this is will result in the best quality porch.

This should prove to be an interesting and fast paced week for our new home.

Laying Pipes

Saturday, September 18, 2010

This past week was a foray into Under Slab Plumbing. The point of this project is to "pre-plumb" our basement so that we can later (probably at least a couple of years later) include plubming fixtures in a basement finishing project. I had to run pipe for drains and vents for a full bathroom on one side of the basement, a half bath near the middle, a furnace drain on the other side, and a stub for a wetbar. This was far and away the largest plumbing project I have ever tackled myself.

First problem I discovered on Saturday, was that our gravelled basement floor was wet. So wet, that every footstep filled with water. This made it difficult just to get around down there, and very difficult to accomplish any digging. I installed a sump pump in one of the pits, but had no power so it didn't really accomplish anything.

Sunday morning, as soon as I thought it late enough not to wake anyone, I called my neighbors to ask permission to use their external power outlet for my sump pump. The graciously "loaned" me their power. Within a couple hours of plugging the pump in, the basement floor was dry, and I started once again trenching for our pipes. My father came over to assist, and we switched gears from trenching to digging the hole for the ejector pit.

For those unfamiliar with an ejector, this is what makes sewage go Up. Normally, in the part of the house that sits above ground, all your drains, toilets, sinks, etc. gradually slope to a central sewage pipe, which gradually slopes to the main sewage line running by your house (or slopes to your septic system). Everything flows simply because it goes downhill -- pulled by gravity. But if you have plumbing in the basement -- or other "below grade" location, something has to push that sewage back Up.

The pit basin is nearly identical to a sump pit basin -- in fact, some basin models can be used for either purpose. The big difference is that once connected, the ejector must have a sealed lid, and a pipe that pumps to your sewer line, whereas a sump pump pit typically has a loose fitting lid, and pumps water to a storm drain, or maybe just into your backyard.

The ejector pit basin is 30 inches deep. Digging into the hard pan of our basement floor for our trenches had been difficult, but trying to dig 30 inches deep was like chiseling through rock. For the last 10 inches or so, we were literally taking our shovels and chiseling at the bottom of the pit, because we couldn't actually dig into it. That took us most of the day.

Unfortunately, that ate up our Sunday, and there was still much work to do. So, Monday, I took a personal day from work, and continued trenching, and eventually started laying the drain pipes. While this work was not nearly as frustrating as digging the ejector pit, it was certainly slow work for a single worker. Once again, I ran out of time, and had to call it quits with still a little work to do.

The county inspector was scheduled to come on Tuesday, so I got up at 5 o'clock to finish the work. I completed the last couple runs, then put stub pipes on everything (so they would stick out of the slab once it was poured. Ended up being pretty late to work that day -- but the good news is that my work was approved by the county building inspector.

The pipes had to stay exposed for the inspection, but with the slabs scheduled to be poured on Wednesday, I once again got up at 5 to go backfill dirt and gravel over the pipes. You can imagine my frustration when I discovered that my slab subcontractor had been waiting on a confirmation call for me, and never arrived to pour concrete. But I was ready!

Certified Foundation

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Yesterday, they pulled the forms off the short walls, and brought out the county inspector for the official Foundation Inspection -- and we Passed! Apparently, in order to appropriately inspect, the inspection has to occur before any backfilling or any poured slabs are in place -- so there are still several days worth of work to go before we entirely foundation-complete, including a separate inspection for the basement-under-slab-plumbing once it is in place.

In the right-hand picture, on the corner by the frontmost garage door, you can see the green tag of approval from the county inspector.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Yesterday, they poured the footers for the "short" foundation walls, i.e. for the front porch and the garage. They didn't get much further today, simply delivering the forms for said walls to the lot. Here is the current state of the lot:

Green Walls

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

This morning, Cathy awoke with a fever, and her back was still giving her troubles. So I had to call in to work and take the day off to watch the kids. This meant that my morning run was a bit later that usual, and when I ran by our lot about 8, the crew was already there pulling the Forms off.
When my wife headed to the doctor, I decided to take the boys for haircuts, and of course drive the lot with the camera. Just in time, because they had already departed with the forms, and a two-man crew was getting set up to start applying the exterior waterproofing (RubRWall) -- which was a sprayable green goo. I managed to snap a couple of bare concrete pictures.

This evening we checked back to find that they had completed the waterproofing, and placed the "waterproofing protection board" up. On the right hand wall, which will be the shared wall between the house and the garage, you can see the green goop extending a few inches above the board. The couple of feet of non-waterproofed wall that you see will be the interior foundation wall of the garage.

This is the view looking down through the window well into the basement.
Here you can see the goo on the brick ledge on the top of the outside wall.

There is a chance of rain tomorrow, so I don't know how that will affect progress, but if it doesn't hamper their work, we should get footings for the garage and front porch.

Basement Walls

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, they had planned to Set and Pour the basement walls, but apparently it took them a bit longer to Set the forms for our huge basement.

So at the end of the day, we just had a completed set of empty Forms -- Ready for concrete.

But this morning they showed up ready to pour. They needed the pump truck with the boom to reach the far end.

So by noon, our basement walls were poured and starting to cure. We have basement walls!

Meanwhile, I still haven't got a committed start date from our framers yet -- getting a little worried that our foundation will be completed and sitting there for a couple weeks before the framers get started, but we obviously still have a week or more to go on the foundation work, so there's still time to work the schedule.
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