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.

Our Little (2000 square foot) Hole in The Ground

Friday, August 27, 2010

We are finally Building!

After a year and half since purchasing a lot, and countless banks who said "we don't loan to self-builders", we have finally gotten approval for a construction loan! In an effort to build a huge home on a miniscule budget, we had decided to act as our own General Contractor -- but most banks are very wary of dealing with "owner/builders" -- in fact, since the banking fallout, even banks that used deal with self-builders have told us that "they don't do that any more". But after much search, Normandy bank has taken a chance on us.

Monday morning we officially broke ground on our new home. Sanders is our full-service foundation and excavating contractor, and they brought out the big equipment.

By the end of the day Monday, we couldn't even see the building site for the big piles of dirt.

But there was definitely a big hole hiding behind those piles of dirt.

But the discovery the next morning of our hole taking on a little water has lead to our first cost overrun. The amount of water was not drastic, and it didn't actually interfere with their ability to continue working -- but being August, and it hasn't rained in about a month, if we're taking on water now, we're really in trouble come next spring. So we made the decision to add a second sump pump pit.

Here are our footings and sumps in place:

With gravel in place and the forms delivered, they are ready to set and pour walls on Monday.

Dream House

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I think it might actually happen...

About 18 months ago, we purchased a half-acre lot in an older, established subdivision, with grandiose plans to build our dream home. We put together a design, and set about trying to get estimates. It became apparent though, over the next few months, that our minds had bitten off more than our pocketbook could chew. So the whole idea was shelved for a while.

Then I sat down and trimmed down the design (a little anyway, it wouldn't be our Dream House if I had trimmed down a lot), simplified the footprint a bit (to bring the cost per square foot down a little), and started over getting estimates. This time, things were a looking a little tight, but it just might be feasible -- if we eliminated the overhead costs of a general contractor by managing the project ourselves, and chopped out some of the labor costs by doing much of the internal work ourselves. But how to find a bank that was willing to lend a construction loan to a "self-builder".

Even in this economy, post-banking crisis, advertisements and mailings for Mortgages are relatively frequent -- but only select banks deal with Construction Loans, because it creates greater risk (there's no collateral until the house is complete) and greater management overhead (they have to inspect your progress at various intervals). And most of those banks require a General Contractor/Builder -- some even have a short list of General Contractors, and will not work with any others. But in this present stingy-lending economy, the few banks that used to consider loaning to self-builders have ceased to take on that risk. But after months of searching, we finally found a willing lender.

We now have a commitment from Normandy Corporation to finance construction, and have secured our building permit. Now we are refreshing the bids on construction, and if we can actually Close on the construction loan soon, we just may be breaking ground within the next couple weeks. Of course, if I had a dime for every time I've told someone over the past year that we were only a "couple weeks away from breaking ground", I'd probably have the house paid off already.

If anyone is interested, here are the floor plans for our new "scaled-back" Dream Home.

Demolition Man, The Sequel

Monday, August 2, 2010

[I hadn't intended to leave such a large time gab between the last cliffhanger post and this one, had a few other things come up that were higher priority than blogging]

When last we left our intrepid home repair hero (um, I mean Me), he had successfully removed a 60"x30"x72" shower/tub enclosure from the bathroom, without causing any damage to the framing or plumbing.

With that out, I was able to inspect for signs of water damage (after all, there had been some form of crack on the bottom of the tub on and off for twelve years). There were some water stains around the edges where the caulking had apparently not entirely done its job, but there was no buckling or warping of the wood. There were no signs of water ever getting through the crack in the tub. In fact, inspecting the tub that now lay in pieces in my driveway, it appears the crack had always only been in the gelcoat surface, and had never gone all the way through the fiberglass structure. Unfortunately though, as you can see in the picture, there were signs of mold growth on the insulation.

So, time to pull out the contaminated insulation, and use a little bleach wash on the studs just in case the mold had invisibly spread to them. There were no signs of mold on the two "short walls", so I left that insulation in place. Here you can see the exorcised framing.

In addition, newer tub models do not have their drains in exactly the same location as the one I just removed -- so I was going to have to widen the cutout for the drain, and cutoff the drain tailpipe to move the drain plumbing. I broke out the reciprocating saw again. This would be the final demolition step -- after this I could get to the fun part of installing the new tub. Widening the cutout was no big deal -- but I should have reverted to the dremmel for cutting off the drain pipe -- sitting right behind the drain pipe was a copper supply line, and yup, I nicked that sucker just enough for water to come spraying out.

What happened next was just the sort of chaotic panic you would expect when water is suddenly spraying uncontrollably in your house. I ran to our front coat closet where I thought our main water shutoff valve was, while my wife ran around turning other faucets on to try to relieve the pressure on the leak (unfortunately, we have pretty decent water pressure in our house, so the leak was still spraying strongly even with nearly everything turned on).

We have three valves in the front closet -- two smaller, and one larger valve. The two smaller ones each shutoff the outdoor house bibs on either side of the house. I have used those to "winterize" by shutting off the supply from inside for the winter. I have always assumed, though never had a reason to confirm, that the big valve was the main shutoff for the house. Wrong. Apparently, the larger one is just a master control for the two smaller ones. Yes, that valve essentially just shuts off the two external hose bibs and nothing else. So, then I run out to the front yard to where the water meter pit is to see if I can get the cover off. Turns out those things have a pentagonal nut holding them on. Every wrench or socket I have is designed for hexagonal nuts. I run to my neighbors to see if he can help. He runs over with an armload of various wrenches, and after extensive fiddling, manages to get the cover off, and we finally succeed in shutting of the water supply to the whole house.

Luckily, the leak was spraying almost directly downward inside the crawlspace. The good news being that nothing else got wet, the bad news being the big puddle of water in the crawlspace -- and, of course, the broken pipe. Turns out I had nicked the pipe right at a T-intersection where three different pipes were connected.

Now, I know very little about sweating copper pipe, and I certainly wasn't going to start with a repair like this. A friend of mine suggested that I get some compression fittings and attach a plastic fitting to the three copper pipes to fit everything back together again.
So I ran out and purchased the necessary compression fittings and T-fitting and had a Go. Got everything put together, went out and turned the water on -- water sprayed from almost all my fittings. So, I try again, take all the fittings off, re-seat, and try again. I probably killed 6-8 hours trying to get that to work before I finally gave up.

Next day, I called a plumber, who came out and sweated new copper pipe in its place in about 90 minutes, and the whole thing held together without problems on the first attempt. So, now I just blew $300 fixing a problem on a project I had only planned on spending about $300 on. That little nicked pipe just doubled the cost of my little bathroom renovation project.

But at least demolition was complete, and I could now concentrate on getting back to the business of putting in my new tub -- stay tuned for the installation story.
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