Friday, July 5, 2013

Dystopian Lawn

Concrete, I found out, cures best in terms of strength and uniform color when submerged in water.  Thus, we had to keep the slab wet for as long as possible, day and night.  This was no small task in consistently 85 degree cloudless days.  Time to bring in the sprinklers.

Kevin and I experimented with various combinations of sprinklers in different places.  We tried the classic CHK CHK CHK, BRRRRR ones, we tried the more pleasant arcing SHHHHHH ones.  We decided to use both to get the most coverage, with least overlap.

After turning the sprinklers on, it felt like we were watering our big hard cement lawn.  And then there was nothing left to do but have a mid-summer lawn party.  Our special guest Joanna led the way with bathing suits and frolicking.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Big Slab

After the rigid foam insulation, the radiant heat, the plastic vapor barrier and lots more reinforcing rebar was in place, it's time to pour the slab insulation.  Since the slab will be the floor in this house, it needs to be more or less perfectly level.  To achieve that result, we hired a subcontractor who deals with this everyday.  They arrived with a team of eight or so, many of them related through blood and marriage I gathered from the conversation.  Kevin and I were there to direct and supervise.  The sub brought a huge concrete pump truck with a big boom to shoot concrete.  It was a perfect day to pour - on the colder side with solid cloud cover but no rain - so the concrete could be leveled and manipulated for a good hour or so before it was too hard to move.

Two guys manned the boom, while another two did the initial pass of getting the liquid concrete level, and two more followed to get the level precisely with big "bull floats" that skim across the surface of.  Another one stood around; I'm still unclear on his role.  It was lots of action and lots of noise for about four hours, then they packed up and left, and we were left with an impressive slab of concrete slowing curing and changing color. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Radiant Heat

One of the cooler things about this house is the radiant heat in the main level floors (pun intended).  I had, of course, experienced radiant floor heat before but had little idea how it worked.  Turns out that it's hundreds of feet of plastic piping in funny patterns running all through the floors that carries the hot water.  This house will have six different "loops" for different areas of the house.  There are various theories on how to install the piping for maximum efficiency and comfort, but the way that we chose is to install the piping so it runs to the outside of the house first, where most heat is lost through windows and doors, and to group the piping closer together in areas that will be more frequently used like the kitchen and entryway. 

To install the piping, we used a fancy stapler that shoots big plastic staples that fit the diameter of the plastic pipes.  The staples are inserted into the foam insulation boards underneath.  We had to be careful to document with pictures and tape measures where all the pipes go, so we don't accidentally drill into one down the road when installing an interior wall.  There's also the danger of puncturing a pipe while pouring the concrete slab.  One sorta cool way to tell right away if this happens during the pour is to fill the pipes with mint essence so that if there's a leak it'll smell like mint and you'll know to act quick to stop the leak.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pouring the footings

With the forms and rebar all set up, Kevin ordered up 16 yards of concrete for delivery and a pump truck to get the stuff from the road to the building area.  The pump truck was an impressive machine, handled by a quirky guy in a fedora.

Pump master setting up the concrete hose

Leveling and smoothing
Admiring the work.
It went really smoothly.  We've got footings, folks!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Footing forms

This week we built the forms for the footings, the basis of the foundation.  Instead of going the traditional route and using lots and lots of wood panels, we used a fancy woven plastic material stapled to 2x4s to hold the concrete. The 2x4s are held into place with lots and lots of stakes pounded into the ground with short 1x4 cross pieces attached for lateral rigidity.

The first step was getting all the locations of the footings spot on.  Lots of measuring and staring at the blueprints.  That fun thing on the tripod is the German laser level, Hans.
Then a solid six or so hours of pounding stakes. 
The next step was to attach cross-pieces to make sure the wood and plastic held solid while thousands of pounds of concrete is poured into it.  Then the rebar work started.  Lengths of rebar are laid horizontally and vertically to reinforce the concrete.  We have a manual rebar bender/cutter on site to make all those crazy shapes.
Each length of rebar has to lay at a certain height in a certain place in the footing.  To make that happen we used thousands of little metal twist ties and a funny tool called a whirleybird to tighten them.  I made my carpal-tunnel appointment in advance.

 And a pointy rebar section christened the work site with the first blood drawn.  Might not be the last.
 At the end of it we had an intricate snaking tunnel of metal and wood, ready for concrete.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

120 Yards

One hundred twenty cubic yards.  That's a lot of dirt.  Think swimming pools full of dirt.  And multiply it.  Twelve dump trucks full to be exact. 

That quantity of dirt is result of the excavation for the foundation.  The building site slopes considerably and obviously the house has to be level,  so that means digging.  And digging.  And digging.  With a big machine.  Using the smaller excavator that we have been renting for our drainage work it would have taken days and many many trips to dump the dirt with our trailer.  

Before excavation
After we got fern gully on it
Some jobs, I came to see, are worth paying other people to do.  Shold excavating, a local company here in Port Hadlock, did the digging and trucking in one day.  I'm not normally one given to envy, but man, their excavator is cool.  The bucket, as you can see, is fairly enormous.  At least 50 puppies could fit in there. 

The excavating exposed some wet seeps in the soil.  Which means muddy mucky stuff.  Frustrating.  We were running on the assumption that the numerous underground drainages, which we've been working on for weeks, would have caught that water and taken it directly to the bay.  But alas, it's a wet place.  The water keeps coming.  There will be drains around the foundation footings to hopefully take away any remaining water. (A footing is a concrete base that supports the foundation walls.  The footings in this case run the perimeter of the house and measure 18 inches deep by 2 feet wide.  We're looking to pour the footings next week.)  But since the soil is mostly clay - which turns to slop when saturated - it's pretty important to make sure there's not a ton of water under the foundation. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Trailer Life

Two six-foot plus guys in a small '70s era trailer.  Four days a week.  It's not just a sitcom, it's our lives...
It's starting to feel like home
Kevin and I spend four days a week at the building site.  We're staying in a '70s era 20 foot trailer.  It's cozy and welcoming (despite door signs otherwise).  It used to be a ski trailer, the previous owner parked it up near a ski resort for the winters.  It's got a wood burning stove, and old skis screwed and glued to the outside of the trailer.  It's quite a sight out here right on a bay filled with four-bedroom homes and other non-mobile living arrangements.  

Before Kevin towed the trailer out to the site, we installed a kitchen area and some bunk beds and new flooring.  We built a deck and outdoor shower, which is pretty nice after working all day though a bit chilly before the summer heat arrives. 
Installing the deck.
So what do two bearded men do in a small trailer after the work day is over?  Well, we've got a small stereo system so there's usually music or radio programs. The kitchen set-up is modest but serviceable so we usually cook something up, and this being a trailer, that something involves at least canned item per regulations.  We talk and drink wine.  We look out at the bay. 

Who needs a corkscrew when you have pry bars and power tools?
Good meal, bad facial hair.
Kevin's dog Huck pays a visit.