March 31, 2005

House Project - Day 8: The real work begins

The remodeling project began in earnest today with the arrival of a backhoe and dumpster, a demolition crew, and plumber.

The plumber came by first at 7:30am, and disconnected the plumbing from the rear bump out. To do so, he also had to drain the radiator system. Around 8am, the backhoe showed up. They unloaded it from the flatbed in the street and drove it up the driveway. We had just recently had the driveway widened by replacing the concrete retaining wall with a stone block wall about 18 inches in, widening the driveway. It turns out, had we not done that (and it was Wendy's idea) there was no way the backhoe could have fit.

The backhoe immediately got to work digging up the cedar tree stump, as well as collapsing the old abandoned septic tank right next to the stump.

After the plumber completed his job at around 8:30am, the crew sealed off the kitchen doors that led to the rear bumpout, and sawed off the rear bumpout with a sawzall so that it could be pulled away from the rest of the house. There was no great precision in the process. It seemed as if they were relying on their knowledge of construction techniques and the fact that the rear bumpout probably share few if any common structural elements with the rest of the house, and could simply be ripped away.

Video of rear bumpout demolition: lower quality (~121KB), higher quality (~1.4MB)

When the demolition had been completed and most of the debris cleared away, they set about digging down to expose the corner of the bumpout foundation to see how far down it went. Code requires that foundation footings be at least 42" to support multi-story structures, and we had to determine if that was the case with the existing foundation. If it was 42" deep, we could retain the existing foundation along that length of the house.

Unfortunately, the bumpout foundation only extended about 12-15" below grade. This would not meet code, and thus had to be demolished as well.

For the rest of the day, they'll be digging out the hole for the foundation. More pics and an update later...

UPDATE (3:15pm): The foundation pit has been dug out, and the masons will arrive tomorrow to lay the concrete blocks that will form the new foundation. Then the project will wait until the town can inspect the foundation work and give the go ahead to proceed. They will then backfill around the foundation with the displaced dirt.

John, our contractor, says that the dirt is very good, with good drainage and stability, and should provide a good base for the foundation.

The act of ripping out the rear bumpout also caused some collateral damage to the plumbing and electrical: the cold water feed line to the kitchen sink, and an electrical wire to the kitchen overhead light were accidentally severed. The plumber rigged up a temporary cold water feed to the kitchen sink, and we'll just do without the overhead kitchen light for the remaining month that we are staying in the house.

Miranda checked out the work for the first time this afternoon. She was initially nonplussed by the change in scenery, but eventually pronounced good the day's work.

March 29, 2005

House Project: Getting ready to rip and dig

Our contractor showed up today and pounded in some stakes. These will mark our property side lines, so that workers won't inadvertently trample on our neighbor's property. He also drove in stakes to mark the corners of the new addition.

He also scheduled the plumber to come by this afternoon to disconnect the plumbing in the existing rear bump-out that must be demolished to make way for the addition. Once he arrived, though, he decided to postpone any plumbing work until Thursday, when the main demolition work will be done. After looking in the basement at the pipes he needed to cut off, he said the existence of a radiator in the rear bump-out complicated matters, since it necessitates the draining of the entire radiator system in the house.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, the electrician arrives to cut off all electrical to the doomed rear bump-out.

On Thursday, actual demolition is scheduled to happen, with the digging for the foundation due to take place on Friday and Saturday.

Things are moving!

My dental hygienist today joked that to ensure speedy completion of the project, we should move into his house when we get displaced. Not a bad idea!

March 23, 2005

House Project Commences

Our long-awaited, much-discussed, frequently-postponed house remodeling project has finally commenced! We signed the contract with our builder last week, and this past Monday we had asbestos abatement contractors remove the asbestos cement shingles from the exterior of our house.

Doing so exposed some very nice, thick redwood siding, painted gray. It was also covered in sheets of tinfoil, which as best as we can tell acted as sort of a Tyvek moisture barrier of its time. Unfortunately, it was supposed to have been anchored by the asbestos shingles placed on top of it. Now that the shingles are gone, the tinfoil is left to blow in the wind. And blow it does, frequently into our neighbors' yards.

It would be nice if the original redwood siding could somehow be rehabilitated, but there's just too much neglect as well as damage from the installation of the asbestos shingles. In addition to the tinfoil sheets and the asbestos shingles that were nailed into the original siding, the clapboard gaps were also feathered in with nailed in shims to create a more flattened surface on which to mount the asbestos shingles.

So for now, we've got a pseudo-space-age-looking house. Our builder hopes to be able to begin the project in earnest sometime mid-to-late next week, when he will block off a couple doorways in the kitchen, demolish the single-story rear section, and start digging for the foundation.

We've had the plans set for a while, so it's exciting to finally be on the move with the project. At last, the dishwasher is within reach!

March 09, 2005

If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers...

If Architects Had To Work Like Web Designers... "Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have somewhere between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted."