April 09, 2005

House Project - Day 17: Foundation Walls Finished

The masonry crew has essentially completed the buildup of the foundation walls. The exterior of the walls has been smoothed over by a layer of cement, and is awaiting the application of some sort of tar-based waterproofing agent before the backfill goes back in.

That waterproofing agent can't be applied until the cement layer is completely dry, which won't be for another couple of days. Also, they have to punch through from the new foundation area back into the old basement, and this will happen in the area of the old rear bump-out. After that, the floor slab will be poured, and then the foundation will essentially be complete.

There was a basement window placement issue that popped up, which Wendy's eagle eye caught today from the dining room window. She saw that the two northern basement windows were not lined up correctly. I teased her by saying she was in a horrible position -- being essentially perpendicular to the alignment plane -- to determine whether that was truly the case. Still she ignored me, grabbed the plans, and went out to discuss with the foundation subs.

Turns out she was right.

The foundation sub had built the bulkhead slightly off spec because:
a) the spec was for a prebuilt bulkhead, and they were building a full bulkhead
b) the foundation subs thought there should have been more space between the old foundation and the bulkhead wall for drainage purposes

The architect had originally specified a prebuilt bulkhead, which is more space-saving than a fully built one, as well as a fourth basement window for symmetry. And he squeezed both of them in the area to the left of the family room exit door landing and stairs.

With the moves the foundation subs made, the fourth window was now intruding into where the exit landing and stairs would be. The sub didn't know this because he was only working from the foundation plans and didn't have the elevations to see how the basement windows fit in with the structures above.

After a short consultation, we decided that the moves were made for good reasons and that sacrificing a fourth basement window was a small price to pay, so we asked to sub to fill in the fourth window.

Meanwhile, you can see the overall shape of the addition now from the 2nd floor hallway window. And eyeballing down the west wall back to the existing house, you can start to see how it'll lay out on that side of the house. The dining room and bedroom windows will be shifted left, and the family room exit will have a landing and stairs parallel to the driveway.

It's still a little bit hard to get a sense of scale just yet, although the addition certainly doesn't seems as massive as we feared it might have been when the foundation pit was first dug. "It's the perfect size addition for this house," John the Builder said when we asked him for his opinion, and we think he's right.

April 06, 2005

House Project - Day 14: Foundation Footings Poured, Basement Walls Started

Work on the house stalled over the weekend and into Monday as we waited for the town to inspect and approve the forms that were laid late last week for the foundation footings. Apparently, someone at the town thought the rains over the weekend would have turned our foundation pit into a muddy mess since our house is located among other properties that are within a flood plain, even though ours is not. They thought they would not be able to climb down into the pit to do the inspection. But we apparently have very good draining dirt so there was no reason to delay.

So John the contractor put a call in Tuesday morning to the town hall asking for an inspector to come out immediately so that the concrete truck, which was due to arrive later Tuesday morning, would not have to be turned away. The inspector came, gave his approval, and they poured the concrete for the foundation footings Tuesday afternoon.

From the very beginnings of this project, we knew that our driveway, being very narrow and hemmed in on both sides by retaining walls, would pose a clearance issue to any large-sized vehicle that needed to get up the driveway to the back yard. And the concrete truck was foremost in all the contractors' minds when we discussed the projects with them during the bidding phase.

As we saw last week, the backhoe barely fit in the driveway, and the same was true for the concrete truck. Wendy's great decision to spend the $2800 to replace and push back the left side retaining wall once again proved prescient, as the truck barely made it past the house, and probably would not have fit between the 2 original retaining walls at the bottom of the driveway.

Today, the masons are scheduled to come and build up the foundation walls with concrete block. I hope to have an update on that this evening.

UPDATE (10:00pm): They've removed the forms from the footings, and have started building up the basement walls with concrete masonry blocks. The blocks arrived Wednesday morning, and got forklifted up the driveway and deposited in front of the garage.

The masons didn't arrive until the afternoon, and started building up the southwest and southeast corners of the basement walls, as well as the east wall which contains the fireplace bumpout.

One thing that will be interesting to see is how they join the new block foundation to the old fieldstone foundation. It won't look quite as jarring on the dining room side of the house, since the new foundation starts in on the old foundation, but on the kitchen side the old rear bumpout was demolished, which means the new foundation will have to continue flush from the old foundation. They'll stucco the exterior, but it'll still be a jarring juxtaposition, I think.