Monday, July 26, 2010

Concrete walls!

The house earthwork and foundation are progressing well. Below is one image of our new concrete walls, and you can also visit a full web gallery of photos.

These photos are actually 10 days old, as I've just been too busy to post them! I'll take new photos at the end of the week to show the additional progress.

On the news front, the surprisingly different grade than the survey indicated continues to challenge us, though our team has been great at adapting to the situation and making lemonade from lemons. We've changed the site plan a bit by removing retaining walls along the west side of the property, and adding one to the east side. We also are going to use some of the rocks from the rockery at the front of the property to create a new rockery wall in our backyard. The rocks will retain the grade change along the north property line, so that we can still have a level backyard.

Finally, with the change to expand the basement level there was a miscommunication, and a bit of extra wall was poured full-height that wasn't originally intended to be full height (in the upper-right corner of the above photograph). However, given the grade along this area of the property, our architect felt it was a lucky accident since some sort of wall is needed in that area to retain the taller grade, anyways. So, he did some small modifications to the laundry/storage area to incorporate it, and we're happy with the new design. I will post the new floorplan early next week.

One more surprise is that when we unearthed the sewer out line, we found that it was 3' higher than the slab level. This means $900 will need to be spent on a sewage pump and installation, since gravity won't pull water up from basement fixtures. We've now spent about 25% of our contingency budget; apparently most of the surprises occur during this phase of construction, however, so I've been assured we're doing well on budget. The next stage is to pour the slab with radiant heat, and create the retaining walls and hardscape along the south and east sides of the property.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

We have a big hole and footers!

We broke ground on July 29, 2010, and there has already been lots of progress and surprises. First thing's first; here is the state of the lot after about one day of digging.

And here are pictures as of today, July 8. The footers are poured, and the outline of the building foundation has been poured, as well. For the first time, we can see the shape of the building on the lot!

A full web album can be seen here.

Now on to the surprises. On the positive side, we were able to recover a significant amount of storage space in the mechanical room in the northeast corner of the building. We originally stepped the foundation in this area to avoid the permitting issues of cutting too deep along the property line. However, our geotech PanGeo was able to make the call in the field that the soil could handle a straight cut, which is easier to do and gave us more storage space!

On the negative side, the survey was surprisingly off, and the slope of the lot was more than expected. This photo includes a person, which gives a good height reference of how deep we dug at the back of the lot.

There are a number of consequences:
* More dirt had to be dug out.
* The change in grade from our entryway to the neighboring property is more than expected. This means we need to do more than planned to manage the grade, and depending on the cost, we're considering pouring a concrete retaining wall on the east side.
* The window in the studio/office will have to start higher than expected to be above grade, so it will be just two feet tall ending at the ceiling. This means it won't be an egress window, so the office can never be considered a bedroom.
* The foundation is lower than we visualized when originally looking at the lot, so the view from the third floor might be more screened than expected.
* The driveway will be more tilted than expected. Because of this, permeable pavers won't work as well, and we have to switch to a poured driveway that can be more carefully contoured.

All of this is handleable, though, and Logan's Hammer and our architect are being great in adapting to the changing conditions.

Finally, I plan to include all of my product choices in this blog, so here is the first that will be installed. We needed four recessed outdoor lights to be installed in the concrete stairs. I ordered this very simple, inexpensive black light from, with the added benefit of 12% Bing cashback! I'm going to try and order as much as possible before the Bing cashback program ends July 30.