February pulled it’s traditional trick, hinting at spring – sunny but cold days, light breezes, minimal rain and convinced several people in the family that it was time to start working again. I warned everyone I could, reminding them that true spring wouldn’t show up for at least 3 more month, and that March was going to be like a club to the back of the head, but I wasn’t heeded.
The first day back on the site was cold but dry. Dad started back on the plumbing he’d left in October, Simon completed the framing on all the windows in the house and Mom and I worked on cutting out the doorways and windows. With most of the exterior sheathed and the rest covered in house wrap, the inside of the structure was very dark and very cold.
Dad spent several hours with the skill-saw, notching out the path of the sewer line in the studs, to the point that it looked suspiciously like nothing but a sliver was holding up the south-east corner of the house.
Being perpetually short on ladders, I constructed a rickety scaffold with the two extremely funky saw horses and some scrap 2×10. Using a Sawsall directly above your head is never fun, but considerably less fun when your footing is only semi secure. Mom stood by to act as a soft landing ground, should I loose my footing.
Simon did not spend the whole day staring wistfully into space, this photo might actually be the only second he was still for the 6 hours we were at the property. He started on the second floor and quickly finished all the cripples and headers for the partically framed windows. He finished up with the window right next to the entry way and Mom and I decided actually putting a window in would be the best way to end the day.
We wrapped the frame with strips of house wrap and Mom dug through our window pile to find the right window.
Inserting it and securing it went so quickly, I didn’t have time to document the actual event.
Instead I just snuck in and pretended like I had helped.
As fall has set in, we’ve slowed down – school started again and Si went back to money making efforts. We got the roof framed and tar papered before the rain started, though the day we finished the final roof, Si and I were on the roof until 7:30, the sun going down and a light drizzle starting. Climbing down a 25 foot extension ladder in dusk with all our tools wasn’t fun.
We pushed ourselves, right to the end, so when our house sit on island ended and we came back to Seattle, everyone needed a breather.
Since the last post a lot has happened.
Some of it involved clowning around
But to the large extent it was just hard work. We have no photos of the framing of the second floor – dad and Si were working 10 hour days to get the roof up before school started again and I was stuck in Seattle, making the money.
I had a 2 week period between jobs and stayed with the men, working on framing the roof and taking photos.
I spent several days up in the rafters, staining the exposed framing while dad and Si put up roof joists.
There was a lot of time spent kicking it up in the rafters, it took enough effort to get up and down that unless it was an emergency, it was easier to just stay up.
After many, many trips up and down various ladders
We had a roof
Everyone was pretty frazzled, but pleased
Si did a jig
Actually, we are even further along now, but you get the idea. Obviously many things have happened since the last post. I will attempt to catch you up.
First, we finished building the forms for the stem wall and footing.
This the morning of the pour, Simon is in the process of sawing out the hole in the form for the sewer line.
A giant pumping truck stuffed itself down our drive and drove right up to the site. The first concrete truck showed up soon after.
The hose from the pumper could reach all the way around the form, so there was no shoveling of concrete to do, much to Simon’s relief.
Once the truck got in place and started pumping, we didn’t stop moving until the concrete ran out.
Dad ran the hose, Simon agitated the fresh concrete while Jon, my mom and I followed behind, smoothing the top with trowels and moving excess concrete around.
The second truck load of concrete filled the form to the top and we started setting J bolts and making sure the top was level.
Despite the sweet tool Si made for sighting the depth of the J bolts, many of them ended up a little wonky.
Luckily we have an angle grinder, a roto-hammer and gorilla glue.
We ended the day totally exhausted, though less than we would have been without Jon, who left too soon to be rewarded with a beer.
We call him Sam, which is most likely not his name, but he doesn’t have a tag.
He generally shows up at the work site after we’ve been there for an hour or so. He announces his presence by “buzzing the tower” as Si calls it. This involves dashing out of the woods and tearing past you, just inches from your legs, making a quick turn several feet after passing and racing back on your other side. Eventually he’ll calm down and just hang out, he likes to follow me around the work site, putting his head just within petting range. I am completely smitten.
Si is charmed by Sam’s antics as well,
he loves a strategic look out,
Which I often find very distracting.
But who can blame me? Have you looked at that face?!
And yea it was boring and lame. So I’m going to gloss over it.
After most of the hand digging was completed, we started placing the 20 foot 2x8s that would create the form for the footing. Because the house is not a 20 foot by 20 foot square, we had to cut boards to fit and piece them together with scabs. As we put the pieces together, we also had to keep the entire form at the appropriate height. Dad set up the transit level and we began the long and annoying process of leveling the form while whaling on it with hammers, digging under it and pounding in stakes next to it.
The rules were as follows:
The space between the boards needed to be 12″
Each board had to be level the whole 20′ and continue being level around corners and through being scabbed to additional boards.
(and there was more digging, naturally)
Cleats had to be set every 4 feet and at each corner, each one being squared to the inside board.
Rebar had to be placed within the forms, wired from the cleats to hang no less than 3 inch above the ground or from the exterior boards. Each new piece of rebar had to overlap with the previous piece by at least 18 inches and had be bent around corners.
Bending rebar is a job best done with 2 people, though it’s hard to convince Si of that.
The semi completed form looks like this
We spent several weekends getting just this bottom part of the form put together.
And there was more digging, of course.
My first day at the newly cleared site was a foul, rainy, windy day. Everything in the truck was soaked and quickly, so were we. It was impressive to be able to actually picture a house in what used to be only forest, but with my hood up and coat zipped to my chin, I didn’t do much looking around. We unloaded supplies, set up the transit level and discussed the plan of action.
The clearing had been taken care of, but the trench the footing form would set in still needed to be dug, so our trusty trackhoe operator appeared after we had set stakes for the permitter. He quickly set to carefully excavating the trench, moving with amazing speed and accuracy.
(click me for video!)
After the major excavation was completed, we started cleaning out the trenches and leveling the ground for the 2x8s that would soon be creating the walls of our footing form. The dirt was extremely rocky and digging in the rain is never fun, so both Simon and I were quickly tired and a little cranky.
By the end of the day, we had the trench roughed out for the footing and had enough supplies to start putting it all together.
We were also tired, damp and looking towards days and days of more digging, hauling supplies and working in the rain.
None of us were aware or prepared for the magnitude of the “by hand” portion of the foundation work. We began this huge under taking by stock piling a seemingly endless list of materials and tools needed to simply make liquid rock sit still long enough and strong enough to plop a house atop.
Our trusty Ford “Bruno” set to hauling load after load of rebar, 3/4 inch plywood sheets, j-bolts, cleats, mono-straps, scabs, blocks and braces, stakes and of course, my horse shoe set and snacks.
We have only weekends and my occasional solo labor during the school year as Greg (or “the right honorable captain Greg sir” as I refer to him) is head teacher all week at an elementary school.
As a result, the footing and stemwall form construction moves slow with gaps of three to seven days. This is difficult because the flow of work is interrupted and there are many hours of hauling tools and trying to remember where one might have left off last week, along with being already exhausted from our week of regular work. No matter though, most weekend mornings find us with energy and high spirits, mostly due to coffee consumption on the part of the right honorable, captain Greg sir and myself.
As the days go by, we draw closers to a foundation, which, you must admit, sounds like a pretty good way to start a house. It seems like, with that accomplished, statistically speaking, we have a wonderful chance of putting a house on it. This excites me and pushes me on. It has, is and will be a hard damn project, but it was too late to back down when I was divining for our water line and getting sawdust in my undies. Forward brave Foster-Rainwater-Martins. We are not turned away by a challenge, but embrace it with full hearts.
(A crappy picture for a kinda crappy day)