Some people assume that I do all of the heavy work while Emily sits by and buffs her nails and stuff. Nope…not my girl! Emily has muled (yup, that’s my verb) 80 pound bags of concrete and 45 concrete blocks every bit as much as I did. She dug a large part of the footer which is the only reason we got it done. Yes, that’s right, we got it dug!
I don’t like digging or working with concrete. It is absolutely miserable work and I am absolutely thrilled that we were only temporarily employed as human backhoes!
The saga of our building a foundation after we built a house continues…in this latest episode, our heroes are positioned to build a wooden wall atop the block wall that they completed in our last episode. Will they get splinters? Will the Mrs. pummel the Mr. because of his stupidity? Stay tuned viewers and find out!
Ok, so we built a wall on the back side of the building. Of course, the idea is to eventually frame in all four sides with wooden framed walls on top of the block base. We could have blocked the walls all of the way up but we both decided that we do not like lifting blocks any higher than we have to and that I am better and faster with wood. We added a sill plate on top of the blocks and secured it with j-bolts embedded in concrete we used to fill in the holes in the blocks. On top of that, we used treated 2x4s to build a traditional wall. I made the fit tight for the wall boards so it will, in fact, provide a level of support to the entire structure as well. The bulk of the weight of the building will remain on the posts and piers but the outer walls will have additional support.
Did you know that the outer walls carry the bulk of the weight of a building? All of the weight of the roof (in our style building, anyhow), is evenly spread between the outer walls opposite the gable ends? I learned all sorts of stuff building this house, and, in particular, the way loads are carried and how to balance the weight of the house. In reality, the house is not all that heavy. Of course, you wouldn’t want to be under it if it fell, but spread out over its base, the pressure in a given area is not as bad as I expected when I first started ciphering on this place. There are all sorts of calculations one needs to do related to live and dead loads, soil bearing capacity and component strengths when you build a house. I had no idea but it’s pretty interesting to read and makes sense when you even realize these things are indeed things.
Anyhow, we finished the tallest of the “basement” walls and have blocks laid for half of each side wall. We now need to dig additional footer space at the front of the building and the remaining halves of each side. It should not be a terrible job but it will have to be done by hand as the excavator arm will not fit under the building in the remaining spots.
Our heroes have an interesting (not really) weekend ahead of them. Stay tuned to our next episode…”Human backhoes”
I know, I have been posting way too much about the (slow) progress we have been making on the deluxe deer stand. Sorry but that’s been a large part of what we have been doing lately. So, we have been digging and concreting and cussing like mad to build a foundation under our already-built house. Originally, we built the place on a post-and-pier foundation and that will remain the true foundation but we decided to add a traditional foundation (sort of) to give us some storage under the place and to cut the wind/cold in the winter. So, we have been adding footers and new concrete block walls. The first day of concrete, Emily and I mixed around 3200 pounds of concrete which I had to carry, bucket at a time, from the mixer (electric…thank goodness) to the footer form we dug/built. We double handled the weight and that was a drag…
Those of you who know about foundations know that the footer is traditionally poured in one pour so there are no joints. That was not an option for us and since this isn’t a true foundation (except we are building it to spec aside from the joints), it should work for us. We will have a few cold joints but they will be connected by rebar and buried well below the frost-line.
Emily’s grandfather, Emily and I set the corner last weekend. The corner blocks have to be level/square/plumb and can be a pain the the hind-end. So, it took us 5 hours to lay 5 blocks (also, see cussing mentioned above…there were a few missteps), but our corner is excellent! Emily’s grandfather is 87 and worked every bit as hard as we did. He slung block around and stood in the ditch all day helping us get things right…it was amazing!
This weekend, Emily and I went back and laid 50-some more blocks and got the bottom third of the footer above grade. I have to tell you, if I had it to do over again, I would definitely build my foundation before the house. I am still quite pleased with the post-and-pier foundation but traditional foundations should definitely be built where there is plenty of room to work!
Setting block is tough work and I cannot wait to have this part done. It’s hard and I wish I had dishpan hands! Concrete is hard on my delicate digits! I’ll show some more details of how we plan to enclose this bottom part later but I promise to get off of this kick for a little while…bear with me?
My buddy with the excavator came out again the other day. He was able to dig some of the foundation out for me (more on that soon) but had to run to another thing he had going on. Bravely, he left the excavator for me to use to dig additional footers for my pump house.
I have run an excavator exactly one other time and that was somewhere around 2001…and that was only for 20 minutes…and it was on flat land at our place in Nashville. Here in West-by-God-Virginia (the one true Virginia…sorry East Virginia), there is nary a piece of flat land to be found.
So, my buddy left and I went to town. The basics of running an excavator are not hard but the devil is in the details. I guess I ran the machine for about 3 hours and dug an ugly but usable footer for the pump house and was able to move a little additional dirt out of the way. I had a good time doing it and didn’t get bored for even a second. I also felt like I was still on the machine 8 hours later, swinging the arm back and forth bumping and bouncing.
I think one thing I have learned in building this house is that folks who do any sort of construction work are probably under-appreciated. It’s hard to run an excavator well. It’s hard to make sure walls are plumb and it’s hard to cut miters. I think that is why Emily and I are building this ourselves and why we are particularly proud of how things are turning out. I also appreciate that I do not have to do this every single day!
Emily’s granddad gave me his words of wisdom on plumbing. He said, “Always remember, hot is on the left and %#@* runs down hill.” This weekend, we came a little closer to testing each of those rules. Thus far, we have…uh…been becoming closer to mother-nature in a special way.
So, that gets old pretty quickly as you might guess and we are so ready for real plumbing. The distance from the cabin to the septic tank is around 90 feet. I dug about 60 or so feet by hand but I just didn’t have the heart to finish it and really, I wanted it to be 3 feet deep rather than 2. A friend of mine took pity on me. You see, said friend owns an excavator and generously volunteered to come out and help me dig a proper trench for the waste line. We started around 7:30 and had it dug pretty quickly. In fact, we had all of the pipe glued together and buried in place before lunch. That’s even including the obligatory trip to the plumbing store to get missing parts. PVC pipe is really great but not flexible so when you need a 22.5 degree elbow, a 45 degree elbow just won’t work.
Emily brought us some Taco Bell and my friend and I ate too many bean burritos and tacos. After a quick lunch, we dug a second trench to install the clean water line from the cistern to the house. The water pipe I bought is rated to 200 psi which is capable of being directly buried and all that, but I decided to bury it within a PVC conduit just to give another protective layer to the water pipe from which we will hopefully be drinking. We kept digging (close to the house which was a little scary) and had another 3 foot trench dug and water line reburied by supper time.
There is still plenty of work to do, but we are much closer to testing whether we suitably followed both rules of plumbing. I especially hope we got the second rule right!
Emily and I were talking about the deluxe deer stand the other day…we poured piers for the foundation, built the floor, set all of the walls and the loft and the roof…and all of that happened pretty quickly. It seems like we have been putting siding on the building since before I hit puberty though. How did we build the entire shell in what seems like less time that it is taking us to get the shell covered?!
I guess like everything, when the more detailed work gets going, things necessarily slow down. We are taking our time installing the siding so the rain will hopefully remain outside. Anyhow, we have finally finished siding 3 of the 4 walls. We’ll finish the 4th wall when we get a deck built around that back side. It’s just too high to do the peak until then.
We finally installed the final window last weekend as well. How many executive deer stands do you know of that have nice big windows? We still have one door to install (on the back where it is so high) to finish the outer shell. I’ll tell you, windows are wonderful! Emily and I looked across the hills and the windows make the deer stand just about perfect!
I know you are probably wondering about the waspers I talked about a few weeks ago. They were not kind neighbors so I bought a brand new can of wasper spray at the Piggly Wiggly (not really…it was Kroger…PW just sounds better). I emptied the entire can shooting directly up into the “nest hole” where millions and millions of waspers poured out. Of those millions, I think 7 died. The spray can said the stuff killed for 24 hours. We came back a week after spraying and the waspers were still all over their nest. I know the can wouldn’t lie so my only explanation is that those bugs are seriously tough. I am rethinking my relationship with the wasper family. I think next week, we will take them a loaf of banana bread and a nice quiche.
As with most of the country, it has been hot as blazes here in West-by-God-Virginia. Since the heat may continue on until Christmas, we decided to continue to plow onward with the work on the cabin, although at a slowed pace.
On Independence day as well as this past Sunday, we worked on hanging siding on the third side of the “deluxe shed”. In a new record, we made it out to the place at 8:30 am. You see, we usually mess around and do other things…like eat at Panera…we do that way too often.
We usually have to stop by one of the home improvement places and get supplies…of course, it’s the weekend so we usually sleep in too. Anyhow, with the temps, we decided to break tradition on all accounts and start early before it got hot. We did start early, but we did not beat the heat.
So, we took tons of water and wore sunscreen and hats and all of that stuff. Across the span of the two days, we were able to hang the siding on the third side of the “luxury deer stand”. It is coming along nicely.
There are other builders in our neighborhood also. We tried to get to know the neighbors but they are not terribly friendly.
The bottom of the cabin is exposed still and some bald-faced hornets have decided to take up residence and build a bigger-than-i’d-like paper nest. I found out that this style of hornet is really a yellow jacket variant which is in the wasper genus. For anyone not familiar, wasper is Southern for wasp. Many folks actually say it sort of like “washper”. Anyhow, the Wasper family have moved in and are not at all friendly. We’ll have to deal with that later. I will collect their home and display it as a trophy in the deluxe shed come fall…
It’s been awhile since I wrote about the work we have done on the cabin. Spring soccer season started for both kids so our trips to the country have all but stopped.
Anyhow, before soccer started, we made some good progress on getting siding up on the side of the cabin Emily calls the back (but everyone else calls the front…except me, I support me wife of course!). Siding is pretty easy thankfully so we made pretty quick progress. The plan is to build a covered porch on the back(front) so we sided up to the point where we will tie the porch roof to the house.
We had a covered porch at our place in Nashville when we lived there. Even better than being covered, it was also screened in. We haven’t officially decided whether to screen in a portion of the new place but I suspect we will have some sort of mosquito shelter.
I made the call to the electric company to get power turned on to the place. My original hope was to bury a large portion of the line that crosses our property but the price went up significantly since I first talked with the power company. So, uh, I like the idea of a loverly powerline crossing my view of the forest. Anyhow, we will soon have power to the place which is sure to make the kids happy…they desperately want a fan they can sit in front of while we work. Ahh, the life!
Isaac, my Dad and I hauled concrete block out to the place so we can begin the work on enclosing the bottom of the place as well. There are just so many things that all really need to happen at the same time. It will be an interesting summer of construction!
Our winter was not a winter and I couldn’t be happier! Still, we had to take a break from working on the cabin as the rains and soccer interrupted our schedule for most of January. This weekend was free and absolutely beautiful so we got back to work! Both of the kids came up on Saturday and explored the woods a good bunch with the girl down the road. Emily and I discovered just how out of shape our ladder climbing legs had become. We also discovered just how pasty white our skin had become. I ended up getting another ridiculous basball cap ring from the sun this weekend…geez.
Anyhow, we got the soffit and fascia up on the back end of the house a few weeks ago. This weekend we got it up on both sides of the cabin so now there are no places for critters to get inside. Spring is apparently here and the birds will soon be looking for nesting spots and the open eaves would have been prime real estate. Crisis averted! The drag is, installing soffit goes up 12 inches at a time so getting both sides installed took a million trips up and down the ladder. I just cannot manage more than one piece at a time while trying to hold on to the ladder and the hammer. Maybe I will end up with a yoga booty when this is all done!
Finishing the ends/corners of the soffit and fascia can be done several different ways. I guess everyone has a preference without knowing it…the only thing is, when you see what you don’t like, it stands out like crazy…I think. Maybe I am crazy. Anyhow, we did it the right way so I am pretty pleased with the end result.
Soccer is about to start up again (we play fall, winter and spring leagues…gee whiz…too much soccer) so I am not sure what the coming weeks look like for progress but we will add the ledger boards for the deck (the board that hooks to the house) and then get siding up. Siding should go up fast since we can cover large areas in short time with the long pieces. We have already started to see the effects of UV on the weather guard. The orange plastic caps on the nails we used to hang the house wrap are faded to nearly white on the two sides that get the most sun (the picture right above is a good example…compare the white nail caps with the orange caps in the picture right below). Siding is UV resistant and is critical before summer gets here.
I can tell by the look on your face that you are not nearly as excited as I am to see the soffit and fascia in place, but just you wait until I get my yoga booty going! Maybe I can work on a soffit and fascia work-out tape! Call me the next Richard Simmons!
Is it January? It was beautiful today. The building fates have been with us indeed. We finally made it back to the property today and made some more progress on the deluxe shed…I mean deer stand…I mean the cabin. The weather man assured us it was supposed to be sunny and 60 so we headed out early…way before it was either sunny or 60. It still wasn’t January cold but I could have stayed in bed pretty easily. Anyhow, we drove out in the woods and there were icicles on the trees and everywhere else too. We had planned to install soffit and fascia on the sides of the cabin because the wind runs right up under the eaves and gives me the heebie geebies…like it could rip the roof right off and send it down over the hill. I haven’t hugged a ladder so many times as I have this winter as we work in the wind. It is always windy on top of our ridge but I think winter wind is the wildest.
So we pulled up and saw all sorts of icicles starting to melt and drip right down the fascia board where we had planned to work. Time to change plans. I guess it worked out better because dripping water running down my back would be high on the crap-I-don’t-want-to-do list. We cut a several pieces of soffit at a time but I could only work with two pieces at a time up on the ladder. So, every two pieces I had to climb up and down the ladder. That makes for a slow and tiring day.
Emily and I decided to take a short walk in the woods since we were just so doggone efficient at getting work done. It sounded like it was raining with all of the ice melting off of the trees. It was so cool. The only sounds we could hear were from the forest. I love being out there because it always seems to amaze me. At least as many water drops ran down my back as would have if we had worked on the soffit and fascia on the side of the house. I didn’t mind the water in the woods though. Perspective is sort of funny, isn’t it?