Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Stop by, Lend a Hand

From June 2nd through the 18th, Marcy and I will probably be on site nearly continuously (maybe even camping at night). So stop by to say hi or lend a hand.

We'll be building the floor deck and then the outside deck, so there's stuff anybody can handle, like staining deck boards, driving screws, etc. And no frantic race against time like with the cement.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Heck of a week

We've had a busy week! The culmination was pouring concrete, which ended good only through serendipity and pure luck, but was as close to disastrous as I could imagine.

The mistake I made was thinking rebar could be pulled up through wet cement like is done with reinforcing mesh on a concrete slab. We set it in the bottom of the footings, then after we poured, tried to pull it up via attached metal wires.

No way.

At least not with the "stiff mix" they poured for strength. This is cement that piles steep rather than flows level. More water in the mix might have made it possible.

With cement drying and us still needing to get the rebar positioned and allthread precisely embeded (holds down the house beams), we needed to work fast. And we owe everything to our friends. We asked Paul, Abby, and John to lend a hand before the pour, and then Johny and Alex happened to show up to pick up Paul and Abby for lunch, just as things started going bad.

Thanks to all their unsolicited help, we were able to shovel half the cement into a wheelbarrow (which I only brought as an afterthought), raise the rebar to the correct level, re-pour the cement and set the allthread before it was too late. This was on six footings, each with 1500 pounds of cement. And they did it all in about 15 minutes.

Now for the week in review (click photos to enlarge):

First M&M augured three 8' deep holes. We had to remove loose material so the footings rested on virgin soil. But one had roots so we had to dig around those and cut them out. Miserable job.

We put footings in the bottom of the holes, with a sonotube on top.

We also build square footings and set them in 6" shallow holes.

Here's everything after pouring concrete

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

House pad finished

Next we make footings for the foundation. We're waiting on a couple special order plastic forms called "bigfoot" so we'll probably pour concrete next week.

Apparently some child drew on my photo taken at the end of the day, but it gives an idea of the garage and house as viewed from the end of the driveway. The steep slope will require grass to protect from erosion. It's about 28 degrees. Stairs are usually around 38 degrees. Todays temperature was 58 degrees. I have 1 degree.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dirt work day 3

Things progressing nicely. Today I had them make the garage pad, which there was some misunderstanding about apparently. I had mentioned it to the contractor but he didn't know I wanted it now. Doing it later would have been a waste. They would have to dig up the tailings (driveway base material made from mining leftovers), not to mention bring in equipment another time.

Marcy is standing here about 5 feet above the original ground level, which under the garage had to be built up with compacted gravel. You can only build on undisturbed soil or compacted gravel. Digging down to undisturbed soil would create an 8 foot cutbank (vertical dirt wall) because of the steep slope, so we did gravel. I calculate they brought in about 130 cubic yards of gravel for this, plus more for under the house. The gravel drains so well we can just build a slab for the garage, which is the cheapest type of foundation but has problems with frost heave if not on gravel. I'm standing at the corner of the house pad, which is on built up dirt, but the houses weight will transfer through concrete-filled sonotubes to undisturbed soil below.

I also had them smooth out the edge of the dirt and pack it down to look better and avoid erosion. It's still really steep, but at least you can walk down it and we can plant meadow grass to prevent erosion.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dirt work day 2

Despite the heavy snow and rain, work continued. Marcy and I went to check progress, and Marcy had to leave me there because she had work. It turned out I had to stay and direct, and then cut down more trees at, if I may say, an astonishing rate. Then I had to move the biggest wood pile. For the second time. It's safe to say I'm beat.

Cody (the dozer operator) finished shaping everything and got the tailings base, supplied by two drivers of big end-dump trucks, spread over the driveway and turnaround/parking area.

Beginning of the day................... End of day

They flattened out the area for house and garage, and we made some changes to the foundation design. It will be flat under the entire house, so it won't look like it's up on stilts. We also no longer need to build seismic bracing or buy as much expensive galvanized or stainless steel.

House pad

There's plenty of work left. We need gravel on spread over everything, fuel and water tanks buried, and a septic system designed and installed. The septic will require more tree clearing, but only in the path of our view, which is what we planned on anyway.

Everything looks pretty good. The only thing not ideal is there had to be a big cutbank at the end of the driveway. Contouring would have required cutting many more trees out. Oh well.

Taken May 12th.

Dirt work day 1

Here's what they did in the first day, which was only from 11am-5pm. One operator scraped all the organic layer and stumps and moved them. Instead of burying them in a hole, they used it to build up a flatter area below the house, which will be good for raspberry bushes, a garden, a yard, whatever. They squeezed through all the trees and didn't even knock any down.
Then they roughed in the first leg of the driveway, which you see here from the top. It looks very nice and not too steep.

Marcy and I also finished stacking one pile of firewood so we should have some nice dry wood for the first winter.

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's begun!

Today M&M Constructors began the dirt work. Right now they just have one guy (That's a Cat D5) but they should have the rough work done tomorrow! Check the calendar frequently as we'll soon actually know what and when things are happening.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Why aren't we doing anything?

You may be wondering why progress seems slow (or nonexistent). Its the DOT seasonal weight restrictions. Until these are lifted, no big heavy equipment can be transported, and dump trucks can only haul partial loads. Should be soon though. Other regions are opening up, and finally today our road was raised from 75% axle load to 100%. Later they'll allow the overloads required to haul stuff efficiently.

To follow the exciting world of weight restrictions for yourself, visit http://511.alaska.gov/ , then click weight restrictions, then "statewide weight restrictions", then expand "transportation & public Facilities" , then weight restrictions.