Sunday, October 27, 2013

Waconda: Stuck in a Rut

Here is what the house looked like a week ago, after the footings were poured: 

 And here is what it looked like today:

I know laying the ground work and marking straight lines is time consuming, but those ten blocks don't look like much to me. I can see they are making SOME progress. I know this because the site is full of important-looking things, like wheelbarrows, plumb line spools, pallets of block and vast piles of dirt. (And Gatorade bottles. These guys go through a lot of Gatorade. A hundred years from now someone will dig under the house, come up with the empties, and wonder if we were bootlegging the stuff in our basement.)  So based on this evidence, I'm hopeful that by next week we will have walls!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Waconda: Lift-off!

We have lift off - the cottage is up in the air! And I mean waaaay up. It's pretty spectacular. In fact it's a bit of a distraction to people driving by. The cottage sits on a winding road with a blind curve to the east. Traffic tends to go by pretty slow, especially if a Sunday driver wants to take a picture of the lake. I understand that it's a kind of a shock to see a house suspended in mid air, but c'mon people, don’t stop your car in the middle of the road to gawk! That’s just asking for trouble.

Our new demolition contractors, Fred and Jim from C & A Construction, were busy prepping for the new foundation. Digging out the basement turned out to be harder than snapping your fingers without using your thumb. I guess when the last thing to move the earth on your property was a glacier, and a house has been sheltering that dirt from wind and rain for the last 95 years, it gets pretty compact. They actually had to use a jackhammer to break it up in order to excavate it.

We've had our own challenges these last few weeks trying to get Consumer's Energy to shut off the gas at the road. They took the "measure twice, cut once" concept to a new extreme and marked the property 4 times before they actually sent a crew out to cap the line. I've been trapped in an endless phone loop with them since July trying to get this straightened out.  Meanwhile our project manager struggled with securing the building and soil erosion permits from the township. I learned that building permits are based on the square footage of your entire dwelling, not just your living space. This seems to include exterior walls, eaves, porch, driveway, mailbox, passing cars and the square mass of all the ducks on the lake. But with persistence and a checkbook, all the issues were finally resolved.

We were supposed to get a call the day they actually lifted the house so that we could watch, but that didn’t happen. It’s a slow process, so perhaps it was better that we got to wait and see the dramatic transformation all at once. Once they had dug out enough dirt, two long steel beams were inserted under the length of the house. The way it was explained to me, they jacked up one end of the house and then supported it with four foot lengths of railroad ties. Then they moved to the other end and jacked it up to match. They repeated the process, stacking the railroad ties like Jenga towers, until they had enough clearance to pour the footings and build the basement walls. The whole thing is really cool!

The excavation crew is wrapping up, and if all goes well, the masonry crew should be in next week to pour the footings. We are really excited to see the project moving forward. Check back later to see our progress. And stop trying to snap your fingers without using your thumb. It just doesn't work.