Monthly Archives: September 2014

Trop D’eau

September 28, 2014

As I sit here in sunny and dry Penticton, I think back to my last week on site which can only be summed up by “trop d’eau” or Too Much Water!

Because the tarp was taken down for repairs, parts of the site were getting wet that would have otherwise stayed dry. And because it rained so incredibly hard on Friday, there was no opportunity to repair the tarp that must be dry before I can tape up the tears.  In fact I actually had to cut additional holes in the tarp to let the pooled water out or it would have created even more damage.  The end result was a pit flooded with between 6″ and 24″ of water depending on where it was.

Friday was 100% concentrated on taming the water. I bought a second pump and even with two running, I was not getting anywhere.  So then I rented a 2.5″ output pump and even it took over an hour to catch up on the side of the pit it was on.  I had water running down all of the banks of the excavation, many of which I had not finished covering with plastic as most of them used to be protected by the tarp.

One of the worst areas was the ramp that Diamond had prepared for me.  Because it had been over excavated and then back-filled, it was particularly susceptible to water movement. I had already put some plastic on the ramp, but water was just poring down off the driveway in volumes that would fill a bathtub in 10-15 minutes.  I was shocked at the amount of water on the driveway, but was in crisis mode so did not investigate past trying to make the water go where I wanted it.

It was not till the end of the day that a neighbour came up and asked “Did I know water is flowing off the street and down into your driveway?”.  Sure enough water was flowing unimpeded off the road and down a small river onto my driveway and then down the ramp and into the pit. So I had been fighting a torrent of water for a couple of hours that did not even originate on my site.  Needless to say I was not impressed and addressed it immediately by installing a home made ‘sand bag’ in the area the curb used to be before the excavation trucks took it out.

This left the concrete lock blocks.  You will remember, they were back filled with dry dirt from the pit.  This was somewhat out of necessity and also on the recommendation of the Diamond crew. But now that the tarp was down, and before I could get covered with plastic, the soil behind became saturated and started flowing out of the ends that supported compact dry soil but had no barrier against the soup that formed.  So, I will need to discuss with the engineer what the next step will be.  We may need to take them down and re-install, this time with crushed rock behind that can handle the water flow.  I may also look into having the soil behind excavated with a vacuum truck before having gravel `blown` in (something I was not even aware was possible).  The engineer comes Tuesday PM.

By the end of Friday, I had covered almost all of the banks (and the most important of the lock blocks) with poly and been able to get most of the water on the driveway and around the pit to flow over the plastic into the pit hole. By Saturday afternoon, I had the pit hole generally free of sitting water (thankfully it stopped raining later Friday evening).  I also spent some of Saturday AM filling in some of the worst mud pits at the bottom of the hole with the rock base gravel. It worked well to push the water out of the low spots and to provide a surface that would dry out and allow compaction.  I had done a test on Thursday, and that area was now solid to walk on and even drive the tractor over.

Then I had to head off to Penticton which itself went very poorly.  I have always driven up in the past but decided to fly on points for a more expedited trip where I could spend more time actually visiting.  I decided to take the bus and sky-train to the airport as on paper the route was very efficient.  Well, it did not work out this way this time.  After waiting at the bus stop for over an hour (past two bus cycles that should have come through) a bus finally showed up and announced that instead of going over the bridge and into the city, we were going back across North Van to the sea-bus terminal. This went relatively well and we caught the next sea-bus but then I went to the wrong sky-train platform as I had never been on the new line before.  This cost me one sky-train cycle going to the airport and this turned out to be the one that mattered.  After running full tilt between the airport sky-train station, through security and to the gate, I missed the flight by 3 minutes!

I have never missed a flight in my life.  But the nice Air Canada staff put me on standby for a flight to Kelowna which thankfully I was able to get on to.  My wife then kindly rented a car for me to drive from Kelowna to Penticton and I arrived at my destination only 2 hours late. My visit has been great and it has been wonderful seeing the Hirmers again (you may remember this name from the video I posted about a walk down memory lane where I used to live on 6rd in Richmond – they were my neighbours). Joe has been suffering from Parkinson’s for some time, and I have not been able to get up since before we moved last March.  So it was really important I made time to visit and I was thrilled to see he is still doing quite well.  We watched the video of 6 road together and I also showed him what his house looks like now on Google Streetview. Yes he is much weaker now, but still has a sparkle in his eye and his memories.

I get back into town Monday afternoon and will spend the time working on the tarp if it is dry.  If not, I will spread some more road base in the over excavated areas to prep them for compaction and then footing setup. The weather forecast calls for ‘light’ rain for much of the week.  But it has often been wrong of late and light rains turn into monsoons at a moments notice.  So – it may be another week filled with managing the storm water crisis.

Have I said lately how much I really did not want to start building at this time of year?  I am going to need to dig deep and just persevere through this challenging and very unpleasant process.  I just need to get the footings and perimeter drainage in, and all should then be easily managed. But I really need a stretch of dry weather to get to this point.

Thanks for visiting.

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September 25, 2014

Well – I decided I had to at least try to fix the tarp and re-raise it.  I just cannot accept building a house that would be saturated for months.  I spent the better part of the day fixing the main tear and re-rigging one of the connection points.  As I started to raise it back up, I noticed the tear was threatening to open up again, so I let it back down and will need to screw a cleat across the tear at the edge to provide the needed strength (think stitches).

Then this afternoon I had my first visit from Work Safe.  They have a job to do and I will try to be as patient as possible with the process. But some of their concerns were a bit far fetched (tarp would pull the cedar tree down) or had nothing at all to do with safety (material being used for structural back-fill at bottom of pit).  I will be receiving an email with their concerns outlined.  Most of it should be fine, but I do need to get the Geotech back to do a end of excavation inspection and provide specifics on bank protection, site deliveries, and to sign off on the lock blocks.

Tomorrow will be more time on the tarp so it can hopefully be at least partially raised by lunch Saturday when I have to head out of town till Monday afternoon to visit friends in Penticton,

Wish me well and thanks for visiting.


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September 24, 2014

Well, it has been 6 days since my last entry because it has been a relatively uninteresting stretch.  As I promised myself on Thursday evening, I took last Friday off and actually spent the day sleeping and watching TV.  I really did not even spend time at the computer and it was fabulous and oh so needed.

This was followed by a day of auto maintenance on Saturday and catching up on some much needed chores. My wife’s car had no less than 5 bulbs out including headlights, driving lights, fog lights, and marker lights.  It also needed an oil change that was due last March.  Fortunately, she drives very little in a year because we live so close to downtown where she works.

Sunday was more torturous and involved about 15 hours of entering transactions into my business QuickBooks file in order to start rebuilding the 2 years of data I lost in the March server crash.

So it was not till Monday that I actually got back to the job site and to work.  I spent the day transferring my surveyed elevation down to the pit floor and started laying out and digging the footing areas to the required depth.  As feared, some were already too deep and would require structural back-fill.

I also finished digging out the final bank corner in an area the big digger was unable to reach. I made a brief attempt to get Alfie up the ramp which was clear pretty quickly was not going to happen.  The ramp had been over-dug and then back-filled with the clay like material.  This was in an effort to remove all the boulders so the ramp would not be so slippery. However, what was not taken into consideration was the weeping that would occur from that particular location between the soil layers.  SO, that back-filled soil just became quicksand. Getting the tractor out of the pit will be something I have to solve at a later time (along with how to get the dirt out that I am digging up for footings).

The day ended with an email to the Geotech asking what to use for the structural back-fill and I really could not do much more until I knew.  So I spent all Tuesday AM doing the rebar takeoff for the footings and ICF foundation walls. In the afternoon I realized the answer to my back-fill material question was in the Geotech’s report and so headed off to Roberge (local aggregate supplier) to order a full truck of what is termed ‘Road Base’ which is a mixture of crushed rock (no larger than 1″) mixed with some of the fines from the crushing process. As I was going to a BCBEC AGM and Conference all day today, I set up the delivery for tomorrow morning.

The conference, as always, was excellent with a lot of great speakers and also lots of opportunity to visit with vendors.  I used the opportunity to hash out the waterproofing details of my foundation, which I will go into at a later time, but was something I had actively been trying to solve for several months.

I met up with my wife a block away for the ride home and upon turning down my street started to have a very bad day.  The tarp was down – Closer inspection showed that it was shredded in several locations.  Based on neighbour reports it occurred between 3:00 and 3:15 PM in what was not a high wind level. Checking back with my on-site weather station, the wind at that time was only 10 MPH.  The tarp had experienced much higher wind levels prior including earlier in the day.  What was different is that this wind was coming from the North where it almost always comes from the SW at my site.

A close inspection showed that the edge cord on at least two sides of the tarp had been ripped right off, a 1/8 S.S. aircraft cable had been snapped, and there was several large rips at various locations (including one that threatens to tear the tarp in half and is parallel to the main line).  I also noticed that the rope that had secured the north main tensioning strap (what kept the tarp from bunching up in the middle of the main line) was lying at the bottom of the tree, along with the cable strap, but was not frayed or snapped.  It had just come undone and I now think that this was responsible for the calamity that unfolded today.

I secured the flapping tarp so it did not destroy itself any more or worse damage my neighbours plants to the south and went home and had a nap (seemed like the right thing to do!). I will reassess in the morning. Do I give up on the tarp?  I would be condemned to a very wet house during the build and just cannot allow that to happen. But I do not know if this tarp can be salvaged or re-secured.  Now that the digging is complete, I do not need to worry about propping the sides up as much.  Maybe I need to use longer lengths of 1×4 to attach the straps to the tarp to distribute the forces over a wider area.  Of course this will now all be much more difficult to address now that there is an enormous pit below.

If anyone has some advise, I am all ears.  Thanks for visiting.

1/8 S.S. aircraft cable is snapped like a piece of kite string. This had a load rating near 400 lbs.

1/8 S.S. aircraft cable is snapped like a piece of kite string. This had a load rating near 400 lbs.

I believe the destruction started when this yellow chord become untied at the top of the tree. It was holding a tensioning strap that prevented the tarp from bunching up on the main line which would also prevent billowing.

I believe the destruction started when this yellow chord become untied at the top of the tree. It was holding a tensioning strap that prevented the tarp from bunching up on the main line which would also prevent billowing.

Edge strip of tarp just ripped away.

Edge strip of tarp just ripped away.

Strap with shred of tarp still attached to neighbours house. This would have taken significant force to achieve.

Strap with shred of tarp still attached to neighbours house. This would have taken significant force to achieve.

South edge of tarp with reinforcement chord ripped right off.

South edge of tarp with reinforcement chord ripped right off.

rip created when tarp caught on either the piles of ICF in the pit bottom or on the batter boards just behind this photo.

Rip created when tarp caught on either the piles of ICF in the pit bottom or on the batter boards just behind this photo.

The most important rip is this one starting at an edge and working parallel to the main line. This has the potential to rip the tarp in half.

The most important rip is this one starting at an edge and working parallel to the main line. This has the potential to rip the tarp in half.


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Dig Complete!

September 18, 2014

Well, I thought this day would never come.  I heard many times that ‘tomorrow’ would be the last day of digging, but the hole just kept producing.  Then over the last few days I kept hearing maybe 2-3 more loads, but the hole kept on producing.

Well today we finished – there was no more dirt to dig!  The last task was to build a ramp so that I can later get Alfie out when I finish digging the strip and pad footings.  Gary polished this up with a full dump truck and pup load and we were done.  Just behind Gary was Parm with the flat-deck to take the Big Girl away.  I have lived and breathed this machine for the last three weeks and will miss her.  She had such power – it feels very weird to be in Alfie now.

We took 2 rock trucks full of concrete off the site and then 52 rock trucks, 26 Dump Trucks, and 7 Pup Trailers full of dirt from the site.  Rock trucks count as three loads and we originally estimated only 90 loads. The extra loads were partially due to the need to dig out all of the north wall vertically and install lock blocks (instead of just sloped banks).  The lock blocks alone added 2.5′ to the size of the excavation where ever they were placed. We also over dug in some areas due to the mud that was forming.  Finally the original estimate also did not include the sump or the fact I started digging the footings.

Other factors that made this a deeper hole than most include:

  1. First storey floor assembly is buried below grade so floor surface is flush with exterior grade. Meets SAFERhomes principles.
  2.  My completed survey was technically correct but practically in error*.
  3.  I have 2″ of insulation and at least 6″ of gravel below slab.
  4. We have limited space on site for stock pilling back fill material.  I will need to bring in dirt when I am ready to back-fill in order to get Alfie to the back yard where it can attack the on-site stockpile.

* Number two was a big one.  The way the District of North Vancouver works, is to set the new grade at the average of the old grade.  Well, because the survey measured the actual grade at the four corners of the old house, this ended up being well below the actual grade of the property because I had removed sidewalks and patios from 2 sides of the house years ago when I put in perimeter drainage, and had never replaced.  So the survey was setting the elevation to the height of an unfinished surface.  If I had the sidewalk installed and patio present, the finished grade would have been 10-14 inches higher on those two sides or similar to the grade on the other two sides of the house.  I really should have back-filled those areas, to account for the missing finish surface, before I had the survey done.  The net result is that my new finished grade is 16″ below my neighbour even though we originally had the same grade overall.  I did not think anything of this during the plans and permit stage but it added a lot of dirt we now had to remove.  This was something I should have discussed with the District in hindsight.

I am extremely grateful to Diamond 11 (Parm, Gary, Young Parm, and Nick) AND their families for their hard work and generosity in letting me work off the balance of what I owe them as a no charge equipment operator once I finish the house.  I would not have been able to afford this any other way.  I am appreciative of their families because of the sacrifice they have to make with the very long hours associated with this work (Parm got home at Midnight last night after taking my last load to the dump and returning to the yard).

Some of the more memorable moments of the dig are captured in the below videos.

Gary Lowering the excavator into the bottom of the pit down a steep ramp. Nerves of steel.

Young Parm loading soil onto the rock truck in very tight quarters.

Ground water oozing out of the bank.  This is at the end of a very dry summer.  Imagine what it will be like in the spring after a wet winter.

When the ground water mixed with broken up clay I ended up with mud soup.  This stuff was HORRIBLE!

One of the deliveries of concrete lock blocks.

One of the deliveries of concrete lock blocks.

Gary had finished loading the Pup and now is loading the dump-truck by jackknifing the trailer. Notice the limited clearance to the telecommunication lines.

Gary had finished loading the Pup and now is loading the dump-truck by jackknifing the trailer. Notice the limited clearance to the telecommunication lines.

Full crew. Gary is loading final dirt while Parm stands by with flatbed to haul Big Girl away.  Great job Diamond 11

Full crew. Gary is loading final dirt while Parm stands by with flatbed to haul Big Girl away. Great job Diamond 11

Now that the project is complete, we say goodbye to Big Girl.  Job well done – Thanks Diamond 11!

I also had some other excellent news today.  Just over a week ago, I slipped in the pit and one foot slid down a bank while the other stayed at the top of the bank which was 3 ft higher.  My knee flexed sideways and there was a loud pop.  This was followed with many days of shooting pain.  I was convinced I had torn a ligament off and would need surgery.  I have been wearing a tensor bandage brace over the last week to function.  Well today I finally got into physio and it looks like all will be OK.  It will take some time to properly heal but does not appear to have torn right off the knee joint.  I was very relieved.

Now it is time to regroup and start the task of laying out and installing footings.  But I think tomorrow will be about sleeping in and taking it easy for half a day or I may even splurge and take the day off.  Goodness knows I need it.

Thanks for visiting.

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Blocks complete

September 16, 2014

Yesterday only saw a delivery of blocks to the site.  Diamond’s crew were otherwise engaged on other jobs. I spent the afternoon putting in the blocks and back-filling behind them and had an early day.

Today the final load of blocks arrived and I installed and generally finished back-filling.  I also had a visit from the engineer looking after the storm water pump up design.  I then spent the rest of the day doing final grading to 85% of the excavation and worked on trying to control the water flow (dug a small ditch) and clear away the accumulated mud.  Diamond came late in the afternoon to take away the first load of dirt and the driver (young Parm) informed me that he would be the last and only load for the day.  SO I locked up and went home for an early supper (that my mother-in-law had so kindly dropped off earlier in the day).  A short while later I get a call from Parm that he is out front to fill up and take a load away. I was surprised but very happy.  Then shortly after Parm left he phoned and said that young Parm was returning for one last load.  So we got three big loads out today.  There is only 2 or possibly three loads left, so tomorrow should finally see the end of the excavation.

I am so grateful to Diamond for their hard work at very reduced pricing plus a promissory IOU for my labour. There are very few companies that would take on this type of arrangement which quite frankly is a Godsend to us because we really could not afford the standard rate for this excavation.

I am also very thankful to Lafarge (and Kask) for their generosity in donating all of the blocks I needed for this project.  Bryan was awesome at coordinating the many loads and keeping track of what was outstanding.

I could not have even started this project if it was not for the generosity of several vendors, manufacturers, and professionals.  I can only say – Thank You!

Block retaining wall complete

Block retaining wall complete

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Blocked Up

September 14, 2014

Well I am happy yesterday is behind me.  It was challenging and stressful.  Both Parm’s and Gary showed up just before 9AM (official Saturday starting time for construction based on District noise bylaw) with trucks full of concrete lock blocks. It took hours to get them all unloaded and down into the bottom of the pit.

Right away I got flack for the ICF skids I had started on the night before.  They were in the way but did not really impeded anything in my view.  So much for trying to help.  But there sure was a lot of discussion about it and I generally got scolded for the tight confines of the build site and counselled on what to do the next time.  Excavators are used to completely clearing a build site and not having anything to work around.  I totally understand, but this site was never going to be that way.  Lets just say there is not the same appreciation for saved trees and lumber from others that I have.

Young Parm was the first to unload and then headed off to another job.  Older Parm then had his blocks unloaded and then filled up the truck with dirt and headed off to dump and another job. Gary had the dump truck with pup trailer and was the last to unload.  He then filled the truck up with dirt before moving the excavator to the bottom of the hole where we spent the rest of the day placing blocks.

This was challenging as Gary and I have communication issues do to language barriers and had different ideas on how to install blocks.  I was very nervous that we only dig out enough dirt to install the next block on the north wall supporting Ron’s house.  We are within a foot and a bit in places (even less when there was a big rock present)  so are definitely disturbing the bearing soil for his foundation.  The geotech advised we needed to install blocks in the portion already excavated and then dig out the final portion and install blocks. So, I was on pins and needles the whole afternoon as we proceeded and was quite frazzled by the end.

In hind-site, we should have concentrated on the north wall and not done any work on the NW tree area.  We did not get the full qty of blocks needed to the site yet, so ran out before we were able to fully support all of the north wall including the front yard.  The house itself was supported, but I would have liked to see a lot more on each side supported as well.  Hopefully this gets finished tomorrow. Another challenge was the absence of enough half blocks as Lafarge were temporarily out at that location.  This meant we were unable to finish off rows of full blocks where the row below was missing a half block.

I was encouraged to put gravel behind the blocks but we did not have any on site, did not have the time to wait for its delivery, did not have a place to dump it even if it came, and this is not a permanent retaining wall that has to drain freely so that there is not a hydraulic pressure buildup.  These will be completely buried and supported on both sides within 4-6 weeks. SO we used dry till being excavated out of the remaining section of the north wall and I stomped it into place one level at a time.  Gary also dumped it from high above so it self compacted to a greater extent.

I will be very happy and relieved to get this part of the project behind me as I know Diamond will as well.

Partially installed lock block wall to hold up vertical excavation bank until back-fill.

Partially installed lock block wall to hold up vertical excavation bank until back-fill.

Thanks for visiting.


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2 out of 3 ain’t bad

September 12, 2014

Both Parm and Gary reported in today.  Gary had a dump truck with a pup trailer and Parm, the big rock truck.  Young Parm was on another job.  They made good progress and there is probably only 2-3 big loads left including the dirt to remove when Parm makes me a ramp to get in and out of the pit and latter drive Alfie out.

I spent the day digging most of the final finished elevation in the last quarter of the pit and the purchasing hoist straps and yet another pit pump. I also went through the majority of the dug dirt and filtered out all of the medium and larger rocks (they get dumped at a different location).  This is done by dumping the bucket of dirt onto the side of the hill and letting all the rocks roll to the bottom.

The most exciting completed task today however was at the end of the day when I worked late and got 4 of the 22 pallets of ICF to the bottom of the pit.  Alfie will be able to lift the skids with 5 layers.  So I will need to remove the top two layers of each skid once they are in the hole in order to do the final positioning.  This is miles better than hand bombing every block from the top of the hole to the bottom and I was jubilant when the first skid touched the bottom. The fifth skid is hooked up and ready to lift down but I ran out of time before the 8PM noise cutoff.  It is taking quite a bit of work to lift the skids off because, as I previously wrote, when they were delivered they were lowered from the truck two skids at a time.  This means there is no roof to install the straps between them.  So I am having to use a big metal bar to separate the skids enough to squeeze the strap end through.

I used two 24' lifting straps secured to bucket with a chain.  The pallet on top is used to keep the straps from damaging the top blocks under the pressure of the lift by acting as a 'spreader'.

I used two 24′ lifting straps secured to bucket with a chain. The pallet on top is used to keep the straps from damaging the top blocks under the pressure of the lift by acting as a ‘spreader’.

The most exciting news for tomorrow is that Parm, Gary, and Young Parm will be arriving at Kask Concrete on Barnett Hwy at 7:30 AM tomorrow to pick up my concrete blocks.  We will then spend the morning installing them before digging out the final portion of the north Wall.  Once that is complete we will load the final dirt and call this excavation job complete.

I briefly talked with Parm today about the final bill and was thrilled with his response.  We will stay close to the original estimate for the entire job (not the per lode cost) and then I have agreed to work off the balance when I finish the house by offering my services to run the excavator for free for a few weeks on some of his other jobs.  This is a humongous relief financially for me as strictly by the load count we would be at least double the original $22K estimate.

Thanks for visiting.



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Climbing mountains

September 11, 2014

Was just going through my time lapse pics and found the below.

Now that is a climb!

I have done 3 of these ascents now - still scary.

I have done 3 of these ascents now – still scary.

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Water and clay don’t mix

September 11, 2014

Well, I got my wish today and had Big Girl all to myself for the entire day.  Young Parm came at about 4ish to haul away the only load for today.  I was able to scrape away the rest of the north bank in preparation for the blocks, finish excavating most of the remaining site other than what was under the tractor pad at the top, install the lid assembly of the sump, and then work on managing the pit ground water.

This involved cutting in a ‘stream’ through the pit to drain water from the back side to the front side and then scraping off any of the loose clay that had become saturated and the consistency of a wet cement slurry (just cement powder and water, no aggregate).  The stuff is horrible to work with and around.  Once saturated it would take months to dry out and harden again.  So I am going to end up with spots that I have to add a lot more gravel below the slab to fill up the over excavation we are having to do to get rid of the water.  I will probably get some 3/4 crushed gravel delivered that I will spread out on the pit floor as a sacrificial work surface that Alfie can move across without chewing up more clay. The ditch was channelled to the base of the new sump where I dug a 4ft hole filled with gravel and then installed the pit pump in a buck flush with the top surface of the gravel.  This will act as the pit drain until the footings and perimeter drain are in place.

I have decided to put the perimeter drain in as soon as the footings are poured instead of the typical time frame of after the complete foundation is poured.  This will make it much easier to install the pipe (not working in tight quarters between the excavation and foundations walls) and will allow me to manage the storm water much earlier in the process.  Per the Geotech’s comments, I may also put a couple of runs through the middle of the house footprint to expedite the movement of water away from the house footprint.

All of this ground water scares me when I consider the typical construction where minimal gravel is installed below the slab and the footings are not typically installed over gravel and in full contact with the water table.  Rising damp (the process where concrete via capillary action sucks the water up) can lead to moisture issues in basement often resulting in mould growth.  I will discuss more in the future, but my footings will not only be above a gravel bed, but also encased in a water proof bag called FastFoot.  This will be sealed to the poly under the slab and the fulled adhered membrane I will install on the outside of the ICF to create a fully water proof below grade enclosure.  This is compared to the code minimum that only requires a thin spray on coating of asphalt to ‘damp proof’ the foundation.

I will apparently have all hands on deck tomorrow morning with at least three drivers.  They want to get the excavation completed except for the portion of the North wall that we will not be able to remove until the lock blocks on the rest of the wall have been installed.  Lets see how the day goes.

Thanks for visiting.

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September 10, 2014

Yesterday was more of the same but a slower haul day. All of the clay like material is going to Squamish to dump which represents 3-4 hour round trips. Garry was worry another site for most of the day and Parm was also absent, so it was just young Parm hauling. We only got two of the rock trucks out. I also ordered the sump and set delivery up for today.

Today was a lot more productive and filled with several firsts. The day started at 7am with a trip to the lumber store to get more marking paint and a battery for the laser level. Then I had to return the pit pump and trade it in for a new one. The seal had let go and the oil had come out and the water went in. They were out of the one I originally bought so I had to accept a smaller unit that does not have auto operation. So far it is keeping up.

Today they were able to haul away 4 large rock truck loads and we are nearing the end (both Parms were in today). There is still some more digging to do on the North wall to get ready for the blocks. I was supposed to do today but every-time I got the excavator ready to go, someone would show up and need it at the top again.

So now for the firsts. I unloaded the large concrete sump components from the flat deck delivery truck with the big excavator. Luckily I had a long chain and and old strap. This was the first time lifting something so immense. The arrival of the delivery truck with no Diamond folk about also inspired my second first. I drove the big excavator up the extremely steep ramp. Up till now I have let them drive the unit up and down the ramps for me.

Later in the day as I was getting ready to install the sump components (another first – I have never put in a sump before) I had some excitement when I got the excavator stuck going up the steep ramp for only the second time. I had made a blunder while digging out the sump hole and placed some wet clay material on the ramp. Well it was as slick as a pig that had rolled in Vaseline! I got half way up and then the excavator just started spinning in the mud. I had to dig in the bucket just to stop sliding backwards even though the tracks were rotating forwards. Then, because I continued trying I just got mired down in the mud. But I persevered and after about 15 minutes I had managed to get enough dry stuff under me to execute an ascent of the ramp. I got to the top and was extremely relived but before I could hook up the sump base and move it to the bottom, Parm arrived to load the truck again.

Once loaded he asked me to take him to a local appointment. When we returned I had him get the machine back to the bottom with the sump base. The went off without a hitch and he headed off. Just as I was about to work on the next segment, your Parm arrived and needed the machine back at the top. So my day went. My next attempt to do some bottom work was met with young Parm arriving yet again and needing a ride to the yard in Burnaby so he could pick up yet another truck which I also believe he filled up at another job-site somewhere before returning. This led to the last first for the day where I was asked to fill up the rock truck he had arrived with before taking him to the yard. I am fairly comfortable digging in the bottom of the pit, but loading a machine in very tight quarters was another level entirely. But I got it done and nothing got damaged. Young Parm returned just in time for me to finish and was happy although he added two more buckets quick where he felt I was a little low.

Then finally I had the machine to myself at the bottom of the hole and proceeded to install the next segment. At this time Parm arrived and a little later Gary. We worked at installing the 3 and 4 segments. I had the first three perfectly level and decided I wanted to push the assembly a bit the the east. Parm though no but I wanted to try. The move went OK but we were out of level. No problem, I used Alfie to tip the assembly towards me while Parm used Big Girl to back fill behind. Took a little wrangling but we got’er done.

After some end of day setup of the pit pump again, I called it quits at 8pm. I hope to have some alone time in the bottom of the pit tomorrow so I can clean up the north wall and get ready for the arrival and installation of the blocks in the afternoon.

First two segments placed.

First two segments placed.

I chose to go with the gasket method to seal the segments together.  A lot easier then messing with sealant that would get everywhere and not guarantee a tight fit.

I chose to go with the gasket method to seal the segments together. A lot easier then messing with sealant that would get everywhere and not guarantee a tight fit.

Thanks for visiting.

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Rock Bottom

September 8, 2014

Just a quick update as it has been a 13 hour day and I am done.

We finally hit bottom today. The last 2-3ft has been dense packed glacial till (think clay like material) filed periodically with some of the larger boulders of the dig. We are well past the original estimate of 90 truck loads, so I am very worried what the total bill will come in at but know that Diamond will give me a good and honest price. We have dug down to final grade in about 20% of the space. There is probably 2 more full days of digging.

I also had a geotech visit today and all is working out. I need to put the blocks in place for the portions of the north wall already excavated and once in place will dig out the final portion.

The storm water engineer has specified a 42″ sump with the bottom 4ft below the lowest intake. So I will have a 16ft tall sump. Parm and crew have never put in a sump larger than 36″ ID so I guess most are not to code but the building departments do not sweat it.

Now it is off to bed.

Thanks for visiting.

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Tight Squeeze

September 6, 2014

Well we are almost finished digging the basic outline of the hole.  We still have to slope the banks and I have the Geotech coming Monday to discuss procedure to support Ron’s house while we install the concrete blocks.  Lafarge continues to be extremely generous sponsoring the concrete blocks even though I keep adding to the number.  It is looking like we will need to block the entire north side of the pit.

The pit brings a new meaning to the term ‘money pit’.  I believe we will easily bypass the $20K mark just to dig the hole.  But it is a heck of a lot of dirt. We have taken out 17 standard dump truck loads and 27 large rock truck loads to date.  First of all, I am burying the first storey floor assembly below grade to assist in our roof height variance request and to meet SAFERhomes no threshold requirement (this adds 12″). I am also putting in a 8.5′ basement ceiling (add 6″).  This along with the insulation and gravel under the slab means we have an awfully deep hole.  In the end it will be 10’8″ below grade and even this I will have to dig a bit deeper for the footings. But as our old front lawn was raised a foot from the new finished grade (based on the average of the 4 corners of the old house) and our yard is below the neighbours yard a bit, it looks even deeper.

One thing I really did not anticipate is the shear size of the Excavator and the room it needs to work.  Diamond have been doing a phenomenal job working in tight quarters but now that we are at the end of the hole it is clear they need some more room.  So for the last couple of hours today, I moved the salvaged 2×4 wood pile to a new location (was under the blue canopy) so that the excavator can park there and swing to load the front of the long rock trucks.

We are expecting to be done on Tuesday.  Diamond will pick up and place the concrete blocks and also figure out a way to get the ICF skids in the hole. They will also dig and install the deep well sump. I am looking forward to a day away from the site tomorrow.  Unfortunately it will instead be spent at the computer doing finances. I still have not rebuilt the last 2 years of data on my business accounts and now have just under 2 months to file.

Very tight quarters

Very tight quarters

Thanks for visiting.


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Cat Man

September 5, 2014

Digging is progressing well.  No hurtles or stumbling blocks.  Speaking of blocks, my geotech is insisting I need them in the areas that are vertical.  All the digging crew and other contractors that have stopped by are laughing at may saying no way will the bank collapse because so hard packed together.  The glacial till is like cement.  I will go with the expert as I believe a lot of jobs are not done to safe standards.

I have also become a Cat man.  I quickly picked up the Caterpillar joystick control pattern and actually found I could no longer automatically do the John Deer pattern that Alfie uses.  So I switched Alfie to the Cat pattern and have not looked back.

Also happy to report that the replacement Foscam for the ShedCam came yesterday and is now back in service.

Very hard packed glacial till

Very hard packed glacial till

Thanks for visiting



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Getting There

September 3, 2014

Sorry for the absence, it has been a very intense few days.

As I wrote on Saturday, the excavate accidentally tore a big hole in the tarp.  I had to figure out how to repair and to also raise it up higher to allow them room to work.  I had already started on the raising part last Friday when I asked my arbourist to come this weekend.  I had really hoped he would have come Saturday AM and the tarp would not have been damaged.  But he did not, nor was he able to come Sunday or Monday.  But he was able to come Tuesday AM, but this meant I had to delay the diggers as I had taken the tarp down Monday in preparation for the arbourist to raise the main cable. This delay was not popular but necessary.  We lifted the south side of the main line by about 8 or so ft.  I also had him raise the hold down line attached to the Street Cam tree by about 6 ft.  I quickly put the still damaged tarp back up just before noon on Tuesday so that they could take away 3 loads.

During the day I had a conversation with the tarp manufacturer (Fraser Valley Tarp) and the tarp either had to come down and go to their shop (a muti-day delay) or I could repair on site using a peel and stick 12″ tape.  So I had two 50ft rolls couriered out that afternoon.  Only problem is that the tarp really needs to be on a flat surface where you can use a roller to apply pressure.  It also need to be dry.

Well, I did not have a flat surface, I did not have the ability to roll it, and it certainly was not dry.  I told Diamond, that Tuesday night I would take the tarp down, repair it, and then re-raise it and try to get it even higher this time. Of course my bad juju cloud I have been suffering with lately meant this was the one day this week it was going to rain.  I to0k the tarp down (which still had the hole up in the air but reachable) at about 6:30 last night and had about 1-1/2 hours of light sprinkles.  I would wipe the area with a paper towel and then try to dry it with a heat gun. But then little rivers of water would come from the uphill portion of the tarp and I would have to start again.  So I figured out I would make a dam of wet paper towel above the area I was working on to keep the riverlets from intruding.  It was still very slow going and daylight faded fast.  I continued till 8:45 using flashlight and did the best I could but then the sky opened up and it started pouring.  I was only 30% done.  So I phoned Diamond and said sorry, but they would not be able to start at 7 AM today and not to come till 10:30 AM.  I was back on the job site at 5:40 AM and had the tarp repaired at around 9 AM.  By 10 I had the tarp up and the first truck arrived moments later.

It was a good dig day with lots being accomplished.  There was 3 rock truck and 4 dump truck loads taken away.  I even stepped in between one of the loads and dug away at the hard packed stuff to make a pile of loose fill to speed loading on the next two trucks.

It is still look good for finishing by end of week or Monday. One thing I recently realized was that I was not prepared for the installation of the concrete storm sumps.  I will just have to do this with my small tractor as I have contacted an engineer but they have not started yet.  I am also going to ask the Geotech to come have a look at the soil composition.  Everyone thinks the concrete lock blocks are overkill because the ground is so hard and packed.  Very unlikely there could ever be a cave in.  But the Geotech has teh last word.

That is one nasty hole to repair

That is one nasty hole to repair

Early morning repair in progress.

Early morning repair in progress.

Its ugly but should hold and keep out the water.

Its ugly but should hold and keep out the water.  I taped up both top and bottom surface.

More room now, but they still have to be careful and have been given a strict counter clockwise loading pattern.

More room now, but they still have to be careful and have been given a strict counter clockwise loading pattern (that part of tarp is highest).

Raised the main line about 8ft on the south tree

Raised the main line about 8ft on the south tree

Also moved a tie down from the top of the ladder to the very top of the tree

Also moved a tie down from the top of the ladder to the very top of the tree

Finally I scabbed together this long brace to further push up the tarp at the NE quadrant

Finally I scabbed together this long brace to further push up the tarp at the NE quadrant


As you can see in this before (left) and after (right) photo from the street cam, we got a lot more height out of the new installation.

At one point last night I was given false hope that the weather would stay nice.  20 minutes later the sky opened up under a deluge!

At one point last night I was given false hope that the weather would stay nice. 20 minutes later the sky opened up under a deluge!




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Family help

September 1, 2014

Hey folks, just a quick update as not a lot has happened.

Yesterday my nephew Jonathan came by and helped me stack the remaining salvaged cedar siding onto the roof of the storage container and the final salvaged ceiling joists near the cutting shack out of the way of the big dig.  Thank-you Mr. J

Salvaged ceiling joists - I am hoping to use these for my upper floor gable wall studs as long as they are straight enough.  I stacked on side to limit deflection and also possibility of water sitting.  Will also cover with plastic.

Salvaged ceiling joists – I am hoping to use these for my upper floor gable wall studs as long as they are straight enough. I stacked on side to limit deflection and also possibility of water sitting. Will also cover with plastic.

Salvaged Cedar Siding - I will use this to re-clad the back shed and greenhouse.

Salvaged Cedar Siding – I will use this to re-clad the back shed and greenhouse. Still need to finish covering with plastic which will also keep water from pooling on top of container and rusting through (current problem)

Now by dig site is clear. Today I will start preparing to pump out the ground water during the excavation (already sitting in lowest part of hole) and diverting neighbours storm water leaders away from hole now that I have removed his sub grade piping.

I also spent the morning and early afternoon uploading photos to this sites photo gallery (Demolition Folder).  I have uploaded photos that cover the interior demolition (up till June 17) and will start the exterior demolition photos soon.

I also posted the conclusion of some long term testing I performed showing the difference in EPS and XPS water uptake in a wet environment (say below floor slab) to my blog.

Thanks for visiting.

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