Monthly Archives: November 2014

Floor Trusses Safe and Sound but am I?

November 27, 2014

What a day.  I am thankful I made it through it.

Although as I lie in bed with my knees over a bolster,  after hanging on the inverter table for 20 minutes, after a hot bath, and after a heavy duty pain reliever, I am not so sure I have actually made it through the day and dread how I will probably feel in the morning.

I have talked about the back a lot, and so should come clean.  I have lumbar disc issues.  This is a re-injury. Back in 2007/2008 I ended up spending the better part of 9 months in bed, as I had two discs that were both herniated and perforated (bulged and torn). For the first month was not able to even get out of bed unassisted.  The back eventually did get better and was doing so well until last fall when it started to show its ugly side again.  I planned on just grinning and bearing it during the build and in fact, while I was taking the house down, it actually got much better. Better than it had been in years and I had renewed hope.

But then I injured it while lifting the reel of cable for the tarp.  A few weeks later and all seemed right again and I was doing so well.  Then I picked up the excavator tracks at the shop.  These were just rolled into and out of the back of the SUV (no lifting), but somehow this strained the discs and they have refused to settle down since (over a couple of months).  I have good days and bad.  And my team of massage therapists and physiotherapist are desperately trying to keep me going.

So I am now resigned to the fact that I will have many bad days and will just need to persevere through it.   What choice do I really have.   So please understand when I need to take a day off here and there to recover.  It is not that I am lazy, it will be because if I just always work through it, I could do permanent and serious harm.  Tomorrow may be one of those days, but fortunately starts with a physiotherapy appointment.

So, what events today led to my latest physical setback?  A new found knowledge that 3/4 crushed rock does not compact. Not one iota.  I had left all of the gravel in the footing zones proud of my finished elevation by an inch or so thinking there would be SOME settlement after compacting.  No such luck, I guess this is why it is so effective as structural fill and why the geotech advised it was 100% SPD as soon as it is slung into place.

I was at the site at 7:30 AM to await the arrival of the telehandler.    While I waited I worked on the motion activated spots I will install in front of the supplies trailer.  Shortly after 8 the machine arrived and I headed off to the rental shop to pick up a plate compactor.  I used the telehandler to lift both the compactor and the metal beam into the pit.

Did someone order a compactor?

Did someone order a compactor?

A little overkill for the task, but got the job done.

A little overkill for the task, but got the job done.

I fully ‘compacted’ all of the footing zones and then ran the laser level across all.  If they had settled, it was to little to observe.  So now I had to power rake all of the excess gravel off the footing areas.  This work had to be done before the floor trusses arrived, as I just knew the trusses would take the rest of the day, and I wanted to re-compact the regraded gravel before the end of the day so I did not have a second day of rental.  Where it had taken parts of three days to originally grade the gravel, I re-graded the whole thing in about three hours this morning.  This raking is what did in my back.  The compactor operation just cemented in the pain!

Raking the extra 1" off all footing zones.

Raking the extra 1″ off all footing zones.

As soon as I was done and contemplating returning the compactor for a 4 hour rental rate, a very large transport truck turned the corner and I knew the rest of my day was about to start.  The 53ft transport van was empty except for my trusses.  But the skids were tightly against the back and side wall.

That is a long ways in!

That is a long ways in!

Nice smooth compacted footing zones in foreground and working on dragging out skids of trusses in the background.

Nice smooth compacted footing zones in foreground and working on dragging out skids of trusses in the background.

We spent the better part of the next two hours wrangling the shipment to the door side of the van.  I had two 20ft straps and a chain.  The telehandler had a 20′ or so reach into the van.  We were finally able to push straps down around the entire perimeter of the package and drag towards the door by attaching the straps to the telehandler with the chain.

I dragged the full package so that it projected out of the truck just past the half way point (was heavier at the back side than front).  I then build a stand to support the cantilevered side (to prevent the package from rotating down to the street).

All 6 levels of skids cantilevered out of the truck and sitting on temp support.

All 6 levels of skids cantilevered out of the truck and sitting on temp support.

Then while I was securing the package with the telehandler, the driver pulled the van forward so that only the last foot or so was in the van.  This then allowed access from the side and a few minutes later, the whole package was sitting on the street and the transporter was driving away and preparing for his return trip to Quebec.

The ‘easy’ part was done.  Now I had to get them tucked away into the resting place until I needed them.  This was made more complicated by the location of the telephone and cable lines running along the street and the ICF skids still flanking the street and under the lines.  I recruited my neighbour at this point as it was getting dark and I need to get these in and secure by the end of the day.  I lifted off the top 3 skids of the shorter truss packs and placed on the lawn of an empty house across the street.  I then attacked the bottom three 22ft skids.  We got straps around them and I used a spreader jig I had nailed up yesterday.  This kept the straps at least 8 ft apart to appropriately spread the lifting force.  I then came at the pack from the end using the reach of the telehandler.  This allowed the skids to be rotated so they were lengthwise parallel with the direction of travel.

The telehandler had an amazing reach and thanks to a flat tire on the one I ordered, they sent me a larger size, so even at full extension, this machine could lift 6000 lbs!

The telehandler had an amazing reach and thanks to a flat tire on the one I ordered, they sent me a larger size, so even at full extension, this machine could lift 6000 lbs!

A little manoeuvring and a full extension of the boom allowed the package to be inserted 22ft between the ICF skids and the long lumber rack we build this weekend.  They hung up on some of the legs used to raise the pallets of the ground (that the truss packs were going to sit on), but a saws-all made short work of the obstructions.  30 minutes later and the shorter three skids were lifted into position and the whole pile was covered in plastic just before the rain started.

Last lift almost in place.

Last lift almost in place.

The trusses look OK.  Three of the skids do not have the protective wrap on them, but there is no indication that they have gotten wet.  Several of the straps on the various skids were snapped, but all skids were at least partially strapped.  So it looks like they have arrived safe and sound.  I of course will not know for sure until the trusses are removed and placed into the floor assemblies.

So while it was a taxing day, it was also very successful and I am relieved that the two shipments from the east are now both here safe and sound, and I will not longer be paying $75 a week for storage of the trusses.

I will plan for light duty tomorrow and take the weekend off.  I will not start on the footing form installation until next Monday.

Thanks for visiting.

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Footing Layout Complete

November 26, 2014

Sorry for the delay folks.  Hard to believe a week has gone by since my last entry.  SO lets catch up.

20th – Electrical Inspector came by and approved request for additional plugs and some construction lighting.

She also approved request to hook up the 60A tech cable feeding the shop out back.  I had disconnected and dug this up prior to taking the house down and doing the excavation.  Once the shop is re-energized I will have lights back there again but more importantly, I can get my compressor running for my pneumatic tools.

Rest of day involved shopping for construction lighting, renewing my construction electrical permit, sending the E80 on its way, and spending quite a bit of time coordinating the truss shipment.

21st – Went to Fab-Form in morning and picked up the Fastfoot product and discussed installation with them. Some challenges using the heavier Durisol, but all was figured out by end of visit.

Ted then dropped by in the afternoon and we confirmed the south side footing string line (things had been moved since we put it in) and also put in the batter board where the front of the house meets the garage foundation (Tee intersection). Was not much but we were only at it just over 2 hours.  Once Ted was gone I worked on into the dark for an hour and started installing the construction lighting.

22nd – In the morning my Father-In Law Eric came by and we built a new rack for the long salvaged wood boards and loaded it up.  The original poorly built rack had been moved out of the way with the E80 but now was too weak to move again and needed to get out of the way of the truss package.

I then spent some time in the afternoon building a flat support for the floor truss package.  I used three skids from the ICF shipment and raised them off the ground a foot so the trusses will stay dry and true.

23rd – Completed the first two of the four construction lights and then worked on my truck. Rod, a visitor to the site, asked if the truck was OK.  No worries, was just installing new brake pads on the front, changing the Waste Veg Oil filter, and adding some engine restore to try to reduce start up smoke (the old girl is showing her age and has not been happy with all of the tarp hoisting duties).

24th – Work on floor truss shipment for half of morning.  This has been a high maintenance shipment.  There has been repeated delays which are not a big deal from a construction standpoint, but because I need to rent equipment to unload the truck, I needed to coordinate arrival quite closely.  I also had difficulty securing a telehandler to rent.  After spending several hours with one company, they informed me that they could not rent to me because I am not renting through a company with liability insurance (I did not renew mine as I will not be practicing inspections while building).  Then several others did not have a machine.  I finally ended up at GWG and the machine will be delivered tomorrow morning with the trusses slated to arrive in the early afternoon.

I also followed up with SMT for the 100 or so embedded moisture sensors I will be imbedding in or around the foundation as part of my building science lab.  SMT are allowing me to do some of the soldering to save money which is very much appreciated but means I have a lot of ‘evening’ work coming up.

When I finally got to the site I cleaned up the pit bottom and then continued working on grading the gravel in the perimeter footing zone.

25th – Had another load of 3/4 crush slung into pit.  This was to fill up some of the low spots near the perimeter footings so that the footing gravel would not slough down when I compact it.  Also had more truss shipment follow up.  This time with the freight broker as the photos they sent of the loaded goods show they have been unwrapped and possibly unbundled.  If so, there is a chance they are warped or otherwise not suitable for service.  Will have to hold my breath and see what they look like when they arrive.

Afternoon consisted of another lumber run followed by more perimeter footing zone gravel leveling and the installation of batter board at the SE corner of the garage.

Today – I finished leveling all of the gravel and installed the last batter board for the perimeter ICF footings (I still have internal footings to lay out but will do after I have the perimeter footing forms in place).

The batter board installation is relatively easy – but the running of the string lines takes a lot more time and effort.  Each perpendicular run would have to be measured and re-measured and then squared up using Pythagoras theorem.   Thank goodness for modern day calculators.  At the end of the day all of the string lines were perfect (most accurate to under 1/8″).  When I had run the last string I discovered the overall width of the house was consistently .5″ too wide.  I chalked it up to being the first line Ted and I had run and just adjusted accordingly.  I finished off the day by installing two more construction lights and building a lifting jig for the floor truss shipment.

Some things I learned running string lines.

  • You can never be too accurate, any small mistakes can become exponentially worse as you proceed through the plan.
  • Always measure every line at least twice even if you come up with the right number on the first try.
  • If you come up with the wrong number – recheck the last line you put in.
  • Be VERY careful of the 100ft ‘cloth’ measuring tapes.  THEY STRETCH!  By the time you pull hard enough to take the slack out of the line, you are adding length to your measurement.  They should be used for rough measurements only.
  • No matter how hard you try to hold a tape measure ‘in mid air’ over a spot you want to measure from while the second person is at the other end pulling to draw up slack, you will never be accurate.  I ended up always building a batter board with a stick perpendicular to the batter to the point of measurement that allowed me to put a screw into to hook the tape onto (photos coming).
  • Before measuring the length of a string line, ALWAYS make sure it is square to the completed perpendicular string line first.
  • Install the string lines in a consistent direction around your plan.  I worked counter-clockwise.
  • Cross brace your batters well – there is a lot of tension on them by the time you get your string lines tight, and they will move if not properly braced.

Well – now you are caught up.  Tomorrow is to be the big truss arrival day full of lots of stresses.  Will the trusses be damaged?  Will I be able to drive the telehandler (first time)?  Will I get the trusses off the truck and into their holding spot?

While on site I will also use the telehandler to lower a 9ft metal beam into the pit (to be used for footing layout and then built into the basement ceiling) and a plate compactor so that I can lock in the crushed rock in the footing zones before doing the final grading. Once complete I will haul the compactor back to the top using my recently acquired winch while ‘driving’ it up the ramp.

I promise to take some photos and videos soon.  I have been waiting for better weather.

Thanks for visiting.


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Mud is Vanquished!

November 19, 2014

As of this evening, I will no longer be worried about storm water or working in mud.  This week has actually progressed at what could even be considered a professional schedule!

The E80 Bobcat arrived Monday morning and was quickly put to work removing the stockpiled dirt in the pit.  Even with the 15ft reach it still was not able to reach the bottom due to the slop of the pit walls.  So I would dig out as much as possible from the top and then use Alfie to consolidate the remaining soil and re-pile closer to the bank.

Tuesday was spent digging out the perimeter footing area near the bottom of the ramp.  This was an area that Diamond 11’s machine could not properly reach due to the angles, so there was quite a bit of digging.  Once this was generally complete, I had a large pile of dirt to get to the top again.  But before tackling it with the E80, I decided to see if I could lift down the skids of ICF.  I knew the E80 had the lift strength up close but was worried what would happen when I started reaching out over the edge and proceeded cautiously.  Well I found out in a hurry and it was not pretty. As soon as I got out over the top edge I felt the weight starting to pull me down and knew I had to just let her go.  Full joystick down and hope for the best.  The skid hung-up part way down the bank on the wire mesh which then allowed me to re-position my tracks and try to better stabilize with the front blade.  The end result was that the skid ended up lying on the side with two broken blocks.  Not bad but clearly I was not going to try this with the remaining 9 skids.  These will have to be moved by manual labour to the bottom of the pit but are not needed until after the footings are complete. I finished the day removing the last of the soil from the pit and stacking in two piles near the road.

Today I had two more loads of 3/4 crush slung into the pit which completed covering the pit floor.  I also covered the newly created back-fill piles in the front yard with plastic in advance of tomorrow’s rains.  It is thrilling and a great moral booster to no longer need to worry about the storm water, as it will now just build up below the gravel layer and then go back down when the pumps cycle.  This also allows me some mild movement with Alfie and I spent the rest of the day levelling the gravel in the footing zone for about 1/3 of the perimeter.

Regarding the footings, I have decided to go with the wrapped version.  This is somewhat easier to layout and now will allow me to also pour a stub foundation wall with the footing.  The significance of this is that I can start on the framing before pouring the basement slab.  This was not my original plan but is a good idea considering the delayed schedule and the winter weather we are now experiencing.  So this will allow a more traditional approach where I complete the sub slab plumbing and pouring slab after a lot of the framing is complete.

On the framing subject, my floor trusses are still in Quebec.  The shipper had a problem with a co-load, so the current plan is that they will be delivered next Tuesday.  I will now need to find a way to unload these 22ft long 1800 Lb bundles from a 53′ Van – Fun times.

I have been asked for a tour video of the job site and some pictures of various things I have been talking about.  I will try to get both of these done tomorrow. I have set up an electrical inspector visit tomorrow as I want to add in some additional plugs, some outdoor spot lights, and to re-energize the shop out back that has my compressor in it.  I will then start gathering the materials I need to start on the footing system.

Thanks for visiting.

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November 18, 2014

Sorry for the blackout folks.  My SHAW cable model flaked out yesterday afternoon and by the time I found out they were closed for the day.  I will provide a construction update this evening.


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Sub Slab Insulation – How to insulate around footings

November 14, 2014

I have had several of you asking “what’s up?” so here is an update. Not much 🙂

The tarp repair went as planned on Saturday and was completed in under 3 hours.  The rest of the day was occupied with non-construction related tasks.

Monday was a full pull with both Brian from Embers and my father-in-law on site.  Eric finished loading all of the 2×4 salvaged material into the new storage rack we had built on Friday.  Brian and I had the thrilling job of moving enough of the ICF blocks from the road side to the bottom of the pit in order to make room for the floor truss package coming (I hope) from Quebec.

We built a chute to slide the blocks down to the bottom.  It was my hope that we could slide multiple units down the chute and then go into the pit and unload.  This would have allowed Brian to work on those while I worked on other things.  I really was not up to lifting too much with the back problems I have had lately.  Well – this did not work.  It looked fine at first but when we went to remove the blocks we found the first two units had sheared apart.  So I had to stay in the bottom of the pit and unload the blocks one unit at a time while Brian slid from above.  And even then I had to devise ways to arrest some of the momentum before they hit the bottom to prevent damage.  These blocks are durable, but fragile at the same time.  They do not like sideways hits.

A much better method is to lower the skids into the pit with some form of crane which is exactly what I plan for the remaining 10 skids. I have rented a Bobcat E80 mini excavator for Monday AM.  This has a 15′ dig depth so will allow me to perch at top of pit and dig out all of the soil I have stockpiled by the ramp as a result of digging the footing trenches and also scrapping away the mud before back-filling with gravel.

The timing of this rental coincides with when my truss package was supposed to be delivered from Quebec.  I released the shipment on Monday and was told it would be here Tuesday with a 99% certainty.  BUT as of today when I checked to confirm ETA, it had not left yet (waiting for explanation) – so it is looking very much like the second shipment out of the east is also going to be totally screwed up and I will have to hang onto the tractor for the full week’s rent compared to the 2 days I planned.  This will cost me an extra $710 + tax.  Oh well – it is just money – right 🙁

Because of the planned truss arrival timing, and the fact that I really cannot do more on site until I get the rest of the dirt out of the pit, I have not done too much more at the site this week.  I took a couple of loads to the dump including my salvaged plastic pipe, and also picked up a 9ft W8x18 Metal I-Beam I need for the basement ceiling.  I will use this as a flat edge to assembly my ICF into 3-block modules to be used for the first row that will be incorporated into the footings.  This will take a bit more setup but will ensure a perfectly level and plumb ICF starter row making the rest of the installation so much easier.

The rest of the week has surrounded finalizing my footing design, including how I will insulate the interior strip and pad footings and the details surrounding the use of Fastfoot by Fab-Form (fabric footing forms that stop rising damp).

One issue is that I am trying to decide whether to sandwich the insulation between the footing and slab as in fig 1  or wrap the concrete assembly with insulation like figure 2 below. Based on THERM modeling, the method shown in figure 1 represent a bit better resistance to thermal flow but then requires the use of 100 PSI foam for a 14″ strip centered on the wall, and something with 300 PSI compression strength for directly under some post point loads, whereas the fig 2 method can utilize 60 PSI foam on the bottom of the footing and 20 PSI everywhere else.

Insulation is continuous below slab but must be increased in density for portion above footings.

Fig 1 Insulation is continuous below slab but must be increased in density for portion above footings.

Insulation wraps around footing.  A bit of a energy hit but uses cheaper materials.

Fig 2 Insulation wraps around footing. A bit of a energy hit but uses cheaper materials.

If you have an opinion on this issue (or anything else I write on) please drop me a message and chime in.  Would love to get others input and experience on this.

As I have had some time this week, I have been cleaning up paperwork and updating my to-do list.  I also have approached two new vendors for possible sponsorship for the project.  This led to a visit of the hits stats for my blog and I was totally shocked at the result.  For most of the last year the blog had averaged 500 or so hits a month now that most of my activity was focused on this journal (down from 750-800 hits when the blog was my main activity).  I expected this to continue or even drop as I concentrated more on this site than the blog, but I was blow away to see that for the last month it was 1901 hits and that I was rapidly approaching 18,000 all time hits.  This is very humbling and definitely helps provide incentive to stay the course.

All I can say is Thank You for Visiting!


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Huff and Puff

November 7, 2014

We survived the storms! Between the torrential downpours and the high winds, my site has been under attack.  But both I and my tarp have survived I am pleased to say. With 2.5″ of raining falling in less than a 24 hour period, I would say the tarp has passed with flying colours on the water shedding task.  There has been zero ponding.  So the new shape is working well.

It also survived some really large wind gusts over the last few days.  Counter to what I previously reported, we actually have had a lot of updrafts that have billowed the tarp straight up.  It is quite unnerving but the tarp has held up quite well.  The NW previously damaged corner has some minor ripping that I will repair this weekend.  This is on the side that did not have the full rope structure system setup, so it is amazing that the damage was not worse.  The south tension line also came undone which is why you now see some sag when you look at the tarp in the web cams.  This is an easy fix as I can reach this connection when the main cable is lowered (unlike the north side that requires an arbourist to climb the tree).

So I will fix these two items this weekend, but I am also planning further strengthening of the system with more rope lines, including some lines that will go over the tarp to restrain it somewhat during the uplifts.  My vendor is out of rope, so I will have to wait a week or so for new stock before I can implement these enhancements.

This week has seen some progress in the pit floor. Wednesday morning was used up fixing the fan belt on the tractor.  What should have been a 30 minute job took a lot longer due to belt sizing issues.  The first purchase had the wrong belt in the package.  The second attempt had the right belt in the package, but I had underestimated the belt size needed (I was just using an automotive belt instead of genuine Bobcat belt, as I did not want to take the time to go all the way out to Surrey for just a belt – in the end I used up just as much time). Third time was a charm and we were running by about 11:30 AM. I spent the rest of my day  consolidating the soil to remove from the pit, strengthening the batter boards that Ted and I had put up the previous 2 days, and finishing the digging of the west and some of the south perimeter footings, and then finally scraping off the mud on the pit floor about 15′ back from the west wall in prep for some more stone slinging.

Ted joined me again on Thursday for what was supposed to be more batter board layout, but storm water management became the theme of the day.  We had to return a pump that was under performing and I bought another of the electronic units I like instead.  Now all three are the 1/3 HP Pump and interchangeable.  This was followed by not one, but two pumps developing stuck impellers (bits of gravel typically caused from me doing work close by and disturbing the area).  I had also started off the day with the north pump working well but not putting out any volume.  Took 15 minutes to figure out that a small piece of gravel had jammed the check valve, I installed in the piping, partially closed.

Once the pumps were all working again, I had to again re-scrape the mud off the pit floor at the back 20 or so ft, because the pit had flooded again and I was having crushed rock blown in with the slinger later that day.  We finally got started with the planned tasks for the day around noon. I dug out part of the garage’s east footings so they would be ready for the gravel.

Once done, Ted and I started laying out the batter boards for the western most internal footing (for some bearing walls in basement).  Soon thereafter, Raj from RRR Slinger Services arrived to sling a load of gravel.  I used RRR because they were $5 a ton cheaper than Superior which works out to about $100 per load.  J&R were the cheapest (by another $5 a ton) but were fully booked this week as they were running only one truck with the other in the shop.  I will probably use J&R for the final loads that I will need.  Once the gravel was done, Ted and I went back to the layout and finished the one set of batter boards for the internal footing and called it a day as it getting dark before 5PM and I do not have any flood lights set up yet.

Ted was busy with real life today, but my Father-In-Law returned to the site for the first time since before the excavation started.  We spent the morning building a shelving unit for salvaged wood that has been stacked on the ground.  It is soaked and in my way.  I have floor trusses in storage in Quebec that I am being pressured to have shipped by warehouse.  SO I will clear a place at the front of the site by moving all of the salvaged wood to a new storage location. We finished up just prior to lunch when Raj arrived for the second load of crushed rock I had ordered.  This finished up the areas I had prepared to date and left me a few stockpiles around the pit floor that I can use to bring the footing areas to final grade (I am generally just getting gravel down on the pit floor at this point so that the mud is stopped).

After lunch Eric worked on starting to load the new shelves with the wood, sorting it by length.  I went down to the pit floor and started moving dirt.  The idea was to move all the dirt, that needs to be removed from the pit, right up against to pit wall by the ramp, and then creating a platform part way up the ramp that I could park Alfie on to allow me to grab the dirt from the bottom of the pit and swing around and dump to the top of the pit.

This all went quite well – at first!  I was consolidating the dirt against the ramp and then build a shallower ramp that I tried to climb up on.   The soil was too wet and slippery, so I lined the ramp with wood pallets.  This allowed me to get Alfie about 2/3 of the way out of the pit hole and on the top of my temp ramp.  Poor guy probably thought he was finally free.  I was working away, digging the soil from the furthest reaches at the bottom so that I would be able to reach it all once I positioned myself on the platform I dug into the original ramp.  Then I looked down.

Soil has liquefied and I am going down.

Soil has liquefied and I am going down.

I was sinking and fast.  The vibration of the machine had liquefied the wet soil (have I told you how much I hate this soil!)  This photo was taken just as the ‘soil’ was cresting over the top of the tracks.  In the end, I sunk down so that it was almost coming into the cab.  There was no way I was driving the machine out of this one.  At this point the bottom of the tracks was about 5ft above the pit bottom.  I could swing the turret, but there was no way I could drive out or even push my machine into the air with the boom, because of the suction created by this goo around my machine. So the only hing I could think of was to dig my way down!  I continually dug the pile out around 3 sides of me and as I did so, the goop under me would flow out and I would get closer to the pit bottom elevation. After 45 minutes or so, I hit solid ground again and then was able to drive/pull myself out.  It was now dark and I was done for the day.

I am now going to have to come up with a new plan.  It is clear this stuff is going to be too wet to climb over with Alfie (even though it has been under a tarp for a couple of weeks now).  Diamond 11 machines are too big to work in such tight quarters now that the ramp is in place (last thing they dug before they left) and now that the tarp is lower.  I asked for a quote from a Vac Excavation service and they have not bothered to return my call.  I looked into a portable conveyor and it would cost $1800 for the week and would need all kinds of scaffolding to be built as it could only operate at a max of 40 degree grade. SO my current preference is to rent a larger mini-excavator. One that could reach the bottom of the pit from the top of the pit.  I would use Alfie to push all the dirt to the pit wall, and the larger machine to lift it out and stockpile in the front yard (to be used for back-fill later).

I would also use this machine to unload the floor trusses when they arrive, and once all of the dirt was out of the hole, and all the footings were dug, I would use to it pull Alfie up the ramp and to freedom.  That would be the plan anyway and we now how well I do at following plans 🙂

Thanks for visiting.

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String Theory

November 4, 2014

The last two days has been all about laying out little orange strings that indicate the outside edges of my footing.  I had these dimensions identified by survey, instead of the actual foundation dimensions, to aid in the excavation.  Once in place, I will measure off these lines to identify the edges of the foundation.

Ted, a friend and fellow home inspector,  dropped by yesterday afternoon and this morning to give me a hand.  It has been great to have the assistance, company, and to have someone to bounce solutions off of when problems crop up.

I started yesterday off trying to drive wood stakes into the ground.  I tried driving a metal stake first to create a pilot hole and also rented a jackhammer to try to make a pilot hole but nothing worked.  The wood stake would just bounce out of the very dense sandy clay.  The jackhammer was the worst option as it would partially liquefy the soil meaning it would just cave back in when removed.  I finally had to go out and rent metal curb/form stakes which are 2′ long 3/4″ metal stakes with holes drilled through that allow you to attach lumber to them.  I was able to drive these in all the way leaving the last 6″ or so and then screw a wood stake to them to provide the above grade portion of the batter board structure.  Along with cross bracing, I now had sturdy batter boards ready for running string lines.

With this hurtle solved, I moved on to transferring the footing lines from the strings at the top of the pit down to the bottom using plumb bobs. Ever noticed how the hole in a plumb bob makes it impossible to thread a string through.  It is JUST wide enough for the string, but trying to push a string through is next to impossible.  So, I just drill out by one size bigger and save myself literally hours of work.  With Ted’s help, we moved 3 of the more major lines down to the pit floor yesterday.

This morning started off with a bit too much water in part of the pit again.  Turned out a power chord had slipped and fallen into the water where it blew the GFCI.  With the 2.5″ of rain we had last night, it did not take long to build up a foot or so of water on the north half of the pit.  This was a fast fix and within a couple of hours the pit floor was generally dry again.  I also had the shed cam go down at some point yesterday evening which turned out to be water travelling down the LAN chord into the connection.  This too was a fast fix.

Once Ted arrived,  we picked up where we left off yesterday and started to check the dimensions from the north side of the house to the south.  We were off between 1.5″ – 2.25″.  Not good!  So the next hour or so was spent to try and figure out what had shifted.  In the end, we could not find a logical reason.  All of the batter boards originally surveyed could not have moved enough to account for this variance so they may have been off themselves.

In the end, I analyzed the best line to pick as our starting point and then worked off it to true up everything else.  My ancient memories of geometry were put to good use as we employed the Pythagorean theorem to ensure our perpendicular lines were square to each other.  I had a bit of a hiccup when I decided to work backwards from the hypotenuse and one leg, but after a few minutes I gave up on trying to work the problem from that angle (scuse the pun), and worked instead from two legs and of course this time it was fine. It was only after I left the site that realized I was adding the two instead of taking the leg away from the hypotenuse.

By 1 PM, we had laid out all of the lines that can be done before I need to move some dirt out of the way with the tractor.  I had med appointments in the afternoon, so this closed down our day.

Tomorrow I will do a tractor repair (we discovered today a fan belt was shredded) and will start moving the final dirt.  I also hope to lay out the final batter board and then start laying out the internal footings.

It feels good to finally be progressing on actual construction.  Ted has been coming by because he wants to see the footings done and behind me.  He has generally been propagating a ‘lets get her done’ attitude.  But after working with me today, understands the very tight space tolerances of this site as well as the special consideration needed for an ICF foundation, and how rushing through this is not an option.

As I will be pouring the first row of ICF with my footings, it is essential that the layout is as accurate as possible and does make footing layout more crucial than normal construction.  My dwelling is very close to the front yard setback (within an inch), and I have minimal room between the foundation and the concrete blocks at the NW corner of the pit.  I also have very little room between the basement walkout foundation and the concrete lock blocks.  So even an inch can make a monumental difference in some of these tight spots.  I will therefore continue laying out with enough patience to ensure we get the strings where they need to be.

Thanks for visiting.


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The B.A.T. flies!

November 2, 2014

Well, I am pleased to say the Big Ass Tarp is flying high once again – and this time it really does look to be here for a while.

Thursday saw only an hour of time on site which was spent starting the repair of my landscape ladder.  The rest of the day was spent visiting Mike Beauchamp from Triforce (the makers of my OpenJoist Floor Truss) at the Wood Solutions trade show followed by a massage appointment in the afternoon that my back was very grateful for.

I am still a little freaked out that I was on my ladder only minutes before the leg broke off while moving it.  I usually do a check on the rungs of the ladder the first time I climb it each day, but I would have never expected the actual aluminum frame to break off.  Looking at the failure, I believe it was do to poor design as shown by the attached photo.

Scary!  - The thin aluminum strip cracked off along the whole edge of the profile.

Scary! – The thin aluminum strip cracked off along the whole edge of the profile.

My repair is much more robust using angle iron and much stronger hinges.  I will now look at all components of a ladder a lot more carefully during regular inspections.

Angle iron was bolted to both the top and side of the remaining profile.

Angle iron was bolted to both the top and side of the remaining profile.

Strong hinges were bolted to both the angle iron and original frame.

Strong hinges were bolted to both the angle iron and original frame.

Friday was a lot more productive and saw most of the tarp rigging complete.  I also transferred my elevations down to the pit floor and laid out the footing string lines.

We saw quite a bit of wind during the week, and the tarp seemed to handle it quite well as previously reported.  But that was before Friday and Saturday’s final tensioning, so we will need to see in the upcoming days.  Saturday saw the tarp take it’s final shape as I fully tightened all of the lines.

I was very pleased with the shape of the tarp and suspected it would perform well in the rain.  I did not have to wait long, today’s rain – at times heavy- showed that the tarp is perfect from a water shedding perspective.  I elected to not truss the ropes under the tarp, as the slope looked to be good enough to prevent ponding even though there is a lot of slack in the middle of the tarp due to the amount the tarp has stretched (I estimate that the middle of the tarp has stretched up to 3-4ft). The water is running off at the NE corner onto the poly and down to the gravel by the north Pit Pump.  So all is working perfect.

I originally planned to truss up between the support ropes, but today's rain test showed that not to be required.

I originally planned to truss up between the support ropes, but today’s rain test showed that not to be required.

This is a huge relief and will allow me to finally concentrate on actual construction.  I cannot tell you how good it felt to work under the tarp while I was repairing the ladder and it was POURING out.  Even the crew working on the house down the street had called it a day.  But I am glad to have a portable toilet on site if you know what I mean.  There is a lot of running water around 🙂

Raining so hard even the pros were absent.  Notice the unprotected pile of plywood warping in the rain.

Raining so hard even the pros were absent. Notice the unprotected pile of plywood warping in the rain.

Saturday, I also started in an attempt to install batter boards on the pit floor.  After an hour, I had only been able to drive three stakes in and even these were not as rigid as I would hope.  That glacial till is murder to try and penetrate.  I will go to the tool rental shop tomorrow to see if their is anything that can help.

This week will be about laying out and digging out the final footing areas and then covering the pit floor with gravel.  This will also require the final removal of dug dirt from the pit floor.  I am looking into having this done by vac truck as it will be a lot easier than trying to get a big excavator back in.  I may also look at digging out the middle of the ramp so I can perch my excavator part way up and then using it to move dirt from the pit floor to the top of the bank.  I would like a way to find room to store the dirt on site at the front of the house to use as back-fill.  So part of the week may also involve reorganizing the front of the site.

Finally, I decided to get a little crazy and bounce a laser star generator off the tarp and leave you with this photo.

Star Gazing

Star Gazing

Thanks for visiting.

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