Monthly Archives: August 2015

Back Again – Now What?

August 31, 2015

Well, today was to be the day I was going to start back at the jobsite. I had taken the last 2.5 weeks off to rest the shoulder to see if it made any difference. Instead of getting better, it continued to get worse, so I thought I may as well go back to work and get some tasks completed while I waited for this Wednesday’s MRI.

But then Thursday happened.  My nephew Jonathan came over to help me with some storm proofing tasks.  I had to replace some plastic on the north bank and the backfill pile of soil.  After completing those locations we started on the task of replacing the tarp on the north side of the house.

We first tuned up the tarp on the south side and then built a short wall to support the seam between the south and north tarp. We had just finished stapling the edge of the tarp to the top of the wall and I was putting some tension on a ‘stud’ when I heard and felt a pop in my lumbar and had immediate excruciating pain in my lower back and extending down both legs to the calf.  If you know about back injuries, you will know that this usually is a sign of a bulged or even a herniated disc.

I had been suffering with some moderate back pain last fall, and had also had a 9 month long issue back in 2008, but this time it was different because it went from no pain to severe pain in a second. That ended most of my active involvement for the day and Jonathan completed the lion’s share of getting the south tarp set up,with me reduced to tying off ropes and such.  I am very grateful he was there.

I have spent most of the time since lying down and am trying to get my doctors referral to the MRI clinic to now also include the lumbar of the spine.  It will cost me an extra $900 (the shoulder will be $1400), but it is important to know if the disc is just bulged as opposed to herniated.  If bulged, it can be treated with the spinal decompression therapy and I will be able to proceed with minor to moderate work at the site and hire labours for any of the heavy activities. If it is also herniated/torn, then I really will need to stay off my feet for 2-3 months to let it heal.

Of course as luck would have it, I was not able to rest completely over the last few days. The Lower Mainland has just experienced a significant storm event. So I crawled back to the site on Friday for some tarp tune ups and then on Saturday for a major re-rigging. I started with some minor work tying off the eyelets at the SE and SW corner before a very strong gust ripped the entire south tarp off. I just about gave up at that point, but I knew the roof will not be on till next year and that if the dwelling was left unprotected all winter, all of the engineered wood would be ruined. So I sucked it up and re-rigged. This time I screwed the tarp down to the 2×4 supports below with plywood furring strips (normally used for rain-screen assemblies). Ron my neighbor helped with this task and I was very grateful. This seems to have done the trick and I have not had anymore issues since but we have not had a return of the strong winds, so time will tell.

Top side of tarp is strapped down to supports with furring strips

Top side of tarp is strapped down to supports with furring strips

Underneath, all is dry and easily inspectable

Underneath, all is dry and easily inspectable

So – once again, my plans are out the window and I am in a holding pattern while I wait to see how bad the back damage is. If I can continue with some work at site, I will hopefully be able to finish the torch on membrane, insulation, and dimple sheet on the east, south, and west walls of the dwelling.  This would allow the completion of the backfill before the falls rains begin because once the steady rains start, I will not be able to work this soil as it just turns to milkshake when it gets wet.

If I cannot do any work, I will just button things up and re-group in a few months as I really do not trust anyone to install the waterproofing, insulation, dimple sheet, granular drainage plain, geotech, and compacted backfill unsupervised.  This is too critical a task and is quite frankly very time consuming and at times difficult. I just know that others would not be interested in taking the time to ensure all steps were completed correctly.  From within the build community I keep getting comments to not worry about all the layers and to just throw the dirt up against the torch on membrane with the tractor and be done with it. But this would remove the redundant safety of the system and also reduce the thermal performance of the wall and place all of the insulation inboard of the foundation where it would create the conditions that would allow all interior air contacting the foundation wall to condense leading to indoor air quality and raceway wall structure issues.  I will wait until I can ensure it is done correctly.

So there you have it. Yet another set back for the books. I have had so many now that they are becoming easier to adjust to. I just need to dust myself off, regroup, and continue when I can.  But it is starting to become crazy.  How much is one person supposed to take?  And more importantly WHY???

Thanks for visiting.

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Time for reflection

August 25, 2015

Well, if I have had anything over the last 1+ week, it is time.  I am sticking to my word with the medical team and not doing anything at the build site for a 2 week period (possibly more).

My only activity at site last week was to move some backfill sand with Alfie on Wednesday as Diamond was nice enough to drop off three loads from an excavation they are doing nearby and I needed to make room for the loads.  I continue to be amazed at how different the soils are throughout my neighborhood.  The sand below came from about 4 blocks away and is pure sand with some small coble and a bit of gravel mixed in.  Sure wish this was what we had had to work with!  It will make great backfill and will compact easily and drain well.

Close to pure sand excavated from a lot very near my jobsite.

Close to pure sand excavated from a lot very near my jobsite.

I have spent parts of my days updating my AutoCAD model to reflect the actual dimensions of the poured foundation.  The small differences in location of the poured vs. the planned have large repercussions throughout the model including beam placement, point loads, floor truss and sheathing placement, and internal wall layouts.  And of course changes in any of these also effects the HVAC ducting and plumbing drain layouts.  I am about 75% of the way through all of the edits.

The rest of the time has been occupied with medical appointments and just resting.  It is during this resting, that I have had time to reflect on the last 1+ years of this process.  I am pleased with how things have been done, but not how long they have taken.  I am going to have to really push hard in the new year to start making reasonable progress on this build.

I also have had time to analyze some of my previous responses to adversity.  One that I feel badly over is my reaction to the District inspector who game me a chewing out for not having my safety fencing up before I started to take down the old structure. In my July 2014 posting I indicated that “I also expect parents to supervise their kids and not let them walk through other peoples yards.”  I have often since that day thought about this and realized I was in the wrong – so it is time to fess up.  While the inspectors behavior that day could have been improved (she should have only ranted at me and not the neighbors), I should have taken safety a lot more seriously at the beginning and had fencing in place prior to deconstruction of the original dwelling’s exterior.

A second item I think about often is the action by WorkSafe BC that forced my hand on installing the welded wire mesh on my banks (see Bank Blanket Complete). While I definitely felt safer during the prolonged time this site has remained a ‘hole’, and I agree that the mesh was the right thing to do, I still cannot believe what other builders seem to ALWAYS get away with.

Close by build site west wall is very close to vertical. Vertical lumber is supporting temp drainage connection to neighbor property.

Close by build site west wall is very close to vertical. Vertical lumber is supporting temp drainage connection to neighbor property.

Same site - East wall - Totally vertical AND very close to a neighbors house (less than 4 ft)

Same site – East wall – Totally vertical AND very close to a neighbors house (aprox 4 ft)

A more recent site in neighborhood - totally vertical

A more recent site in neighborhood – totally vertical

My frustration is not that I was forced to be safer, it is more at the disparity I continue to see between what I am required to do on my job site and what other builders seem to continually get away with.  Why is there two standards???  Another example is the lack of side yards I see on some new construction in my neighborhood.  We have a very strick zoning bylaw that requires a side yard min of 4ft BUT that both side yards must also occupy 20% of the lot width (so one side yard has to be a lot bigger than 4ft on average). So how does the following dwelling get away with only having a 2ft side yard.  And I got grief because my roof peak was a mere 8″ too high in order to accommodate a clear storey??  Again – where is the consistency?

The combined side yard between two dwellings is only 4ft (2' each yard)

The combined side yard between two dwellings is only 4ft (2′ each yard)

What I have happily reflected on as I visit job site after job site is the quality of my construction compared to that I am seeing everywhere else.  I may not be fast (far from it), and I do not always get it right the first time.  BUT – In the end, my house is being built right and to a very high level of quality.  And for that I can be proud.

For the rest of the week, I will still be taking it easy.  My only site tasks will be to replace the blue tarp with a new tarp I bought back when I installed the white half.  I have been letting the wind blow down the blue tarp over the last week to get it out of my way, but now I need to prep for the significant rains coming this weekend.  Other than that, I will be working on the computer model and also proceeding on the medical front.  My shoulder has actually gotten a lot worse since I stopped working (I know – go figure!).  So I have set up a second opinion consult with Dr. Chin at the Cambie Surgical Centre.  But as this is not till late September, I have also elected to pay for a private MRI Arthrogram in order to get an idea sooner as to what is wrong and to what level of activity would be prudent.  I go for a test fit tomorrow (MRI standard bore is 24″ and I am about 22″ should to shoulder – so will be tight fit) and hope to complete the actual MRI scan on Friday.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for visiting.

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A break for a break!

August 16, 2015

After having a conversation with a nearby resident who reviews my journal, I realized I had not explained why I was in a funk on my last posting.  Just as well, as the situation has changed dramatically again since last week.

Over the last month or so, I have been coming to a realization that there would be no practical way to advance the framing to the point where I would get the roof on before the fall rains.  I was just too far behind and the backfill was going to take a long time (55 manhours between Aaron and I to backfill the first 5′ on east wall and about half of south wall) .

I had also miss-stepped when planning the foundation pour.  I had poured the inboard half of the garage west wall right to the finished height to support the attachment of the floor trusses, but had not done the same on part of the south wall, that while not needing to support trusses, did need to support a post that would carry a beam supporting the 2nd floor. Now, while I had figured out a way that I could still proceed with temporary supports, I knew it was going to make everything harder and take longer.

I had also planned on pouring the suspended garage slab, and basement walk-up stairs later in the process, and would therefore delay backfill of the north wall of the house.  It would make framing a lot easier (and safer) to do if all of these steps were complete, so a couple of weeks ago I reluctantly made the decision to switch things up.  I would now do everything that is possible to complete on the house before the framing, over the fall/winter months, and start the first floor framing in the early spring. These tasks would include (in installation order):

  • completing foundation waterproofing on all walls except the garage walls and north wall
  • completing outboard foundation insulation and dimple board on all walls except the garage walls and north wall
  • backfilling all but the garage walls and north wall
  • forming and pouring the suspended garage slab (complete with curb that will rise above grade 6″ and support walls) and also the footing/slab for the basement walkout
  • complete waterproofing on garage and north walls
  • finish insulating and installing dimple on garage south and east walls and then backfilling these walls
  • forming and pouring basement walk-up foundation
  • installing deep well dewatering pumps and ground water capture cistern and connect to Municipal storm sewer.
  • installing basement below slab sani drain system (including sani sewer sump and pump)
  • waterproofing, insulating, and backfilling north wall on each side of basement walk-up.
  • backfilling basement walk-up interior and form and pour stairs
  • install building science lab for floor slab in cold room under garage
  • install sub slab radon mitigation piping
  • insulated and pour basement floor slabs
  • frame partition walls in basement including service raceways against foundation
  • continue basement plumbing and portion of system that runs in first-storey-floor assembly.
  • install ventilation ducts in first storey floor assembly
  • commence wiring in basement

As you can see, there is a LOT that can be done at this stage of construction before needing to frame the upper floors.  This will enable me to work over the wet winter without subjecting the structure to severe wetting. It also really does not change the overall time frame for completion much as these are all tasks that need to be completed anyway.  And I may start framing before completing this list, it will depend on the weather next spring, and how far through the list I have made it.

The change of order however was a bit of a mental blow knowing I was not going to get the majority of framing behind me this year as planned.  In a lot of ways, I was feeling like I had failed and know I will be judged by others accordingly.  But, that is out of my control now and I am not going to worry about it.

But then, a series of medical appointments put this change of order of construction in focus and showed that this will all be for the best.  You see, my arm is not healing very well.  I have plateaued since the second week of physio (week 8 since injury). This, along with the general behind state of construction was really bumming me out!

There was great improvement within the first two weeks (I could raise my arm to about chest height instead of waste height), but efforts to improve upon this initial progress have been proving fruitless and in fact I had many weeks where I am slipping backwards in my progress.

Of course it did not help that my construction activities were often extreme.  Vibration is one of the worst things I can do, so the use of a rotary hammer drill on the sump, and the plate compactor were not doing me any favours. X-Rays on the 7th showed that the bone has not healed as far a long as expected for 11 weeks post injury. Jay, my physio (really a athletic strength and conditioning coach) who works with many of the premier athletes in the Province and who used to be the Rehabilitation Coordinator for the Toronto Blue Jays, has identified three possible issues with the soft tissue of the shoulder.  All would most likely require some form of surgery.

I brought up these concerns with my assigned surgeon last week and asked for a MRI to further diagnose, but his approach was to do nothing and wait another 6 weeks to see. I am not comfortable with this prescription and will be getting a second opinion.  It is becoming clear to me that the surgeon’s acceptable end result for my range of motion may be well below my acceptable standards.

But in order to escalate this, I need to first prove that “conservative measures” have failed to significantly improve my mobility.  And while I have been going to physio twice a week and performing my prescribed exercises, my activities at the construction site are most likely preventing my body from healing in a normal time frame/manner.

So, because the pressure is now off on the build (no longer trying to frame this year), I will heed the advise of my medical team and take a break.  I generally will not be on site for the next 2 weeks while I see how my body reacts to a more sedentary existence. The timing sucks (missing good weather), but I really do not have too much of a choice.  During this time I will work on catching up on my office work (for the build and personal), but I will also be concentrating on just resting because I really have not had a holiday for over 2 years and not even a day off for over a year (beyond some sick days last fall).

Jay's treatment is out of this world.  He has the only MR4 Super Pulsed Laser in a clinical practice in Canada.  There is one of these devices on the international space station.

Jay’s treatment is out of this world. He has a MR4 Super Pulsed Laser . There is one of these devices on the international space station. This device has two heads that guild the user to damaged tissue by reading the tissue density (think stud sensor) and electrical resistance. A series of lights on the heads show the user when it is time to scan or time to stop and let the laser do its work.

Jay also uses the Hivamat 200 Evident.  This device uses static vibration to bust up scar tissue.

Jay also uses the Hivamat 200 Evident. This device uses static vibration to bust up scar tissue.  This is the only unit in Canada currently being used in a clinic.  There is also one at the manufactures show room and at a university in Eastern Canada.

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Coming out of the hole.

August 11, 2015

Sorry folks – I know it has been a while since the last update.  To be frank, I have been in a funk and have had a lot on my plate!  Lets bring you up to speed.

On July 28th I passed my perimeter drainage inspection with flying colours.  To be honest, it was anti-climatic because he barely looked at the system I was so proud of 🙂  He had a comment something like “the most consciences builder I will ever inspect”.

I spent the rest of July and the first few days of Aug on waterproofing and insulation detail.  I am attaching Roxul Comfort-board to the outside of the foundation.  But before this step, I had to make sure I was satisfied with the seams of the Colphene Torch’N Stick membrane and also the adhesion of the Sopralene Flam Stick membrane to the Fastfoot Fabric footing form.  These systems not only provide the waterproofing of the foundation, they also provide the air barrier for the below grade walls.  There was also some final repairs that were needed to the FastFoot fabric.  I found that the best method of fixing the fast foot was to gently apply the torch to the back side of the Torch on membrane and let cool slightly and then apply to the footing fabric.  I also used the torch and a trowel to seal all of the seams of the torch on membrane.  Cory had fused the membrane overlaps well, but I wanted the foundation to be 100% waterproof so took the extra step of sealing the seams as well.

Overlap well adhered but some fish-mouths in seams.

Overlap well adhered but some fish-mouths in seams.

Seams are now well sealed and form a homogeneous barrier

Seams are now well sealed and form a homogeneous barrier

Was the membrane work was completed, I could start work on the insulating.  The Torch’N Stick membrane is specifically manufactured so that it has a sticky outside face.  When you apply the torch to the surface, you are then able to adhere protection board or insulation directly to the surface.

To apply the Roxul, I heat the surface of the membrane with a torch and then just press insulation to membrane. For bottom row I also heated just above the transition so some of the bitumen would flow down onto the top surface of the Roxul.

To apply the Roxul, I heat the surface of the membrane with a torch and then just press insulation to membrane. For bottom row I also heated just above the transition so some of the bitumen would flow down onto the top surface of the Roxul.

Edit Feb 9, 2018.  If I was doing this again, I would probably just choose a standard torch on membrane (one without the torchable outside surface) if it was any cheaper than the Torch’N Stick membrane and then use Spray Tak from Protecto Wrap to temporarily adhere the Roxul to the walls till after backfill.  This materials was recommended for some Roxul activities above grade (getting-wrapped-thick-wool-blanket) and has amazing holding power.

I used a level on the bottom row to ensure subsequent courses would be nice and tight.

I used a level on the bottom row to ensure subsequent courses would be nice and tight.

2 courses of Roxul installed. The rest will be installed after the final waterproofing membrane is installed.

2 courses of Roxul installed. The rest will be installed after the final waterproofing membrane of the top curb is installed.

Once the Roxul was in place, I had to figure out a way of securing the dimple membrane to the Roxul.  In the end, I used a drywall screw type anchor.  These were the biggest I could find.  Time for the crew at Roxul to come up with a task specific anchor –  Rocky?  With both the Roxul and the dimple, you are only needing to hold in place long enough till you are able to back fill.  Normally dimple board is nailed right to the foundation, but this would penetrate the waterproofing membrane, not to mention represent mini-thermal bridges where ever the fasteners were installed.

 

First attempt to use butterfly anchors failed as the Roxul was too dense to allow them to open.

First attempt to use butterfly anchors failed as the Roxul was too dense to allow them to open.

I then graducated to these drywall screw anchors that along with some spray foam, worked a charm

I then graduated to these drywall screw anchors that along with some spray foam, worked a charm

Anchor installed. Was just enough torque to hold in place.

Anchor installed. Was just enough torque to hold in place. The membrane comes with a geotextile glued to the top of the dimples.  It is removed here for the photo.

I used DELTA®-DRAIN 6000 HI-X dimple membrane because this was the material that came in 6′ heights (just over half my wall height and a manageable height to work with) at my lumber store and because it was only $0.85/ft2 compared to $1.00/ft2 for the 5′ rolls of Delta MS (a less superior product).  The dimple membrane will help protect the Roxul from damage and keep it very dry.

Outboard of the dimple board will be a gravel column from the footings right to grade (or at least just under the sidewalks).  So I placed sheets of plywood about 6″ – 8″ away from the dimple and then ran a sheet of geotextile (Nilex 4551 Non Woven) outboard of the plywood and then back filled against the plywood.  The purpose of the geotextile is to prevent fines and other debris from clogging up the granular layer and ensure it remains free draining.

Plywood hording in place to define line between the gravel column and backfill. Plywood first covered with geotextile before backfilling

Plywood hording in place to define line between the gravel column and back-fill. Plywood first covered with geotextile before back filling. Wires are part of the instruments installed for the foundation building science lab.

Gravel is poured between the plywood and dimple board

Gravel is poured between the plywood and dimple board membrane (seen here with the integral membrane the 6000 HiX comes with.

The process is very labour intensive.  The back fill must be compacted in 10-12″ lifts, and the gravel and back-fill levels against the plywood can only build up about 8-12″ before you need to pull the plywood upwards. Otherwise there is too much friction on the plywood to raise with just human power.   So we are building up about 1 foot of back fill and then compacting while at the same time building up the gravel in the column just higher than the back fill and then pulling up the plywood so that it is just partially embedded (so that you can maintain the same thickness of gravel) and starting the process over and over again.  I have hired Aaron from Embers to help me this week to keep the process going.

Everyone compacts their back-fill in 12" lifts - right?? The truth is that this is hardly ever done in residential construction

Everyone compacts their back-fill in 12″ lifts – right?? The truth is that this is hardly ever done in residential construction.

Why compact?  I can honestly say that I have never seen a compactor used during back fill of a residential house and I have probably seen at least 50 houses during the backfill process.  The typical backfill involves slopping some bitumen compound onto the concrete (often it is sprayed), and then just dumping the dirt back into the hole.  Garbage, large rocks, and all.  Sometimes the excavator will attempt to tamp down the soil as he goes, but this is seldom effective.  2-3 days later the backfill is complete and construction progresses.  6 months later the sidewalks are poured.  Then I come along 5-10 years later for a Pre-Purchase House inspection and all of the sidewalks are slopping towards the house.  The soil settles over time when not back filled and results in a back sloped yard within the critical first 6′ out from the foundation.  Now anytime it rains, all the water will pool against your foundation and don’t think they sprayed on goop is going to keep you dry.  There is a reason they only call this damp proofing.  For me – I will compact every 12″ per my engineer’s advise.

Blackberry is ever vigilant and keeps a close eye on things.

Blackberry is ever vigilant and keeps a close eye on things.

Ron is a very lucky man with a wife (Gail) who is so versatile and willing to go the extra mile.

Ron is a very lucky man with a wife (Gail) who is so versatile and willing to go the extra mile.  She is painting the final parts of the dormer renovation.

Thanks for visiting.

“Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.”
—Wilferd A. Peterson (1900-1995) Author, Businessman

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” —Neale Donald Walsch (born 1943) Author

“While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” —Apple Computer Inc.

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