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Report Card

Tonight I also wanted to share some of my thoughts on the progress to date.

This build is to be a showcase house demonstrating best practices for building envelope and house construction in general.  However I would say to date that although I probably score an A in effort, I would get an F for content on the project so far.

The fact that the house took 3 months to take down, and that it has been almost 2 months since the house has been gone, and we are still doing excavation related activities, is quite frankly pathetic!  Anybody in the construction business would just laugh at my attempts to date and I would not find fault in that reaction.

This project has pushed me to the limits on many levels and obviously, a lack of experience has had a major contribution to the extended time line. But, I also seem to be plagued with outside forces that at least on the face of things, seem to be asking for things to be done in ways that are not seen on most build sites. Whether this is because I have actually hired quality consultants that actually ensure best practice (compared to cheap and rubber stamping consultants I see on so many jobs), or it is a result of certain authorities taking extra interest because this is a owner builder, I do not know.

For instance, this excavation a mere two blocks away has much steeper banks than mine (granted - they are not as deep but the bearing principles still apply.
For instance, this excavation a mere two blocks away has much steeper banks than mine (granted – they are not as deep but the bearing principles still apply.

And then there is of course my ongoing struggles with the tarp.  This has been at the front and center of so many of the delays. Over the last week or two I have though long and hard about this part of the puzzle.  Really, it is not needed right now and by the time I started framing, I could just drape a much smaller tarp over the top of the foundation, or part of structure completed to date.  But this would prevent all of you from being able to keep tabs on the project via the webcams and would eliminate the time lapse photos I am capturing on this build.  As this is a process I have committed to (and put a lot of time and money towards), I really need to keep trying on the tarp as I refuse to build a house where the engineered components become saturated.

I was also recently questioned as to the wisdom of posting all of my trials and tribulations on this build and how this could effect value if we sold down the road. Well, for starters, we plan on owning this dwelling for some time (10 years at least), but secondly – this site will document that while yes I will have challenges, in the end – things WILL be done right.

So while, I may complain that I am unhappy with the progress, or that I am being asked to do something I feel at the time is not required.  I will be satisfied that as components are completed, they will represent best practice and something I can be proud of.

I leave you with some thoughts of what I have learned to date:

  • Do not allow disconnection of services to the existing dwelling until you have building permits for the new dwelling in hand.  I would extend this advise to say, do not move out until you have permits in hand (if you are an owner build and already were living on the property).  The best plan for us would have been to stay in the house until next spring and have spent this year purging, planning, getting quotes, and doing some of the back yard landscaping including building the concrete block and stone fence along the south property line.
  • Make a much stronger effort to dismantle the house in a expedited time frame including hiring assistance.  This step was only planned to take one month.  The extra 2 months added up to $2400 in rent which could have been put towards labour to expedite the process. I still feel that dismantling a house is worth the effort and added cost.
  • Pay very close attention to layout lines to ensure that you only excavate the area needed.  Over-excavating a tight job site results in needless removal of material (costs and delays) and in my case, eroded the ability to have an engineer mandated slope. It probably would have also been a good idea to make a slope checking jig, to ensure that the excavators are conforming to the engineer’s specs.
  • Ensure that the pit base is dug out with a smooth edged bucket instead of one with teeth.  It does not work to try and re-compact glacial till that has been disturbed with the teeth of a bucket. No matter how well packed down, once wet, it turns to soup.
  • Get gravel down in the bottom of your pit VERY QUICKLY.  Even if this means putting it down before you have finished digging the footings and will have to move the gravel aside in these areas to dig the footings. Of course, this is a fairly unique problem on my job site because I am also putting a gravel drainage bed below the footings which is best practice and more difficult to build but not something down on most builds.  At the most, some builds with higher water levels will install a drain pipe from one side of the footing to the other.
  • And finally, you need to accept that some delays are unavoidable and you just have to deal with them and move on.

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