Saturday, August 28, 2010

Plan change 456382...

A co-worker (Kevin) came out to help us get the front on the overhang. Kevin and my dad went up on top with a tape measure to help me decide where we were going to put the seams in the Hardie panels. As we looked things over, the measurements just weren't turning out vary nice. This piece was going to need to be 6' 5" and the next 7' 3", the measurements were all over the place. Not only was the pattern of plates on front of the joists messed up, but the spacing was varying quite a bit. We talked it over, and I looked at where the seams were going to have to be. Because of the various issues with the positioning of plates for support, we would not be able to make the Hardie panels even and symmetric. Because of the positioning of the joists, the seams were not going to align with the aesthetically pleasing locations below either. For instance, the seams would be further away from the one side of the door than the other. They wouldn't line up with any sensible positions. So, the plan for the overhang reverted to a previous plan. I had a previous plan to use some of the Trex to cover the front of the overhang. The seams would not stand out, so the fact that they wouldn't line up nicely with details below them wouldn't be very noticeable.

Kevin helping my dad get the first board hung on the front of the overhang.

Last weekend, one of the things we worked on was getting the furring strips put up over the garage. First we put up some tape that will help keep the holes that the screws go through sealed up. This is the same tape that we put on the overhang.
Tape applied

Then we put up the furring strips. These are the ones that we had made with the aluminum attached to stiffen them.

Furring strips ready for siding

We also got the rest of the boards cut for the front of the overhang. While dad was cutting those boards, Kevin helped me cut and put foam up in the area over the wall, and inside the overhang. This will get sealed up when I have the contractor in to spray foam on the underside of the roof to seal it up. We got quite a bit done, and as we were working, I spotted yet another volunteer on my roof.

On Sunday, Adam called me. He had some time available, and was wondering if I had some earth moving he could do. I told him that I thought we could use dirt from in front of the house, and work on burying the south corners. I went out, and watched Adam, and pointed out how I wanted things. He moved quite a bit of dirt.

Adam and his Bobcat moving dirt.

Adam was able to get a lot of earth moved, before he had a hose break. He had to park the Bobcat and was going to need to go buy a new hose. Later that day, Kevin and mom and dad showed up, and we got the other two boards put up for the bottom row on the overhang.

Now another 3 boards to put up to complete the front of the overhang

Last Monday, Matt came out with mom and dad. We managed to get all three boards put up for the second row. So now the front of the overhang was covered.

The overhang front is covered

On Wednesday night mom and dad came out again. As I came up the driveway, a neighbor was waiting to greet me...

After I drove up in, the raccoon came over to the house, and was checking things out. It was not afraid of us, and we were a bit concerned.

Inspecting the retaining wall

We managed to shoo it off, and worked on planning how we were going to cover the ends of the overhang. One of my neighbors (two legged kind) came over and we chatted for a while. Thursday night we went out again, and managed to get the ends on the overhang. So, next, we need to put the boards up that will protect the top corners and keep water from getting behind the Trex we put up on the sides of the overhang.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The earth is retained

Friday I went out to the house, to pick up some tools and materials for making the furring strips that will go over the garage. Scott's guys were out there finishing up the walls on the garage side. I came up with mom and dad on Saturday, and found that they had just a few more blocks to put on the one retaining wall. I didn't see any blocks laying around, so I was guessing their estimate was off by just a few, and they needed to haul a few more out to finish the job. As dad and I got setup to work on the final touches to the waterproofing on the overhang, we heard a big truck down on the road. Up the driveway came the wall builders, with more dirt and a few more blocks. It looked like they were planning to finish the walls Saturday morning. They got the truck unloaded, and started putting in the last few blocks. They finished up the wall, packed up and cleaned up. Now I had all my walls.

Front walls

Garage walls

One large thing off the list of things to do. While they were finishing the walls, my dad and I were finishing the waterproofing on the overhang. I wanted to put an edging of foam along the overhang so that it would encourage water to flow away from the front of the overhang. I cut foam boards to lay under the final layer of plastic. As we turned one of the pieces around, dad found that he was bleeding. He apparently got a paper cut on the edge that I had just cut on the foam. (I was wearing my gloves, he wasn't wearing his)

Dad modeling the paper towel/packing tape band aid.

Things went quite well, until around lunch time. It had gotten too hot to be working out on the south side of the house. So we went for lunch. I checked on some conduit fittings that I will need, and we headed back to do some work in the shade behind the house. Well, as we got back, we saw that it had rained. That was going to limit what we could do outside if it was a significant rain. We got back and found that things were somewhat muddy, but not bad. As we went around making sure tools were brought in, in case it rained more, the sky started to darken. Thunder rumbled. Well, looks like we will have to see what we can do working inside. The wind came up, and then the rain started. It was blowing into the garage, so we had to close the door, so things in there didn't get soaked. We went around to the front and watched out the windows. This was a real gully washer. I watched as lightning flashed just a little bit away, and I heard the thunder simultaneously, it was real close.

After the storm passed, dad and I went out to check things over. The dirt around the house was now a field of mud. We were able to climb up the ends of the blocks on the one retaining wall by the garage, and survey things without trudging through the mud. It looked like the plastic on the overhang was staying basically in place. We went and checked on the daylight drain for the foundation drainage (we had not seen it draining water before, and I had concerns that the drainage might be plugged). No problem there, the cap on the end to keep critters from making a home in the drain line, had been blown off and was lying a few feet from where water was pouring out of the drain line. It had quite a bit of dirt in it, and my guess is that some of the dirt that I know had settled in the drains while they were not properly terminated, was getting washed out. Before I could get a picture of this, the rain started again. We ran back inside, and closed the garage again. I went to the front windows, and watched as the trees bent in the wind, and the rain went almost horizontal.

I am dry, but in front of the house is a mud pit.

We watched inside, as pieces of wood in front of the house actually started to float. The fellows who built the retaining walls had not filled in the area next to the house and retaining wall on the east side. It was a low spot, and water was flowing into it. The puddle there got to be a few inches deep. We watched as mud flowed and fell around the end of the retaining wall. The rain stopped again, since we couldn't work outside, we decided to test a way of cutting the Hardie panels that are going to be used as siding. The recommendation from the manufacturer, is that you take a knife, and score the surface of the board a few times, then bend it at the score to snap it. We tried this while the rain started up again outside. It worked very well. No dust, and a fairly clean edge. After the rain stopped again, we went out front, on the boards we have in front of the front door. The whole front of the door was wet. But it had kept out the water. The puddle by the retaining wall was already down a few inches from where it had been. Obviously the drainage in front was working as well. We decided to leave before any more rain moved in.

Sunday afternoon, we decided to just work on the furring strips that will go above the garage door. Since they will have to extend above the Nudura walls, and will provide support to the top of the siding, as well as the drip edge construction, I wanted to stiffen the Trex. To do this, we decided to fasten aluminum bars to the side of the boards. This should provide a very stiff and strong support from the concrete walls, up to the roof. We had to cut the aluminum to the proper lengths. Dad did this in the front lawn at his house.

No need to sweep up the aluminum sawdust.

We drilled holes in the aluminum, and then attached it to the sides of the Trex boards.

Aluminum, attached to Trex, with stainless steel screws.

Next steps are getting the Hardie panels installed on the front of the overhang, and working to install the furring strips we made, over the garage. It looks like things have dried out sufficiently to work on the overhang tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The walls rise, and the overhang closes in

Well, the walls got moved. Scott had the walls taken back down and lined up where I had wanted them.

Now being built where they were supposed to be.

They worked on getting the walls put up, and getting them inspected as they went. Here are some pictures of how each wall has been going...

While they have been building walls, I have been working to get the overhang all sealed up, and closed in. Some of the challenge is just from trying to get something like this, very well insulated, and then waterproofed, and then still having a good way to attach the finish materials to the outside. The other challenge, is in dealing with the "as built" structure. For instance, every other joist was supposed to have a metal plate on the end, where we could attach materials to. Well, the way the joists were installed, we have a change in the pattern.

They changed the pattern of where the plates were!

So, now I need to sit down, and figure out where I am going to put seems and details in the finish materials, so they look good on the outside, but are also securely attached. I want the design to be symmetric, but the attachment points are not.

Adam came over, and worked on moving the dirt around to work toward the final grade. He is working the ground around the walls quite well. With the insulation and furring strips on the front, it is getting closer, to being fully closed in.

Now Marcus has his own ideas of what I should be doing. He gave me an artist's impression of what the hole should look like.

I'm afraid, that if Marcus wants a round door, he will have to build his own Hobbit Hole.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Hole has doors!

Last Thursday, Mike came out to install my garage door and front door. I was finally going to be able to close the place up. This will keep out the larger animals that tend to wander through.

Scott's crew started to work on the retaining walls as well. This looks like it may be a drawn out saga.

I took a day off of work, so I would be there in case there were any questions. When I got out to the property, Scott and his guys were there. He was still having issues getting the proper blocks delivered in the quantity he needs for my wall. They had some of a block with a straight front. We were going to use blocks that have an angular cut across the front. Scott said that he could use the straight block on the first couple courses which will be buried when final grading is done, and I put in my gardens. So they were going to start using the blocks he had. That way they didn't have to delay starting my walls any longer. Meanwhile, he was telling the block company they better have the blocks that they promised delivered by today.

The blocks they are supposed to use, you can see how the side on the left has a beveled front, rather than going straight across.

Scott and I went around to the buffer boards and looked things over for each wall. He had already marked the height where each course should come to. Now he wanted me to decide where the front of the walls should be. These walls will be almost completely vertical, so we just needed to mark on the boards where the front face of the wall was supposed to be (this is an important detail for later). We marked each set of boards. The ones by the garage had some flexibility. However the ones at the ends of the overhang, have to be out far enough, that I can get the ends of the overhang properly finished, and have a little space left between the overhang and the walls.

The landscapers spent the morning getting materials and equipment set up. Around lunch time Mike and his son made it out to start on the doors. We looked over the selection of wood that I still had available from all the framing lumber. We found that all the pieces that were needed for the garage door were on hand. However as Mike looked over the situation, he saw that he was going to need some serious anchors to tie the wood to the concrete in the wall. He gave me a couple options to look for. He felt that he already had screws (Tap-cons) that would be long enough to attach the front door. I went and had some lunch and then went to Lowe's to see what they had for anchoring the wood, and to look for a lock set for the front door. I found a lock set that I thought would fit well with the rest of my design. Then I went to look at the anchors. I saw some anchors that looked like what Mike was asking for. So I got checked out, and headed back. I was almost back when the phone rang. It was Mike. He asked if I was still at Lowe's. I told him I was almost back to the property. He told me we would talk once I got there. Well, it sounded like we hit another snag.

When I got back, I saw that the landscapers had been busy. They had gotten the trenches dug for the walls beside the driveway. They will put in stone chips and dust in the bottom of the trenches for the wall blocks to sit on.

The trench to the left of the garage.

I showed Mike the concrete anchors I had gotten. We did some figuring and decided they were not going to go into the concrete far enough. OK, so I would need to go back and get longer anchors. Mike then told me about the other problems. The front door couldn't be set quite where we had talked, because he wasn't going to be able to put an anchor far enough back from the surface of the concrete to be sure it would have a good hold. So the door was going to have to sit back into the opening further than we intended. OK, that can be dealt with by doing a bit more trim work. The other problem, was that the Tap-cons that Mike had were not going to be long enough to properly anchor it. He didn't want to anchor it just to the V-Buck which wraps the opening, and is embedded in the concrete behind it. He wanted to go through that and tie directly into the concrete, but the V-Buck was thicker than he had thought, so the fasteners weren't long enough to reach through it, and secure into the concrete. We needed longer fasteners for this as well. Well, I was already headed back to Lowe's to exchange the concrete anchors for the garage, and thought I had seen longer Tap-cons as well. So while they worked on getting the garage door parts prepped for the install, I went shopping again.

I looked over what they had, and was concerned that Mike wouldn't have the right drills to secure them, so I called him to check. I needed to get a bit to drill into the concrete because the anchors were larger than the bits that he had. The Tap-cons came with their own bit, so I didn't need to buy one for them. I headed back with my new purchases, hoping there wouldn't be any more complications. Mike and his son worked to get the front door installed. They still had a problem that the bit that came with the Tap-cons almost wasn't long enough to make the proper depth hole. It seems that building a highly insulated concrete walled home, presents all sorts of unexpected little challenges to typical house construction techniques. The screw heads were a little large for the hinges, so they don't quite sit flush, but the hinges were made with a bit of extra space, so they fit OK. They got the front door in, and its frame is anchored to the concrete in the walls, so it should be quite secure.

Mike drilling holes to anchor the hinges to the concrete.

They got the door mounted, and then they used spray foam to seal all around the opening. It should be very good at keeping air from leaking around it.

A front door on the house. Yes!!

It was getting too late to get the garage door done that day, and Mike didn't want to leave it only part way done. So he told me he would come out the next day and get it installed. I was going to a couple family reunions over an extended weekend, so I was hoping there weren't any questions on the garage door, since I wouldn't be there to look over the situation.

Scott was going to have his crew also working on Friday and Monday when I couldn't check in. While I was traveling with my mom and dad, I couldn't even be sure I would have decent coverage for my phone.

Scott called me on Friday, as were headed to the first reunion. Well, the ran into a snag. When we marked the location of the wall to the left of the garage, we hadn't taken into account where the drain was coming out of the foundation and tying in. We had the blocks sitting on top of that which was not going to work. He needed to move the wall location back a bit, and wanted to know if I wanted to do something about the marks we had made on the buffer board with permanent marker, as that was now going to be exposed. I told him to just move the wall, and not worry about the marks. I was pretty sure they would wear off over time.

Scott called me on Monday, asking how I wanted to handle an issue with the drain tile. He had found that the tile that runs from the front of the house, was lower than the tile in front of the garage, and so water was going to have to run up hill to get over to the daylight drain. We decided to run a second drain line out behind the retaining wall, and it will need to be taken over to drain out to daylight with the other drain line that we installed previously.

Since we were driving near the property on our way home to my folks place, we decided to stop, to see how things turned out. The garage door turned out very nice.

The door looks good, it still needs trim work around the opening.

The landscapers had started building the walls on the front of the house. So we took a look. My dad and I noticed that the walls weren't quite lined up with the lines that Scott and I had marked. It was getting late, and it had been a long day, so I didn't try to reach Scott, but thought it might be good to do so.

Today, Marcus and I went out and I took a better look. The walls were off by a few inches, and I was not going to have enough room for insulation and the siding materials on the sides of the overhang. Marcus was wondering if the wall was going to tilt back so that by the top of it would be over enough. I remembered that Scott said that with these blocks the walls would be vertical and not tilted.

The board in the middle, is marked with a line, and a note "Front of Block"

I called Scott to ask him about them. I told him what I had seen, and my concerns. He said he would head out there to check them. Later he called back and said they were going to have to move the walls! I am glad I went out at lunch to check on things.

Well, at least the doors are on. It looks like the retaining walls are going to be a battle to the very end.