2.23.2009

Foundation in Progress

We are officially building up now which is exciting for us! As you can see from the pictures, they made a lot of progress in just one day. I would estimate that they are a little more than half done with laying the block but Jim Cole says that the top is very important because that's how you ensure that new and old floors are perfectly aligned and level. I assume that will take some time and careful planning. In any case, it's great to see the progress moving along so quickly. See the pictures in the construction photos on the left.

Once the block is laid, everything will be sealed on the outside and then it will be time for the steel beam to be installed. Our steel has been ordered so it should be ready when our structure is ready for it.

2.20.2009

Ready to build up, rather than digging down!

Turns out they do pour concrete even when it is snowing/raining! I am sure it was a tough job because the weather on Wednesday was not pretty but it's done and now we are in the final steps of preparing for the block walls.


It was very exciting to see a large pile of cement blocks in our driveway when we got home from work yesterday. The block starts to be laid on Monday, which will mark the start of building up instead of digging down! I have no idea if this is all the block they will need but it does not seem like enough to me. Today they are working on grouting the last set of underpinnings which is a tough job because the concrete grout has to be tightly packed into the back of the holes. At least it's not 90 degrees out. Once this is finished, the underpinning process will be finished. It took about 2 weeks total once the main hole was dug out. Obviously other work went on at the same time (including building the garage foundation, finishing digging the rest of the hole, and pouring the footings for the foundation).

After talking with our architect today during our Friday weekly meeting, we decided to contact our local pest control company, Ward Pest Control, to ask about termite prevention. We were originally thinking we would do termite protection when we finished the project, but Kaye (our architect) told us that there are some treatments that go under the gravel of the foundation. Arlington has a lot of termite issues so we figured it would be wealth worth it to have it checked now and see what a pretreatment would cost. Another neighbor who did a similar project mentioned to me that if you live near a house which is undergoing major renovations, it's a good idea to be sure your house's termite treatment is up-to-date. Termites may be dislodged from their happy home in your neighbor's house and may decide to move into yours where there is less noise to bother them! There are several renovations going on in our neighborhood (including one directly behind), so it's probably a good idea to get this taken care of as early as possible.

We also talked about the door configurations for our house again to be sure that we know what we are getting for each. We recently changed our original plans so that we have more operable doors for exiting out onto our back deck/patio. Kaye wanted to be sure that we understood that the doors would not all look exactly the same, and that's fine with us - it's worth it for the increased air flow.

2.17.2009

I wonder...

I wonder if they will pour concrete with a forecast that looks like snow/rain showers... I guess we'll find out tomorrow. All of the rebar is set in the forms for the footers for both the underpinnings and the foundation footers. The inspection was supposed to occur today so as long as that happened and the weather doesn't throw anything off, we should be pouring concrete. If it gets put off until Thursday, that shouldn't throw the process off too much because the block is not set to be laid until Monday anyway, and it will still have plenty of time to cure.

2.16.2009

More digging and demo...

A lot of progress this weekend although pictures probably wouldn't show it. The foundation forms are pretty much ready (or at least they appear to be). The second (and last) round of digging for the underpinnings is also done. I give the laborers so much credit because they had to hand dig in rock hard, compacted clay soil. The forms are being built and the inspection is scheduled for tomorrow for the underpinnings and the foundation footers. If all goes well, the next concrete pour will be on Wednesday. The foundation footers may be poured on Wednesday or Friday (I'm not sure of the schedule on that). Of course the weather forecast for Wednesday is horrible right now (snow/rain) so hopefully the forecasters are so wrong. Other than that day, the weather is clear for the week of course.

At this point the block is still scheduled to start being laid next Monday (one week from today). The height of the block is critical to ensure that the floors in the old and new house are level. The floors in our existing house are pretty level (thanks to a huge original steel beam in our basement), so we won't have to do any leveling there. It is really important though that the new floors are perfectly even with the existing. This process is made a lot easier using a laser level which shoots a beam from the foundation to the existing floor. The existing back door of our kitchen will help with this because the whole back will not have to be opened up to check the level.

Interior demolition will continue this week. The kitchen still needs to be torn out but will happen at some point this week. Interior demo is probably ahead of schedule right now since only the kitchen remains relatively in tact. The upstairs demo appears to be completely done for now except for removing the back windows which will be reused in the garage.

Several people have asked whether we are on schedule. To be honest, we don't have a complete schedule although I would say we are ahead of schedule because we made a big push to start in January instead of February. Hopefully we'll still be moving back in some time in July. Nothing has delayed us severely... yet. Even the permits only held us up by 3 or 4 days at most. So, we'll see how the next few weeks go because that is where the major delays will most likely come. Once we are framed and sealed then we'll be less subject to weather issues and they can work inside and outside simultaneously or focus on one or the other depending on the weather on a particular day.

More pictures later in the week when the kitchen is demolished and the underpinnings and footers are completed. Next week - lots of cement block!

2.14.2009

More Salvage and Demolition

More demolition is continuing in the house. The basement ceiling is now down exposing the beams, ductwork, and pipes. Fortunately it's not too much of a mess down there. The coolest thing they have found so far is a hacksaw probably from the 1930s sitting on top of the ductwork. My husband is very excited about adding this to his tool collection. Fortunately Jim C. doesn't mind if my husband goes over and swings a hammer with them for a few hours on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.


We also found out that we can salvage 2 windows from the back of the house (2 upstairs windows in the picture on the left) and use them on the side of the garage. This is particularly great news because these windows are only 2 years old (part of our whole-house window replacement project). Arlington County does not allow you to put windows on a garage which is within a certain distance from a neighbor's property for fire prevention purposes. We are also required to finish with drywall those walls which are facing a neighbor's property.
As you can see in the picture above, the workers are also going to salvage some bricks on the back of the house. Our builder calls this project "mining for bricks" which is hilarious. It's hard to believe we are going to need this many but not too hard when you think of the size of the foundation for both the garage and house. It's going to be quite a pile of bricks when all is said and done.

I continued my decision-making by choosing the door and window hardware. That order is going in next week so those choices had to be now. Fortunately I was able to find a few minutes last week to run over to the Window Smith showroom to meet our salesman, James May, and see things in person. It's so much better to see things like hardware in a showroom instead of a catalogue. You can get a better idea for the finish and feel of the hardware. Of course, I didn't like the basic hardware which was ultra-modern and white, so I had to "upgrade" to something more traditional. I can only imagine what the muddy kid fingerprints would look like on white hardware. If you are interested, my choice is on the right (Whitmore collection). Andersen has quite a few options for door hardware which fit pretty much any design style. This will be our first experience with Andersen doors but our experience with their replacement windows (Renewal by Andersen) has been fantastic. Let's hope the same is true of the doors because they will be heavily used both out to the backyard through the kitchen and family room and out to the driveway through our side entrance.

2.12.2009

Underpinnings and Garage Slab

It was great to walk over to the house and see the garage slab poured. I have some comfort that we'll still have a little backyard left when all this is over! The first round of underpinning pours also happened today. They'll have to be grouted tomorrow or early next week and then the second round will be poured next Wednesday, and the block will start to be laid the following Monday. If all goes well, that will take a week and then we'll be ready for our steel beams and floor joists!


All weather permitting of course! We have been incredibly lucky with weather this week - basically 10-25 degrees above normal (about 42 degrees). The forecast for the next week or so looks positive but we aren't getting our hopes up (and we're knocking on lots of wood).

Demolition will continue inside for the next couple of days. As you can see from the newest construction photos, most of the interior walls are down that are coming down and the basement ceiling comes down today. We are debating about taking down the existing walls down in the basement because we fear there may be mold back there (both a reason for and against taking it down). We'll make that call tomorrow I think. On the first floor, we can already get a feel for how the new dining room is going to look with the extra 2 feet, and the living room will look quite a bit larger with the extra 3 feet in the back and the large opening into the family room.


Before and after pictures on the right.


More pictures to come!

2.10.2009

Interior Demolition Begins


While the work on the foundation and garage continue outside, the interior demolition has also begun. So far most of the work has been happening upstairs in the bedrooms and on the stairwell. The stairwell is coming out completely but we don't know when that will actually happen but probably not for a little while because that is the best access to the second floor.

The biggest and most exciting change is seeing the wall removed from our previously oddly shaped nursery/office/3rd bedroom. The stairs previously cut the room off and now with the wall gone, it's much easier to see how that room will be changed for the better once the stairs are gone. Pictures don't really do it justice but I'm posting them anyway.
Additional demolition was done on the closets and doorways so we can have those rebuilt and made functional.

2.06.2009

Concrete Footers for the Garage


After 2 days of digging and our first County inspection, the concrete footers for our garage foundation were poured today. The current plan is to push ahead with the garage while the new house basement is being dug, poured and underpinned. I would imagine the garage will be essentially done and sealed in in a month or so.

A lot of progress has been made with digging our foundation and, barring major difficulty, should be done by tomorrow. After that the tedious foundation underpinning process begins. This is a complex process where the dirt under the existing foundation is dug out in sections and then filled in with concrete footers, and then the in-between sections are dug out and filled in. The goal is to support the existing foundation and house walls even though the new basement will be deeper than the existing (so we can have 8 foot ceilings down there).

Jim and my father did a lot of work today on cleaning out the old house of pretty much anything we want to be sure to save including original glass door knobs, light fixtures, and our almost new carpet runner. Tomorrow they will clear out our attic so the interior demolition can begin on Monday. A major perk of moving out early is that the work on the inside of the house can get started much earlier than it would if we were living there. Now let's just hope that it all gets finished earlier as well (I'm not holding my breath).
And the weather forecast for this week... generally dry except for a slight chance of rain on Tuesday and Thursday.




2.04.2009

Garage Foundation Digging Has Begun

Yesterday... more snow. Today... a little snow in the morning but the digging began on the garage footers anyway. The holes will be inspected tomorrow and then the cement will be poured either Friday or Saturday. It's so great to see the tremendous progress that was made in only one day. The neighborhood kids loved watching the backhoe after school. You can see the clay in our soil in the picture at the right. The foundation foreman said that having clay is a huge help because the footers will be well supported.

We moved out yesterday - across the street. Easy move and my husband supervised. He's still sore today so I'm thinking he did more than supervise! We are fairly settled in although there are still some mystery boxes that have yet to show up. I really need my step stool but cannot find it anywhere! It will probably show up when we move back across the street in 6 months!
Fortunately it is generally still light enough to take pictures when I get home in the evenings so you should start to see more picture updates over the next few weeks.

2.02.2009

More prep work... Snow or Dirt tomorrow?

The site is ready now for digging! Today our central A/C unit was disconnected (fortunately we won't be needing that soon) and moved to our porch. If you want to reuse your A/C unit, it's a good idea to put this in a very safe place. They can get damaged by the machinery and are at great risk of being stolen in both urban and rural areas. Ours is safely on our screen porch for the timebeing along with a lot of other stuff.

The final surveys are also now done. The stakes and flags in our yard (and our neighbors' yards) are very confusing but I am counting on the surveyor to know what he's doing! Fortunately our architect is around to back up the measurements and to ensure the foundation will go where it is supposed to.

The second dumpster with the garage and porch debris is now gone as well. The dirt from the digging will be trucked out. Our lot is narrow so the only real access to our backyard is our driveway where the dumpster was previously kept. Barring a major snow event tomorrow (a dusting is predicted but you never know), I think the digging will begin.

We'll also have the movers here to move us across the street. It will be nice to have a fenced yard for the dog again! Tomorrow evening and Wednesday will be spent unpacking. Hopefully there will be a lot to watch across the street as well. I'll post pictures soon (when I unpack my camera).

1.29.2009

Demolition Continues

The demolition continued today with a jackhammer removing the slab of cement which was the back porch. Of course this started during naptime on the day that Jim was home with our sick 2 year old! Fortunately we move on Tuesday so the noise issue will be pretty much eliminated... except that we'll probably still hear them because in a bizarre turn of events we are now renting a house across the street for the next 6 months!! A very long story that you readers won't care about but the moral of the story is to explore all of your rental options in your neighborhood before venturing outside of it!

Tomorrow the jackhammers return for another day of removing the rest of the back porch, rear sidewalk and exterior basement stairs.

Monday the backhoes and dump trucks come in and start digging our foundation. Our backyard is not large so space will be at a premium and the unneeded dirt will be trucked out as the hole is dug. Keep your fingers crossed for a dry week.
Check back next week for some pictures of progress!

1.27.2009

It's snowing!

The Washington Metro area is getting its first measurable snowfall in probably 2 years today. 2-4 inches of snow and ice is predicted to fall by noon tomorrow. Fantastic timing, of course. When I left the house this morning at 8:15, there was no sign of activity in the backyard so perhaps today and tomorrow will be lost causes. We do, however, have a new dumpster ready to be filled. Hopefully there will be something in it by the time we get home tonight.

The plan had been to start digging the foundation this week but that may be pushed back by a day or two as a result of this snow. The workers are currently working 6 days per week so they will likely catch up if they fall behind.

One more week until we move. We are not packed or ready to move but hopefully it will all come together this weekend. We have a lot of the extraneous stuff packed but now I have the stuff we actually use left to go.

I am basically selling our kitchen appliances out from under us because I want them out of there before they are damaged and not able to be sold. So far, the dishwasher and microwave are sold and our 3 year old stove should be gone by the end of the week. Everyone has agreed not to pick them up until next Sunday though. I didn't really plan on cooking after that point anyway!

1.25.2009

Weather

Well, of course, now that we have our permits the weather decides to take a turn for the colder and possibly some snow this week. Of course, I have a firm belief that predicting the weather is far from a science because it is so inaccurate. Let's hope that holds true this week. Precipitation of some sort is predicted for every day this week - generally snow showers. Fortunately, Jim C. (builder) says this is not a problem and we can still move forward with the demolition and hopefully start digging later this week. The dumpster will be changed out tomorrow and the large machinery will be here early this week. The neighborhood kids will love that!

The demolition so far has gone very smoothly. I think the porch will be gone completely tomorrow. They have been able to salvage a lot of the bricks from the garage whic match our house perfectly. It's labor intensive but ultimately will be worth it because those bricks don't have to be hauled away and disposed of, and we'll have a perfect match to our existing house on our foundation. Turns out the porch bricks are different from the garage which confirmed our suspicions that the porch was not original to the house. Those bricks are going in the dumpster unfortunately.

We are still packing and working on selling pretty much everything from our kitchen, including the sink! We sold our kitchen cart today and we're working on selling the appliances so hopefully they can be removed next week. We may try to reuse our base cabinets in the basement but that will depend on how easily they are removed.

Hopefully we'll have some pictures of a hole in the ground by the end of the week.