3.06.2009

Garage Walls Go Up!


Today the garage walls are going up which I guess we didn't realize would be happening today. Framing is so satisfying because it goes so quickly! As you can see there will be 2 windows on the yard side of the garage. I don't want to even think about how many baseballs will go through those in the next 20 years! By code, you cannot have windows on the side or back of the garage if it is within a certain distance from the property line. Ours is 2 feet from each line so we cannot have windows there.

The foundation contractors are also back today working on sealing and insulating the outside of the block in preparation for the backfill inspection on Monday. The rebar and vapor barrier are down and ready for the concrete pour on Monday. Then the dirt can go back in the hole and our backyard will look a bit less like a mountain!

3.04.2009

Weather Delays & Decisions

As you have probably heard, the DC area has been paralyzed by snow and cold temperatures so our work has come to a halt for the time-being. Last week was a very productive week - the foundation is finished and sealed. I'll post pictures later today. The steel beam should go in later this week and then the framing will begin next week. The basement slab was scheduled to be poured on Monday but 6-8" of snow landed in our new basement instead! The pour will be rescheduled for whenever the basement dries out and defrosts enough to pour it. It has been very cold all week (by DC standards) so the snow has hung around longer than it normally does.

This weekend I am going to meet with a kitchen designer and visit some tile stores. Our kitchen cabinets probably need to be ordered in the next couple of weeks so I'll have to make a final decision shortly. We are weighing various options but I really have a preference for inset white cabinets in a simple shaker style. Very classic and fitting for our colonial style house. Hopefully we can make the inset cabinets work with our budget. They are generally about 25% more expensive than regular overlay cabinets. We are going to do a black quartz countertop (likely Silestone).

Keep your fingers crossed for warmer temperatures later this week!

2.25.2009

Brick Foundation


As I wrote about in previous posts, one of the goals of recycling the brick from our garage was to be able to use it on our new foundation. As you can see from the pictures, the new foundation looks great withe brick and will really help visually tie our new addition to the original house. The hard work will certainly pay off - we hope. There are more pictures in the Construction Photos on the left.

The schedule for the rest of the week is to finish the foundation and seal it for waterproofing. The next steps will be to put in the steel beam, probably on Friday (unless it's really raining). And then the floor will be poured early next week and the floor joists for the first floor will be put in. After that, framing will begin on the first floor and the garage.

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.