Friday, March 5, 2010

The Professional Engineer

I know that I have been super slack about writing new blog posts. That is because there hasn't been much to write about, at least as far as construction goes. If you live in North Carolina or the surrounding states, or pretty much the entire East Coast, you've experienced this bad weather we've been having. We've had record breaking cold temperatures and endless rain and snow. We are still trying to lay our block foundation. As I think I have mentioned before, in order for the mortar to "set", the temp can't fall below freezing. So even if we have a warm day of 50 degrees, the overnight low has still be hovering in near the freezing mark.

Matt has been getting ready for the next step, which is filling the inside of this wall we are building so we can pour the concrete slab on top(the garage floor). Normally, in a house, if there is space under the floors(aka crawlspace), the floors are supported with wooden trusses. Garage floors are concrete and the weight of it can't be supported by trusses. It must be poured onto solid ground. Since our building site is pretty significantly slopped(I know it doesn't look like it in person), this results in an 8ft tall wall in the back. We found out that before we can go and fill this foundation with free dirt, we have to get it engineered stamped(that means more money). Matt doesn't have his PE so he can't do it himself even though he's an engineer.

The issue is, with the garage floor being solid concrete and holding the weight of cars, they want to make sure that if the garage foundation were to fail, that the floor wouldn't fall in because there would be solid ground beneath it. To help everyone relax, remember the weight of the house/apartment is not on the slab at all. It is being supported by the footings that were pour at the very beginning. All this fuss is just about the garage floor. Dirt and clay will compact over time and form a gap under the slab where it could give way and crack. You also have to make sure it is clean dirt, meaning no organic matter in it(like wood/tree roots/leaves). Organic matter decomposes leaving space for dirt to settle. The fill must be rock because rock does not compact, or some mixture of rock and sand(also does not compact because it is essentially rock). So we have dirt=free, washed stone/gravel=very expensive(we're talking thousands of $), sand=kinda free. I wasn't even looking forward to buying gravel for the rest of our driveway and now I have to buy it to pour in my foundation that I will NEVER EVER see again!

If that weren't enough, the engineer drew us up a fancy plan to FURTHER support the slab. It is basically concrete pillars and concrete "beams" that will be pour at the same time as the slab, but after the gravel. There are these cardboard tubes that will be placed in the ground before the gravel, to help form the pillars. His design services cost us $525 just for a piece of paper. Fortunately, Matt really hit it off with the engineer and they had a great time talking about tractors. The guy spotted a tractor implement laying in the woods and asked Matt if that was a 6ft scrap blade. To which Matt responded, "Actually, it's a 7ft". The engineer got all excited because those are rare and super heavy duty(too big for our tractor actually), and said he'd been looking for one. They came up with a trade. A value of $450 was placed on the scape blade, so we only owed him $75. YAY! And we have less stuff laying around outside. YAY! But I am no fool. I asked Matt, "Does this mean you are going to go out and buy another scrap blade?". No, his dad has one he can borrow when the time comes we need to smooth out any dirt in our yard. If only we could find a trade for some gravel! I don't about you, but I think this all sounds a little excessive for a garage. I guess it's better safe than sorry. It would be more expensive to have to fix a problem with a foundation later than right now.

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