Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Firm Foundation

This foundation has taken us far, far longer than we ever expected. We also didn't expect Matt to lose his job and having to work twice as many hours to pay the bills. And we didn't expect his dad to have a near fatal accident that will take years to recover from. So, we've had a few delays. Doing construction yourself is a great way to save money when you don't have much. But you do have to have TIME. And well...we haven't had either.

Most of you know already that Matt got a fantastic job about two months ago at Siemens. He is a manufacturing engineer at their facility in Charlotte where they design and build steam turbine engines for power plants. It's very hands on, and Matt loves it! We are so blessed! So what that means, as far as our house is concerned, is we have a little bit more money and can PAY someone to finish the foundation for us. Hooray!!!

Through the connection of a family friend who is a contractor, we got the name of a guy that does concrete foundations for commercial properties(like hospitals. woah), and he was willing to take our little job on. It would only take him like two days to finish what would take us 3 more months. So we paid the man and he came out with his crew and had truck load after truck load of gravel(it's actually crushed concrete because it's a fraction cheaper) poured under our garage, never to be seen again. What a fun way to spend $3,000!!

Next, the same concrete guy got our garage slab poured. This also happened to occur on the coldest week of December Charlotte has ever known. Concrete needs to be within a certain temperature range to cure correctly. There is a chemical reaction taking place and if it happens too fast(ie, too hot and the water evaporates too fast) it could mess it up and not be as strong. In addition, if it happens too slow because it's too cold or because it the water in it freezes, that would be bad. So, when I heard they were there pouring it and it was below freezing, I got nervous. But I did a little research online to see what they do to combat this. Construction goes on up north where it's below freezing all winter. Then, I drove over to talk to the concrete guy and he put my mind at ease. He covered it with several layers of plastic and an insulated blanket to help hold in the small amount of heat the concrete creates on it's own. It's not warm by any means, but it just has to be above 32 degrees. His crew was out there all day on their knees, smoothing out our slab as it set up. I was so impressed with how smooth it was. I don't have pics of it when it was first done because it was covered the whole time.

Our framer, David Ross who is the framer for the company Matt's mom works for, was running short on time. He has a big project coming up and needs us to be ready for him within the next week. There was one other thing(well...several) we had to do before he could come. Our bedroom will be over hanging the garage and supported by 4 pillars. So far, Matt had only built 2. He found time one weekend to build the other two. They also had to be filled with concrete for strength just like we did for the entire wall. And he was working late all week and couldn't do it. And we had to drive to Raleigh Saturday for a wedding and spend the night. And it was Matt's birthday and he had find time to see his parents. And we had to be at church by 6:00pm Sunday night.

We got back from Raleigh and to the land around 3pm Sunday and started working. That's when we discovered our first problem. One of the pillar(the tallest one actually), had come loose from the footing. As in, it could wiggle around. Somehow the mortar didn't set to the concrete footing correctly. Or it was from drilling and hammering the rebar down the center of it(but that hadn't happened to any others. This had to be fixed before we fill it with concrete. But it was too heavy to pick up. And if we tilted it to put fresh mortar under it, it would just squish all the mortar out to one side. It had to be lifted off.

Fortunately, we have a skid steer(also known as a bobcat). Matt put straps around the pillar and hooked one to the scoop on the skid steer and one to a tree(to control the bottom half) and used the skid steer to lift the pillar up. He cleaned the footing and put out new mortar. Then with my help positioning it, lowered the pillar back down. I know I made it sound really smooth, but it was actually a kind of harry situation and I left out some of the trials and tribulations(thats why there is no picture).

We ended up having to say until after 7pm to get finished. Matt mixed concrete and brought it to me in a wheel barrow. I scooped it into the cells of the cinder blocks. Each one taller than the last. It was also 45 degrees and dropping fast. If you know me well, then you know I have issues with my hands and feet getting extremely cold(and not it's not just me being a wimp. It's an actual medical condition having to do with my blood vessels closing down because they think I'm freezing to death and are trying to save my vital organs. My body is happily willing to lose my hands and feet if needed. Annoying, right?). It started out rough, but I found some insulated(fuzzy inside and so thick you can't bend your fingers) work gloves and put on some toe warmers and I was good to go!

Here's a little taste of what it was like:

Stay tuned for pictures of the frame! It's going fast!


  1. what's your hand condition called? i think i have another friend with the same thing! small world.

  2. Haha Not the comment I was expecting! It's Raynaud's phenomenon. Mine is worse in my feet. It's actually not that rare, especially in women. My dad has it too.

  3. AlliJ! LOVE the updated pictures of your new home, it is going to be so beautiful! Your blog is very well done- great job! I enjoy reading it, so keep it up! ;)

  4. PS- Hope your hands and feet are okay... keep warm!!

  5. Thanks! Once it's dried in, we can have a space heater, but we haven't needed it since we've been paying people do this stage. Now sure how long that will continue. We might be subcontracting several more things like electrical, duct work, sheet rock. They do it so fast! It would take us months! Still doesn't cost nearly as much as hiring a contractor to oversee everything. That's our job.



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