Making the Grade

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Todd from Pillsbury, grading. It is finally possible to walk out of the walk-out basement.

The theme for today was moving earth. Pillsbury returned to slope the walk-out basement, install footer drains around the perimeter, and fill outside the basement walls. Grades around the house perimeter are very close now to the final elevations.

With Todd operating the big excavator and Tim driving the little Bobcat, the Pillsbury crew also spread crushed stone over the entire basement footprint. We contributed with our shovels and rakes and screeding bars to get a smooth surface. Then we laid out 4-foot-by-8-foot polystyrene foam sheets over the crushed stone, moving more stone as necessary so the top of foam was flush with top of footer everywhere. In some locations we had to cut holes in the foam for utilities, or trim end pieces where a full sheet wouldn’t fit. It was a fun puzzle to cover the footprint using as few sheets as possible.

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Tim from Pillsbury levels crushed stone with the Bobcat.

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Foam sheets complete! (The scuff marks are just boot prints, no big deal.)

Outside of the grading, plenty of odd jobs kept us busy. Monday we made a long list of things we could do before the excavators arrived, and we completed nearly all of them. Install top plates on the basement half-walls. Use masonry nails to secure formwork for the concrete slab at the walk-out part of the wall, the only place the slab isn’t enclosed by ICFs. Install triple joists and double sills around each window, then nail down the window trim. Cut trim for the Barn’s back door. Staple mesh to the top of the basement exterior walls, in preparation for a ready-mix coating we troweled on today.

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Father-Son Combo One (Colin and Cole) use the latest equipment on site – a table saw – to rip plywood.

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Father-Son Combo Two (Terry and Carson) trowel the top of the wall.

Also today we stapled some final pieces of weatherproofing onto the Barn exterior, and we installed an extra 2×4 under the Barn’s ridge beam to support the rafters better. And we dealt with some bad news regarding the basement slab formwork. Turns out Todd can’t drive his equipment into the basement with our boards up, contrary to Terry’s understanding, so we had to pull the masonry nails out first thing in the morning and reinstall the lumber later. Now, there’s a technique to hammering into masonry, and I easily bent a dozen nails trying to learn it. For my eventual success to be negated by miscommunication made the ordeal doubly frustrating. But there’s no time for hard feelings on a construction site… so I got over it. Formwork is back in place and better than ever.

With the Barn doors up and running, the inside is more secure and we can really keep tools and materials out of the rain. And at last we’re ready to place the basement concrete slab… now if only the weather will cooperate.

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It’s been awhile since I posted a shot of the whole site. Check out that Barn door!

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