This and That

After a sequence of major construction accomplishments, it’s anticlimactic to change gears and spend some time on smaller, less visible tasks. But the little things are every bit as essential as the big, and we’ve completed plenty of them since the basement walls were placed Tuesday. Priority number one was to remove the wall’s bracing after giving the concrete a day to set. The foam ICFs themselves are designed to stay in place, but those steel bracing towers become redundant once the concrete wall can support itself, and they belong to Vermont ICF anyway. So we removed the (reusable) bracing towers, as well as the (also reusable) scaffold and the lumber supporting the outer perimeter. This cleanup took the better part of a day.

Image

Balancing act: Terry carries away a 60 pound, 10 foot long bracing tower.

We put up a vapor barrier on the outside of the basement walls to keep the inside dry. Cole and Carson get most of the credit for completing this task: they cut the material from a roll to the various lengths required, and then they stuck each piece to the foam as smoothly as possible, like wallpaper. Meanwhile, Terry and Colin installed pipes and conduits inside the basement walls for the various utility connections we’ll need: water, septic, electric. We now have a bunch of PVC hanging in midair, but they’re all in the right locations, which will guide us when we build out the basement interior.

Image

Tinky Winky and Laa Laa stick up the vapor barrier.

Image

Fine-tuning the PVC. Lots of utilities visible in this shot, passing through the north wall and the east footer.

Image

Basement plan. North is right. Plumbing goes to the bathroom, laundry room, and dog room.

For the partial-height basement walls in the northeast and southeast corners, we surveyed full-height elevations and built short stubby stud walls to fill the difference. The studs sit on a 2×6 sill plate atop a pressure-treated 2×8 sill plate. We extended the 2×8 plate around the entire perimeter, including on vertical faces of the wall where the ICF elevation changes, and we installed wedge bolts into concrete (drilling holes with a masonry bit) where we hadn’t already sunk anchor bolts. To accommodate the bolts, we measured and drilled completely through the 2×8 plates, then routed partway through the 2×6 plates in the same locations.

Image

One stud half-wall is up; surveying the other. Note 2×8 sill plates around the perimeter.

Back at the Barn, we received our first window delivery as well as our overhead doors, so we prepared rough openings to fit them all. The garage doors get 1x trim around the edges and some nailers for the overhead equipment. The windows require an opening half an inch bigger than we built (it’s a new supplier and they spec the windows differently), and we spent most of Thursday afternoon enlarging those first-floor openings until they just fit. Tip for installing windows: remove the glass! It makes the frames so much lighter and easier to handle.

Image

Terry puts finishing touches on our first window; Cole and Carson remove the ladder.

And we finally started shingles on the back side. As with the front, it took a long time to install the drip edge and the first row of shingles, but once Terry put in roof jacks the pace really picked up. We ended Friday with the back side about one-third shingled.

Image

Another balancing act: Turner prepares shingles and passes them down to Terry.

The small stuff is less exciting, but you can’t live without it. And with floor joists delivered and the basement slab concrete scheduled to arrive Tuesday, we have plenty more big tasks on the horizon.

Advertisements

Survey Says…

Plenty of progress to report. Colin and I reassembled the Barn stairs, mostly without supervision from Terry, although he did save us from gluing the landing upside down. I fitted some 1-inch PVC pipes together to make an electrical conduit that will run just underground across the front of the Barn. Terry and I removed roof jacks; it’s amazing that just hammering down a few nails under the shingles hides all evidence the work platform ever existed. Most importantly, the House excavation is complete, allowing us to perform the all-important task of surveying the foundation.

Image

Surveying 101: sighting elevation with a transit.

I never took a surveying class, so I’m learning everything on the fly. Key equipment are a transit (basically a telescope that sits exactly level and spins 360 degrees), a tripod to hold the transit steady at a comfortable level, an extendable measuring stick, and plenty of other measuring tools. We worked out the plan layout first, using a pair of measuring tapes and some basic geometry to triangulate each of the foundation’s eight corners. The Pythagorean theorem is critical for checking right-triangle diagonals, and I even invoked the Law of Cosines a couple of times because the House sits at a 15-degree angle to the Barn. (Our first mockup layout attempt wound up more like 30 degrees and placed us well off the excavation. Quote-of-the-Day from Todd when we finally got the angle right: “My hole’s looking better!”) Then we continually rechecked dimensions as we screwed together formwork for the 20-inch wide perimeter footer.

Image

Terry, Colin, and Cole check the excavation with a mockup.

Image

Triangulating the southwest corner. (Todd and his assistant from Pillsbury Excavation look on.)

We next used the transit and the measuring stick to sight formwork elevations around the perimeter. We chose 3.58 feet as our goal: the measuring-stick elevation we wanted to sight through the transit everywhere. Most locations were within a couple inches from the start, and we coaxed each point until we reached 3.58 feet, either shoveling gravel under the form to raise it or whacking the form with Sluggo to lower it. Then we staked the formwork to hold it in place. We also shoveled gravel against the forms to prevent wet concrete from leaking out, and we screwed spacers at regular intervals to prevent the concrete from spreading the forms more than 20 inches apart. We hung zip-ties from the spacers to hold our reinforcing steel bars at the height we wanted.

Image

Rebar placement, slightly more sophisticated than last time.

OK, so the footer forms are level, but what about their elevation relative to the existing Barn? That’s just as important, right? Well, we also used the transit to determine the elevation change between the Barn slab and the House foundation: 7.08 feet. To match the plans exactly, we would’ve liked the foundation a little lower, but Todd hit ledge during his excavation and dug as deep as he could go. (Incidentally, there are major benefits to hitting ledge; one is that you don’t need to build a frost wall because bedrock doesn’t frost-heave.) It took numerous iterations to determine the exact configuration of finish floors, ICU wall heights, and number of stairs that would make our elevations work, but we eventually resolved all our math and agreed on a configuration. Early versions of the final drawing below can be found on lumber scraps, on a wall stud in the Barn, on the back of Colin’s copy of the plans, and in each of our heads… ah, how I love this job!

Image

Designed by everybody. Checked by everybody. QC by everybody.