Finished Basement Update – Electrical

I wanted to share with you some pictures from our basement finishing project. After sitting idle for several months, work has picked up again on the basement. We’re in no rush to get it done, but it would be nice to have it ready by later 2015, fall or early winter.

After completing, and getting approval for the rough framing that yours truly completed, it was time to get the electrician in. I can not do electrical work. It scares me, and as prone as I am to making mistakes, I’d likely burn the house down and kill myself.

The electrical will be completed in two phases. Right now is phase one, the rough-in. After this is approved by the building department, then we’ll cover everything up with drywall, and then the electrician can do his final electrical work.

The install should take three working days total for one electrician. All seems to be going well. Basically a bunch of electrical boxes and yellow wires everywhere.

The Superior Wall System we used for our foundation makes wiring outside walls a breeze. There are little holes for wires to pass through on every cement stud of the foundation. Electrical boxes mount easily to the metal studs of the foundation, and my partition walls, with self tapping screws. Note, if you have Superior Walls, have your contractor check out their website. There is a lot of info on there for contractors regarding how to work with the wall system.

Superior Walls make life easier for insulators, electricians and even plumbers by virtue of their thoughtful, feature filled design. Any house I ever build will utilize this wall system for the foundation, if possible.

I went over the switch and lighting layout with our electrical contractor. I think the wife and I have it all figured out…designed…as best we can tell, in terms of where we want lights and how we want everything to be switched on and off. I’m having the electrician put in a CAT5? cable into what will be my “office” space. Not sure in this day of wireless communication how important this is, but I guess better to have it than not.

There is pretty good access, even after the drywall is up, to many of the walls and all the rooms, especially because of the drop ceiling that we plan on installing. So I’m not to worried if we screw something up and have to “fix” it later.

Electrical should be done this week. Then we can order drywall and start that phase.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Wires simply pass through the remade holes in the Superior Wall studs of our foundation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

Electrical boxes simply attach to the metal studs of the Superior Walls of our fondation.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

A typical plastic grommet bushing (the red thing) in the metal studs. This protects the wires from chaffing or cutting on the sharp metal.

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Spray Foam For -15 Days

Winter is kicking the crap out of us. And it’s everything our energy-efficient house can do to keep up. School is cancelled tomorrow because the high is supposed to be around 4 degrees, and lows around -15 degrees.

A weak in our super insulated house that I noticed recently is down in the basement. There are a series of penetrations in the rim joist where various mechanical systems go outside. These include holes for a spigot, the fresh air energy exchanger and what I think is the septic tank.

When they built the house nearly three years ago, the insulation was sprayed first, then the plumber and HVAC guys came in to set up their systems. Well when they did their job, they cut away the insulation but never bothered to spray foam around the pipes. Thus creating a kink in our insulating armor.

Recently when we had the spigot replaced (twice), due to leakage, more foam was removed from that particular hole and not replaced.

When I was finishing off the basement shelves this winter, I noticed I could see cobwebs near the holes blowing in the wind. Air was rushing into the house through the uninsulated penetrations. Because the house is super tight (or is supposed to be), any air penetration is exaggerated. So it was like little jet streams of air pouring in, and recently 0 degree air.

I was going to wait until the weather warmed up to spray some foam into the openings. I’m not sure if the cold air will affect the curing of the foam, as it hardens into an air tight barrier. But with -15 facing us tomorrow I figured I’d better spray today.

I used one can, and sprayed around all the openings. The foam takes a while to expand and harden, so I’ll check progress in the morning, and likely pick up another can to spray. There were a couple other little areas, like where a HVAC register is smack dab against the rim joist, that could use some foam.

When spraying, take your time. These areas are really tight to access, and a flashlight is necessary to be able to see. And don’t be like me: wear gloves. I got the nasty stuff on my hands and in the fur on my arms. It does not come off!

Overall the house has been holding up to winter in terms of keeping us warm. My office area is fairly cold and I’ve taken to plugging in a space heater. I’m also getting old and can’t seem to shake the cold anymore. We’ve been using the pellet fireplace a lot more this winter too. It works like a dream. One other note, the passive solar part of our home building equation definitely works. The kitchen, dining, family room area gets unto 75+ degrees on sunlight alone, which presumably takes some load off of the HVAC system.

I hope you’re all staying as warm as you can. I’m really depressed with the weather we’re having and can not wait for spring to get here as soon as possible.

Here are today’s pics. Peace.

Spray foam comes in a can. It's one time use, so use the whole can.

Spray foam comes in a can. It’s one time use, so use the whole can.

Pipes for the geothermal or septic system. Really tight access to where they penetrate the rim joist.

Pipes for the geothermal or septic system. Really tight access to where they penetrate the rim joist.

The input or output, I forget, for the fresh air heat exchanger. Fairly good access. Note, the laundry room HVAC vent in the adjacent bay is right against the rim joist, and could benefit from some spray foam.

The input or output, I forget, for the fresh air heat exchanger. Fairly good access. Note, the laundry room HVAC vent in the adjacent bay is right against the rim joist, and could benefit from some spray foam.

spray-foam-around-house-penetrations

Basement Project – Insulation

In the past basement insulation was often overlooked. Typically basement walls were cinder blocks and that was it. Now there are so many options from a construction standpoint, you really need to do your homework to see what suits your home building situation. Layer on top of that all the options there are for insulating your basement, and you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Insulating your basement goes a long way to reducing your energy bills, and increasing the comfort of the occupants living inside the home. Even if your basement is a storage catch-all, or a place to sequester unruly family members, there is great value in making your basement warm through the use of insulation.

The main advantage basements have, compared to the rest of the house, is it’s surrounded by soil. And the deeper you go, the more the temperature of the soil levels off around 50-60 degrees. Even at 4′, the temperature starts to hold its own verses air temperature above.

Here is a cross-section of our basement, provided by the wonderful peeps at Ferut Architecture:

Basement wall section courtesy of Ferut Architects. copyright 2014

Basement wall section courtesy of Ferut Architects. copyright 2014

So, taking a look at the diagram, you can see our awesome Superior walls make up our foundation. They’re awesome because they are prefabricated cement and include R-15 of rigid insulation right from the factory. Check out  this post to see how they were installed. It was amazing.

The plan was to add 3″ of sprayed 2 pound insulation to the inside of the Superior walls; adding R-20 to our R-15 walls for a phenomenal R-35 insulation rating to our basement walls. Also note we already have R-20 (4″ of rigid) under the cement floor. The basement would be warm snuggly nest once we were done.

Basement before insulation.

Basement before insulation.

Well turns out due to cost restraints we needed to dial it back a bit. What we did was in all of the areas that were getting drywalled, we had our friends at R-Tek Insulation in sunny Barberton, Ohio, spray 1.5 inches of insulation on just the top 4′ of the 10′ walls. This gives that area an added R-10 of insulation, for a total of R-25. This is better than most foundations, and worlds apart from traditional uninsulated cinder block walls.

The spray foam provides an air tight and presumably water tight, or at least water-resistant seal on the walls. Once the drywall is on, our basement should prove to be more air tight. The combination of air tightness and increased insulation should lower our HERS rating from its current level at 41. I’m not sure if I’ll get the house tested again. Maybe down the road after I do a few other things (to be determined).

By the way, spray insulation must be covered with sheet rock (drywall) as I do think there are fire concerns with the material when it’s simply exposed. We limited our spray only to those areas where there would be drywall. The storage rooms did not get any additional insulation at this time.

For reference on a scale from 0-150 the average home has a HERS rating of 130. New homes have to have a 100 rating. A zero energy house (which we hope to be someday) is 0. Our house is about 59% more efficient than your typical new house.

The cost for our additional insulation was $2,000. To do the entire top to bottom at R-20 would have likely been $8,000 or more.

Basement after insulation.

Basement after insulation.

The white colored spray foam expands as it dries. It also creates a air tight, water tight barrier.

The white colored spray foam expands as it dries. It also creates a air tight, water tight barrier.

The top 4' are insulated with 1.5" of 2lb. spray insulation (R-10).

The top 4′ are insulated with 1.5″ of 2lb. spray insulation (R-10).

Another option instead of spray insulation would be adding more polystyrene rigid insulation. Check out the Superior website here, for more information. You simply cut and install the rigid, bonding it to the existing rigid in the walls using liquid nails or other non-foam attacking adhesive. In fact this is what I will do for the storage rooms where we won’t have drywall. Because the spray insulation needs to be covered, per code, putting rigid in the storage rooms is my only option really. So strangely enough we will likely get a full R-20 floor to ceiling in the storage rooms because I just have to pay for material. It’s a super simple DIY job that I can do myself – free labor! Actually in hind sight, I should have likely done this everywhere from the get go, but I already had the insulation guys lined up. No worries, I like the spray insulation. And down the road if we really want to I’m sure we can go back in to the exterior walls and spray more (would have to replace drywall though).

One other note, I don’t think you ever want spray paper based insulation in your basement. With all the potential natural moisture issues, like the potential for flooding, in a basement, paper based insulation (like we have upstairs) is a bad idea.

There you have it. Now onto finishing framing and building some storage shelves.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments below.

Stake ‘n Snake

 

Ugh, the rough framers pushed back their start date, again.  It’s tough to get excited when progress keeps getting delayed.  Fortunately we have plenty to keep us busy.  The land is basically rough graded.  I awoke early this morning and drove out to meet the excavator.  Having spent some time the previous night coming to terms and getting comfortable with the lay of the land, I was confident going into our quick morning meeting.  We walked down to the future pond area and I we talked about the planned shape and location of the pond.  It will be more of a water catcher than a formal, dug pond.  To start with I doubt it’ll be more than 4′ deep.  Should  be nice enough for frogs and nesting ducks hopefully.  And hopefully I can get enough bats to mitigate (is that the right word?) any mosquitos.  One missed opportunity is that all our blue clay is intermingled with regular clay so we won’t be able to line the pond with blue clay, which would be the preferred method, especially if you’re getting free blue clay.  For now the pond area is just staged dirt piles.  They’ll be arranged and feathered out either during the final grade or when we go to do the landscaping next year.  If need be I’ll secure the mounds with fabric or organic material to reduce erosion over the winter.

Tonight the plan was to stake out the breezeway and screen porch.  We’ll have the excavator drill out holes for each post location.  Then we’ll insert a sonotube, which is a circular cardboard tube, into each hole.  When the cement contractor comes out to pour the garage and studio, they can pour cement into each sonotube.  The top of the sonotube will be flush with the grade.   Before the cement sets we’ll insert a threaded rod which will allow us to attach an adjustable bracket and then ultimately our pressure treated posts will bolt / nail to that bracket. The excavator will use a 13″ bit on his auger which should allow a 12″ sonotube to easily slide down into the hole.

To stake out the locations we (the wife and I) used a tape measure, the house plans, some orange spray paint, wooden stakes (from Lowes), and a mallet.  I bought a nice 200′ tape measure from Lowes for around $20-$30.  It works very well, just make sure you’re looking at the right side as one side has decimal marks instead of inches.

Tools of the trade. This pic is actually from the night before when I plotted out some of the landscape elements for reference.

Rolling up the driveway I stopped at the electrical box and grabbed my stack of wooden stakes, threw them in the back of the truck and proceeded up to the build site.  We unloaded our “tools” and took a quick look at the pond area and rough grading.  Everything looks real nice, and a bit flat, but that’s okay.  Pretty much our entire house is on an 4′ grid so naturally the breezeway columns are basically 8′ apart.  We didn’t get too technical, just measured off the house and studio foundation walls, took a few diagonal measurements and drove a stake into the soft freshly graded soil. 

In addition to the stake, I marked each location with some spray paint.

 After we got most of the breezeway staked, Christine randomly blurts out “snake”.  I get up from playing with a clump of clay (I’m easily distracted) and walk over to see what she is talking about.  After 10+ years of marriage I pretty much just assume she’s insane (it’s a mutual assumption I’m sure) and sure enough she points over to the pile of stakes resting on the house plans and I see nothing.  Hmm.  Fortunately, I don’t say “Um, honey, those are ‘stakes’ not ‘snakes'” as if I’m talking to my two-year-old.  Realizing my skepticism she ushers me closer and says “snake” again.  Still dumb founded I reluctantly pick up the top stake off the pile half expecting to see a rattler jump out at me as part of some sort of America’s Funniest Home Video moment.

Then I see it. 

Wouldn’t you know it, it’s the smallest darn snake I’ve ever seen in my life.  Then the biggest cricket I ever saw jumped out of the stake pile and I nearly screamed like a 12-year-old girl, but that’s not the point.  Back to the snake.  We decided to “rescue” him and release him in the east preservation area.  I have a phobia against touching any thing that is alive and isn’t a mammal so I scoot him (how do you know it wasn’t a her?) on to the house plan and walk him over to a grassy nook in the preservation area.  Snap a quick pic and he’s gone.  Of course he’ll grow up and probably scare the be-jesus out of me next year, but for now he was just about as cute as Mother Nature makes animals, this side of baby rabbits.

Our snake friend just before he was released into the preservation area. Not sure what kind of snake he was, other than awfully cute.

After Mr. Snake was gone we went back and finished the breezeway.  Some of the snakes, er…..stakes didn’t have easily aligned reference points so I pulled some diagonals from previous stakes and plotted out their locations.  Everything looked pretty good.  We then plotted out the column locations for the screen porch and back porch according to the print. 

Actually, having the rough framers delayed is good because now we’ll be able to have all the post pads (i.e. sonotubes) poured when they do the studio and garage.  And ultimately it’ll all be done around the time the framers start so they can post out the porches and breezeway without putting in temporary posts for the most part.

Picture of the staked out open breezeway that connects the garage to the house (right).

 

Screen porch stakes.

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Zen and the Art of Home Building

 

 

I’m tired.  I just cut approximately fifty blocks of foam, each approximately 19″ x 4″, out of my shiny new basement walls.  The reason I had to cut out the foam was because there needs to be structural contact between the basement wall and the cement basement floor.  It was hard work but I wouldn’t trade it for the world in retrospect.  Removing the foam may have left a void in my wall, but it filled a void in my self.  This simple act created structural contact between my self and our home.

My first attempt to take on this foam removal task was on Saturday, but I the 2.5″ thick foam easily overwhelmed my utility knife and my spirit.  I basically gave up and threw in the towel, but quickly found encouragement and confidence from Tony and my wife, Christine.  There are alternative methods to doing the floor but they create pretty sizable thermal bridges.  If I’m going to all the trouble to create thermal breaks, get fancy windows, and insulate everything, they rationalized why have a weak link in the system just because it’s difficult work.  Nothing in life worth doing is easy.  Ultimately it came down to “what is the right thing to do?” and let that be my guide.

So I went tool shopping, which is hardly like pulling teeth for me.  And Sunday, bright and early I went to the job site with my helper, Christine.

The circled area where you see the "x" (which is a future, pressure treated, 2x4) is where I cut out foam.

The plan worked well, Christine marked out 4″ increments from the bottom of the wall.  4″ gravel, 4″ rigid insulation and 4″ cement floor.  She transferred the marks across the face of the studs and back across the foam lined wall cavities.  Then with my handy-dandy drywall hand saw (non-powered by the way), I cut out the foam; all the way across and 4″ wide, corresponding with where the cement floor will go.
 

Me cutting foam.

The right tool for cutting foam, I found out, is a simple Sears Craftsman drywall hand saw, about 6″ in length.  I had a more aggressive generic one, but the simpler serrated blade of the Craftsman saw cut a lot easier.  A more aggressive blade does not move through the foam easy enough.  I then used an all purpose pry bar and inserted into my cuts to pop out the foam.
In a perfect world, the wall manufacturer would have this all set up in their mold so I wouldn’t have to remove the foam after the fact.  But that’s for the future, for now it was my sweat equity.
 

Use a pry bar to pop the foam out. The foam's not glued in so it comes right out. I left the 4" of rigid insulation below, on the wall. I paid for it and it's at the same level as the insulation I'm going to be adding above the gravel and below the cement floor.

 
Here’s what the bays look like after foam removal. I’ll save the scrap blocks and use them when we insulation the floor. Yeah, I’m pretty hard-core.
Picture of my line marking helper. It made the job a lot easier having someone marking out our lines for gravel, foam, and cement on the studs and bays. We used a thick Sharpie (which eventually wore out) and a red marking crayon from Sears.

All and all it took about 8 man hours to do.  I’ll go over the next steps in the coming days.  As you can see, we didn’t get our first floor deck on yet.  Once that’s on, it’ll get real dark in the basement.

 
It was pretty cool, the two of us, working on the house together.  Like Christine said, it makes it feel more like “our house” now.  More so than if we’d just handed over a check to some builder.  We’re going to make a point of getting out there and working on the house.  Even if it means I have to pay a professional to fix our mistakes afterwards.
 
And that leads me to the real fortune I got dug out of my basement today.  See, sitting there relatively all alone, cutting foam from one bay to the next, I finally found some semblance of inner peace that I’d been searching for.  Corky would be proud, and I probably owe him a beer because he predicted it back when we did the blessing on the land.  As he was walking out I told him about my need to meditate or some how come to some form of inner peace or I wasn’t going to make it to Fall, let alone make it to the end of this project.  He said I didn’t need to go meditate on some rock, lie on some couch or even climb a mountain.  By just working out there, on my land, meditation would come on its own.
 
We live in world where we’ve insulated and homogenized the 1,440 minutes we’re gifted each day.  So much so, that there isn’t a free moment to reflect or clear our mind. 
 
What I experienced today, cutting each block of foam, was freedom that I can only dream of on any given day.  Yes, the work was a pain in the ass and it was hot out there.  But you know what?  I didn’t have to think, make a decision or be badgered by god knows who or what out there.  It was just me (and Christine for a while), my wall and blue sky above.  The value of that is ten times, a thousand times greater than all the minutes spent running around in a typical day.  Days spent running around, fighting other people’s battles and working other people’s dreams.
 
It’s remarkable how, as I leave our land and drive back to the real world, deep down inside I can feel myself adjusting.  Where we’re building our house is out in the country, but by no means desolate.  In a way though it’s about a million miles away.  I’m pretty sure somewhere along the road as I come and go from the land, I pass through a veil.  A screen so real I truly believe if I squint hard enough in the warm August air of a Ohio summer afternoon I could see it.  It eases through my car window and all of a sudden I realize I’m on the other side where the reality of the rest of the world emerges.
 
And it’s not that bad.  Not that bad because back there, about a 1/2 mile back, just past where the road runs along the railroad tracks…..yeah, back there I’ll get to pass through going the other way again tomorrow or the next day.
 
And the fireflies will start dancing as the sun goes down.  Crickets will chirp and my worries will ease because I’ll know I’m home.
 

Foundation

It’s in.

I survived.

I didn’t do a darn thing yesterday but sit and watch real people do real work and I was exhausted.  Actually I’m still exhausted, but in my defense I did work in the yard at the old house this morning.  It’s hot in Ohio this Summer.  Too hot for my tastes.  Where’s my nice climate controlled, super insulated (from the heat), passive solar house when I need it?

Right now, it is an arrangement of pre-fabricated cement wall panels that were arranged on Friday with surgical precision to within 1/8″ of an inch across a 190’+ diagonal from one end of the house to the other end of the garage.  In fact Superior Walls and Fike Excavating worked with such surgical precision and expertise all day, it was rather boring for me.  Exactly how I hoped it would be. Nothing I had worried about in preparation for “foundation day” came to fruition.

The day started out with Superior’s crane and the first load of wall panels waiting for me in the drive and road respectively.  Not knowing what to expect I said “hello” and was greeted by Ryan and Carl from Superior (I’m pretty sure I got their names right). Ryan proceeded to back his crane up my 1/4 mile long driveway, right past my neighbor’s large tree.  Then the moment of truth came as the first semi with my 10′ tall basement wall panels turned off of the road and approached the 90 degree turn around the tree. Viola! Around the tree, no problem.  Sigh of relief on my part (yes I smiled just a lil’ bit). These guys are good.

The first truck, a sleeper cab no less, cuts around the big tree with ease.

Here's Superior's crane parked between my studio and the garage. Very cool.

 They quickly set up the crane and the semi parked in front of what will someday be the garage.  It started to rain and of course I left all my rain gear at home.  Driving home to get my raincoat did two things: 1) assured the rain would stop for the rest of the day, and 2) caused me to miss how they put the first two wall panels up.  They’re 10′ tall panels…weigh like 2,000 pounds each….I don’t know, maybe one guy held it up while they waited to lean it against the next panel.

Wall panels being installed. They are bolted together and caulked at the seams. You can see all the integrated insulation and the metal stud faces.

 That panels go up quickly and soon it’s time to back out the semi to make room for truck number two.  The semi backs out of the upper portion of the drive and then to turn around it requires our excavator to lift up the back of the trailer and swing it around.  We have very little room for this type of operation but these guys are pros and it happens without a hitch.  Quickly the second truck comes up the drive, around the tree in one shot and parks on the job site.

The second truckload of panels goes in. Note the large basement window. I have no idea what we’ll use that basement room for but it will have a large window.

The Superior Wall system goes in quickly.  A truck driver, crane operator and two technicians on the ground make easy work of my foundation.  Actually in this heat it’s anything but easy.  It’s still physical labor.  I sit on a rock and watch.  So helpful. 

The foundation going in quickly is one of the reasons it appealed to us.  It took just 10 or 11 hours from when the crane showed up to when it left.  In that time team put up over 332 linear feet of fabricated wall sections, about half of which were 10′ in height.  A mason would’ve been out there hauling block for a week.  My walls are perfectly true from what I can see and dialed within an 1/8″ of location specifications. Our Superior Xi walls come with 2-1/2″ of Dow insulation built-in (R-12.5) and we’ll be adding another R-20 worth of insulation when we complete the basement.  When we go to finish off the basement I can screw my drywall right to the Superior Wall metal stud facing which will save me time and money; another reason we chose them for our foundation.  I also like the idea that it’s an engineered wall system.  I’m a designer by trade and I guess I gravitate to products that are more technical / engineered and designed rather than just slapping a bunch of raw materials together.   All these panels are made in a factory out of reinforced concrete.  Everything is strong, true and bolts together. And as we all know I’m lazy, so I like the idea of the entire foundation installation being one day, having integrated insulation and being able to attach drywall right to the panels.  There are even knockouts for my wires and plumbing.  No fuss, no muss. A lazy “do it yourself” homeowner’s dream.  And that’s me. 

My foundation beats your foundation every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Setting the garage walls. You'll see some EPS foam on there but none of the Dow XPS blue board that are on the house panels. The garage is uninsulated so we don't need it. We were going to have the garage be block but in the grand scheme of things, it was easier to do the garage in 4' tall Superior Walls.

By late day the third and final truck rolls up to the job site.  This one carries the remainder of the 4′ tall studio and garage panels.  Our excavator had everything prepped to Superior’s specifications, even so just a little massaging of the prepped footer areas is needed.  It’s tiring work in this heat but the Superior technicians are positive and knowledgable.  By 5:30 pm the walls are in.  The last semi truck is coerced off the job site and headed back for the 5 hour drive to Lima, NY.  The crane is packed up and easily maneuvers down the drive in the deft hands of its operator.  Driving that crane on the freeway has got to be tedious.  

A special thanks to our excavator Jonathan Fike and his dad, David (Fike Development), for being on hand all day and helping to get the semi’s in and out of the property and mending the driveway.  Once again they helped make a stressful situation for me and make it worry free.Completed foundation looking across house towards garage.

 And that’s it.  The foundation went in just fine.  Now we move onto about 2 weeks of some really finesse type orchestration of tasks and trades to get the first floor deck on, the basement poured and everything back filled.  I don’t know if my stress level went down any after yesterday.  I do know that I need to drink water when I’m out there.  I was burnt when I got home.

And I didn’t even do anything.

For information on Superior Walls check out: http://www.superiorwalls.com/

Gang Aft Agley

 

The older I get the more worry. 

The more I over think. 

The more I annoy the bejesus out of pretty much everyone I encounter. 

I promise to be better.  I’ll start next year (I procrastinate too).  I’ll start as soon as I have a plan in place.  And a contingency plan in case something goes wrong.  Of course the problem lies in that I don’t plan very well or rather I don’t plan that often.  Instead I charge ahead at the front end and deal with everything on the fly as the wheels fall come off.  When I do plan I think of every angle without coming to any real resolution most of the time.  Basically an organizational top spinning around waiting for life to happen.

When building my own house, I’m quickly realizing that a) It probably wouldn’t have hurt me to plan more and b) the reality is nothing goes as planned anyway so I should have golfed more before I started building.

Not that anything is going tragically wrong, rather a lot of little “middle of the road” things kinda go unplanned and then either resolve themselves or result in, you guessed it, a change of plans. Expectations, design, realization, design, expectations, fill out forms.  Pay some money, expectations, realizations, wait two weeks. Do some work, pay some money, expectations, realizations, watch the rain.  And so on and so on, for roughly eight months…..we hope.

We’ll have some budget challenges coming up since we allotted more money to some areas and have run over on the excavation with our blue clay incident.  I suppose a soil core test would have alerted us earlier, but wouldn’t have saved us any money. Based on our research we were not expecting the blue clay.  And I don’t think it would have nixed the project even if we had known.  I guess  lesson learned, do a soil core test just in case.  We were able to save some money (and add a green feature to the project) today by ordering recycled rigid insulation, so not all is bad news.  We can balance the budget too when we get to finishes and delaying some built-ins like bookshelves.

One plan that did work out was we were planning to get the footers inspected today and we passed with flying colors.  Yay for us!  Knock on wood, but anytime we have anything to do with the government, it works out great.  Mother nature, not so much.

All the drain tile (which is really plastic pipe) is laid.  These series of pipes will collect any water on the outside of our foundation and route it away.  The cement thingy (it’s late, and I forget what it’s called) that forms the collection area for the sump pump is in too.  The sump pump and it’s pipes (I think there are pipes) on the interior of the foundation will collect water and pump it out before it can get into my basement.  It’s placed in the lowest point of the basement excavation.

Picture of the approved excavation. All the gravel will be for the floor. The Superior Wall system will rest on the gravel around the perimeter. My studio is the higher portion on the left. the sump pump crock is the little round thing at the opposite corner from this vantage point.

Tomorrow we’re going to lose one more cherry tree I suspect.  It’s the one near the garage that we tried to keep even though it’d make backing out of the drive difficult.  Well, turns out it may make the foundation install go smoother so I’m pretty sure it’s coming down.  I took a picture of it today.  Out of the three cherry trees we saved, it’s the nicest.  There goes that plan.

To the left of the drive in this picture is the cherry tree they'll most likely take down tomorrow. To the right is the garage. The semi and crane coming on Friday will have to thread the needle between the two. That's why they get paid the big bucks.

 Everything looks really spread out and open, but that’s because of the 45 degree walls on the excavation.  Tomorrow after work I’ll lay down some vapor barrier where the walls are going.  Additional vapor barrier will go down after the walls are in, before I go to lay down the rigid vinyl and they pour the basement floor.

My biggest worry right now is getting the semi-tractor trailer and crane back to the job site  on Friday.  That should be interesting as our driveway is pretty crazy and goes across my neighbors property.  I’ll either be really happy or really sad Friday night depending on how it goes.  Also weighing me down is the insulation will be coming in on another semi-tractor trailer next week. When that comes I’ll have to unload it by hand near the street.  I don’t even want to plan for that but I have to.  Not expecting that to be a happy endeavor.

Foundation hole as seen from just outside the screen porch. My studio is the higher ground on the right. With the blue clay, we laid down stabilization fabric just like we did under the driveway.

Well, here’s hoping I’m filled with promised joy on Friday, regardless of whether or not things go as planned.  I guess the real plan is to get the foundation in without destroying anything. 
 
If that happens then I’ll be happy as a mouse.