Sunday, October 22, 2006

Foundation trilogy

The concrete has been poured, and the foundation is complete! Friday they must have poured all the concrete, as we now have a solid floor again. It's exciting that we finally have a new foundation. Coda's not sure what to make of it, however.

Our architect mailed us a note about the soffitting and gutters on the house. I wasn't even sure about what soffitting was, to be honest. Apparently the way he'd designed the finish work under the eaves was to finish them off with stucco. The gutters in the new part of the house were also designed to be nicer looking than the current ones. But since no one can really see the outside of our house, we all realized that this was an unnecessary expense. So, we'll finish the gutters and the eaves the same way they are on the house now (which is basically, exposed eaves, and smallish gutters). This will hopefully save us a significant chunk of change that we can then apply to either repainting the entire house, or to the shear wall reinforcement that has to be done to the bedroom side of the house.

Our architect said in the beginning when we first got the bid, that we should plan that we were going to spend that amount of money, and I think that's right. Any amount that we save in one place seems to get eaten up by either an unanticipated expense or an augmentation to the existing plans as we start to realize what it means.

Foundation II

As of midweek last week, the concrete for the foundation was ready to be poured. The rebar was in, the moisture seal was on, and everything was ready to go. (I suspect they were waiting for an inspection.)

Wednesdays are our days to have our weekly meeting with our architect and contractor, to discuss any open issues that come up. It turns out that some of our walls are not perfectly square (surprise!) and we had to make a decision as to whether to "fur" the wall of the garage side (which will make one wall of the new office) to make the walls perfectly orthogonal. Since it isn't that important to us, and it's not that far off, we decided not to (because doing so will increase the expense, natch).

We also had to decide whether to do a flush baseboard (this is a really nice detail in a modern house, but it's much much harder to do than an applied base, and in a remodel like ours, it's probably much harder to do and therefore too expensive). So, we decided not to. We did decide to do a flush detail on the door frames, however (no wood trim), since that should look cleaner.

We had a long discussion about whether the front door can be salvaged or not, and I'm not sure what we finally ended up with. Whatever the cheapest solution is, I think. We got a new bid on the HVAC, and it came in a little bit lower than the original rough estimate. The upstairs will be air conditioned (for those few days during the year when it's unbearably hot), and the downstairs will be plumbed for air, but will not be air conditioned yet. In fact, due to the state of our existing heating system, the entire system is going to be replaced.

Our architect and contractor are working on getting us a new estimate of the remaining open items so we can figure out how much everything is going to cost in total. Even though we have a fixed-price bid, there are so many allowances in there that it's hard to get a handle on what it's really going to cost in the end. There are also other items that we don't have accounted for that we're on the hook to pay. It's difficult to pick out the remaining materials without knowing that.

The next thing we have to finish specifying is the electrical and lighting details. For the electrical, we're probably going to put in Cat V-E throughout the house just in case we'll need it. We also have to put in wiring for an alarm (sigh) since our insurance company won't insure the house for what it's worth unless we have that. We'll probably plan out a home theater setup while we're at it, even if we don't put it in for a while. While the walls are opened up, it makes sense to plan for as much as possible!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Foundation foundation

It's been very busy at work, with no time to post. However, Kurt's been taking pictures, and I've been putting them on my website at For a change, I've been posting pictures quicker than writing blog entries, so if you're curious you can check back there to see the latest.

Everything in the house at this point has been demolished, except for the stairs (which they're using to get between floors), and the half-wall between the kitchen and the great room. I think they'll leave that closed up until we have a real roof on the house, since it will expose the entire kitchen. The laundry room is getting refloored, so they've moved everything out of there and ripped out the floor.

Two weeks ago, our contractor finally got the portable drilling rig to drill the holes for the piers. The holes have to go down quite deep (something like fifteen feet). Access to the back of our house is not great, so they had to bring this machine that works on compression. It sits in the driveway, and then a hose snakes around to the back of the house to power the portable drilling rig. From there, they could dig the holes.

The one day it rained, they drilled inside (there are three piers that will be created inside the house -- two for the new stairs, and one for the new bathroom wall). It took them a couple of days to finish drilling. Then, they had to get a soil engineer out to sample the soil and determine how the concrete needed to be mixed. Then, they put the rebar and concrete in the holes to make the piers. The inspector came out and signed off on that piece of construction.

So at this point we've got piers, and I think they'll start building the foundation next. The steel is being constructed and part of it will be welded offsite. The steel should arrive in a week. The roof/ceiling in the LR has been cut back and is propped on a few two by fours/four by fours. They'll leave it that way until the steel is in, at which point I think they'll be ready to start reframing the new roof.

It seems that the lowest point of our new ceiling is at the highest point of the old ceiling. Which means, we're going to have some really high ceilings! (We can call it the "Grrrrrrrrreat!" room.) It should be a nice room when it's all done. We did decide to plumb the room for air, and our contractor rebid the HVAC part of the contract with that in mind. It turns out that they are going to have to replace our entire HVAC system in our entire house, but this should still come in under the original (very high) rough estimate.

Our architect is now trying to finalize our lighting and electrical plan. I realized at this point that even though we have a fixed bid, I really don't know how much we're going to wind up paying. There are lots of "incidentals" that aren't so incidental, such as the money we have to pay to the welding inspector to inspect the welds, or additional fees for the structural engineer. A thousand here, a thousand there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money! A lot of the pieces of our construction bid were based on allowances for materials; however, now that we've picked out the materials, I don't know whether we stayed within those allowances or not. So... this week we're going to have to get a better estimate of everything in the bid, along with the remaining "incidentals" so we know how much we can afford to spend on lighting. All this money stuff is a little bit stressful!