It's July 2007 and we start building foundation forms for our small footprint home.

July 1st  Happy Canada Day! 

And today being Sunday... it is a Town Noise Bylaw that equipment can't be run, so as not to disturb the quietude of the neighbourhood.  So we more or less took the day off - after reassessing our timeline (we are a bit ahead of schedule) and we hand digging some of the existing storm sewer line and waterline to re-route them.  Back at it tomorrow - we're pretty keen to finish the excavating and prepping the site for the surveyor to come this week to set the pins for when we have the contractor come in to set the forms for the foundation in two weeks.  Until then we are doing plumbing (and having that inspected).

                                          Click on (most) images for a larger view.

July 3rd
We got our Plumbing Permit and our Survey done today!  We're really moving along!

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07/03 re-routing waterline

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07/03 precise measuring

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Supervisor Cali
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running out of room for topsoil
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measuring depth
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we were in 1" of the survey mark

July 4th
Today we crashed over the edge in the excavator (showing off for the camera, climbing off a ledge of dirt - we may put the video clip on the site later) We are running out of room. The house is surrounded by 3 feet of clay and topsoil and today we had to build two big piles in front of the main entrance to the old house.  On a personal note, I found myself driven today. In an effort to finish the job by the end of the weeks rental of the excavator, I squeezed every last moment of time into operating the machine. By evening I was in a frenzy, short and snappy trying to be super efficient, leaving little room for discussion and contemplation. The joy had gone and it felt like work. Happily I quickly realized that this is a labour of love and that it's a long road ahead and it will be a hard road if we work in panic mode. Each shovel full of dirt should be handled with love and reverence for the experience of feeling our body and our mind at work. It's a time for laughs and hugs and kisses. So we decided to keep the machine one more day to give us the time to properly clean the site and then took our time to mark out the next days work.

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sitting down on the job
(with a beer)

July 5th
It took longer than anticipated. It was 8pm when we finally finished all the excavation, hand shoveled the remnants and swept the sun baked clay clean. We were sitting basking in the glory of the accomplishment for a while as the shadows drew long. We were so happy to have finished this huge task that we found a little extra energy and started to paint the outlines of the foundation walls on the clay. That's when we decided to take a few more measurements and realized that the location of the posts for the front porch was off. The trenches were too small and not in the right place. What was to be a nice relaxing bit of fun after a long day of sweating in the hot sun turned into a last minute sprint that drained every last ounce of energy from our bodies. Fifteen minutes before the 10pm curfew on noise, we finally shut the machine down.

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calculations on site

July 6th
After literally passing out at midnight after a shower and some late food for sustenance, we woke up at 5:30 this morning singing the river song. We have noticed that all this physical labour not only lets us sleep like logs but even after only 5 1/2 hours sleep we wake up keen and refreshed. But then we spent a day driving around town in a car, visiting a bunch of suppliers and researching some electrical issues. It was a tiring ordeal, much more exhausting than the physical labour of actually doing the work.
It was interesting the different responses we got from the suppliers to our inquiries. Everything from "there is no such thing" to "What are you doing attempting your own electrical work?" to "Oh yah here is what you can use, but you might want to consider doing it like this instead" It sure helps to shop around for the friendly and helpful attitudes when you select suppliers. After having dinner with Laura's Mom we still drew out the foundation lines on the ground and discovered that there was one last little corner we forgot to cut with the machine. It will require some sweat and muscle to prepare for the foundation. Cutting clay is like cutting very cold and hard butter. It is hard and tedious work by hand.

July 7th
Ah, to be able to sleep in again. Today was a lazy day. We didn't get up until a neighbour knocked on the door around 9:30. We had promised her the old picket fence which she will recycle by installing it around her house. After puttering around the house, cleaning and organizing, we prepared for disconnecting our sewer with one last shower. We made provisions for a pee bucket and then plugged all the sinks and drains.
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hefting that AC piping
Finally at 3pm we cut the old sewer line. The asbestos-cement sewer was a lot tougher to cut than Tom had anticipated but our reciprocal saw did the trick. One of the "inspectors" that pops by from time to time to check on our progress wondered why we used ABS instead of PVC under the house since it was more expensive. Code requires ABS to be used inside the house and since we are incorporating the internal waste pipe directly into the underground sewer it made sense to us to spend the extra money and stay consistent with ABS. This avoids a lot of ABS/PVC transition bonds which require special cement and can lead to complications.

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chatting with the neighbours

0707091368.jpg (141720 bytes) July 9th
I took Mom to hospital for her check-up today and then brought her by to show her the house layout.  She hasn't been able to get over at all. Thomas spent the day doing some inside work and drawings on the electrical plan.  We also got 31/2yards of sand delivered to cover our sewer line.
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July 10th
Today was the major plumbing day. It was sweltering hot but we stuck with it all day picking up where we had left off last night. Little by little the new sewer started to take shape and exhausted by 9 at night we managed to complete the rerouting of the sewer line and re-connect the old house to the new lateral.
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July 11th
Today Laura placed some major orders for Glulam beams and FSC certified roof decking. I toiled in the sun hand tamping the hard to reach places around the standpipes. I also used a piece of re-bar to set a benchmark height for the foundation relative to the nominal grade level. This will allow the formers to position their leveling strip in the north west reference corner and then check it against another cross-check pin on the south east. After taking a few more sightings and trimming a few high spots we watered the whole pit. The sun had baked the clay to the point of cracking. Since dry clay is like a sponge it would draw a lot of moisture out of the cement prematurely, so we thought it best to get and keep it moist before the pour next week.
0707111288.jpg (126647 bytes) So the scramble was on, we had planned to do final grade adjustments while waiting for the building inspector to arrive and there was still one small section of pipe that did not conform to the required 1/4" per foot slope. With a little extra hustle we managed to get everything into perfect order by the time he arrived. A couple of pictures and questions combined with some careful observations and we got the clearance to backfill the pipe. While I hauled load after load of sand with the wheelbarrow, Laura used a small rake to spread it over the sewer pipe and then using the rake handle carefully packed it around the pipe before layering about 12" on top.
The heat continued to be brutal, 36 Celsius in the shade and we were in the pit under the relentless sun. Relying on the physics of evaporation though we were able to stay cool enough to keep working right through it. Both of us wore long sleeved overalls that kept us from getting burnt. About once an hour we hosed each other down and then proceeded to work dripping wet. As our clothes dried on our backs they cooled us nicely. At noon the "jumping jack" was delivered. At first we were scared to place it on top of the new sewer pipe even with the protection of all that sand but after getting used to the machine on a test strip we managed ok. Running it at full throttle seemed to work best and I decided to stop it every time I changed direction so it wouldn't dig a hole.

July 13-16th

We were actually at a moment in the project to step back and take a breather and go for a sail!  And to spend a little time at the cottage to check on things there.  We had an amazing sail (15-20knot winds) over late Friday afternoon.  We had lovely sunny days, puttered in the garden, watered alot, and napped alot.  We actually felt a little discombobulated - not being in work mode we didn't quite know what to do with ourselves!  And did we ache because we weren't using our bodies.  Got up at 2am on Sunday and both did a workout so we could get some sleep!

Headed back to Sidney Monday afternoon - caught the incoming tide which moved us along faster across the bottom than the light winds could move us through the water.  Caught glimpses of a mother Orca and her calf - as did countless Whale Watching boats and other pleasure craft.

July 17th
What a change in the weather - it rained most of the day and the site became a mucky clay mess.  So we stayed indoors and worked on some ordering and electrical plans.  I placed the order for the FSC ceiling decking through Moriah!  Read about the FSC which is the Forest Stewardship Council: "Market demand for FSC-certified products is being driven by a growing awareness and concern by consumers over the origin of their products and the ability of these to demonstrate that they were produced in a environmental and social responsible manner."  Moriah serves as a sales representative for a group of FSC-certified operations offering a number of products.  She gave us the contact information of the couple in central British Columbia who manage/operate the woodlot (WO550) that the lumber will be cut from!  Thomas worked some more on the electrical plan drawings.
July 18 - 22nd
Got a call from our fellow who is going to do the foundation and slab and he won't be able to start until the following week.  Just as well with all this rain.  While waiting for the rain to stop we spent some time organizing the workshop and setting up the new tools we purchased.  Like so much about the world of tools and construction, this was an old experience for me but a brand new one for Laura. Smart enough to recognize this, I made it a point to stay out of the shop and Laura's way. Instead I busied myself with backfilling the sewer ditch and clearing the driveway for the arrival of forming materials.

My history has trained me to be very goal oriented. Thinking five steps ahead and planning for the unforeseen has helped me to accomplish a lot in my life. It has however also rushed me through some precious moments that upon hindsight were lost in the frenzy of meeting deadlines. While watching Laura take ownership of her working domain I started to realize that anything you do, you only get to do it for the first time once in your life.


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Seeing My Love dance with the joy and excitement of having her very own workshop and her very own tools was a powerful reminder how important it is to savor these moments. So while Laura is learning how to operate a 12" DeWalt chop-saw safely, I am learning how to be calm, in the moment, and trust in the perfect timing of synchronicity. We have much to learn from this experience and much to learn from each other. 0707211375.jpg (102569 bytes) 0707211378.jpg (63338 bytes)
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some of the first rebar is laid

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neat to see our plans
in the works!

July 23rd - Delivery of foundation materials.  Thomas helping out with the crane truck.
AND THE BUILDING BEGINS! July 24th... 0800 Cat's Eye Construction fellows show up bright and early to start the foundation work!  What a gorgeous day, after the previous week of rain!
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We were very impressed with Sean and his two workers.  They are all clean cut, nice guys who worked all day and got alot done! We felt antsy working inside today though, as we felt we should be out there working too!  This is the only contractor we are hiring and we are happy to have them on our team.  We had fun walking through the rooms after they left!  Here we are standing in the back patio nook outside of the kitchen!
25th - 26th
Lots of rebar was set yesterday and more this morning.  This afternoon the change really happened when the foundation walls started to go up - now it is taking shape and on our walk through we could get a sense of room size and site lines, etc.  Pretty exciting!  Still lots of work to do on this phase - perhaps the guys will finish tomorrow (and we'll give them a hand wiring in rebar, as it is a tedious job) and then we spend the weekend on two main tasks: filling around the low spots so we don't lose/waste a lot of concrete during the pour; and setting jigs for our anchor bolts and hold-downs.  We'll also clean up the site for when the inspector comes, hopefully Monday or Tuesday and then the pour will happen!
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tenacity of nature despite conditions
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Sean & Ray setting the front posts
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Thomas sites a level strip w/Sean
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30th - Andre,  "OK to pour".
My first major power tool purchase!  A DeWalt Mitre Saw!  28th-29th: We made jigs to set the anchor bolts and holdowns in place, so I am cutting the 7-3/4" plates.  Then I assemble them on the jig and Thomas places them around the foundation walls. 070729012.jpg (66460 bytes) 070730001.jpg (57271 bytes) 070729013.jpg (66779 bytes)
070729015.jpg (55980 bytes) 070729014.jpg (58046 bytes) Here we have drilled through the forms to set "conduits" in place through the foundation walls to run pipes through.  The first one is ready for the waterline to come in through the north wall.  The second one is ready for a waste pipe to come out through the east wall.

27th: Sean & Thomas set rebar
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Laura tying rebar
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"aerial" view of progress
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planting potatoes in all that soil!
THE POUR DAY: July 31st
The anticipation built all day!  We were so excited - the big pour day!  We were scheduled for 3:00, so we still had the day to put in the rest of the anchor bolts and patch spaces around the footers where the concrete could spread out.  We also needed to keep the forms wet so we sprayed every hour... it helped cool us off too!
Sean, Ray, and Roger arrived at 2:45... the truck arrived at 3:15...
but the concrete did not arrive until 4:00.  We were all keen and the waiting was a challenge.  Once here though we all scrambled...
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keeping the forms wet...
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in contemplation and anticipation...
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concrete loading into hopper...
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pouring, vibrating, hauling, sweating

They sent a line pumper truck instead of a boom because our overhead lines may have been in the way.  So we had to join in to heft that hose around - stepping in and around the foundation over its walls and bracing! We looked like a conga line; Ray was at the end of the hose filling the forms, Roger plunged the vibrator in to settle in the cement, I hefted the motor and hose of the vibrator, Thomas hefted the cement hose with the cement truck operator, while Sean directed Ray and Roger and then set to work trowelling!  Thomas then joined in to trowel when he realized the operator was a mighty strong lad and could hold the hose himself!  Phew! before we knew it, it was all over!  

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trowelling, smoothing...
and smiling... it's done!


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