Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And then the wind and hail came ...

... and down came the tarp that had been rigged to protect the slab.  Which freaked me out when I found out, but turned out not to be a problem at all.  I wasn't home when it happened, but my two oldest gamely went outside and tried to fix it - by themselves.
When I got home, we took the posts down and used the wood to secure the tarp.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Foundation Pour

In January, we finally got to the stage where we could pour the slab.  We live on the Westcoast which necessitated erecting a large tarp over the slab to protect it from the incessant rain.
It was exciting to make progress ... finally.  By this point, we were already four months into it.  I'm not the most patient person so it was good to be able to get on with it.

Pouring Footings

Once the forms were built, the race was on to get the footings poured before a) the snow came and b) our contractor went to Australia for three weeks.

We didn't beat the snow and there were times when it looked like we wouldn't make the deadline before Joe left for sunnier climes, but it all came together in the end.

After the footings are poured, that rebar will get bent over into the middle of the slab, and more concrete will be poured into the middle where my husband is standing in the picture above.

This was the very end of November, and then pretty much nothing happened until January...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Land Bridge

We decided to do it.  We weighed our options and realized that it was worth it to us to go ahead with our plans, even if it meant added cost.  We figured that we were still way ahead of where we would be if we built new or moved to another house (that is, if we could find one that would offer everything this one would when it was done).

In the end it meant drilling six micro-piles. Our engineer came up with an elaborate plan.  Some would say (and have said) he went overboard but I guess better safe than sorry? 

Our contractor Joe said that the only time he has ever seen so much steel go into a structure was when he built a bridge.


It delayed us by about six weeks and blew our entire contingency fund right out of the gate, but we kept telling ourselves that it would be worth it in the end.

As we aren't actually at the end yet, time will tell if that's the case.

But I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

A little {expensive} hiccup ...

Approval came back from the city within two weeks.  We were surprised because they aren't known to move that quickly.  The plans came back with the usual caveats, and a small note that we'd need a geotechnical engineering report.

No biggie - it would cost $1200 which was annoying, but we were excited to begin.

The excavator arrived at the beginning of November. 

The deck had already been taken down, and all that remained was the concrete pad under the old deck.  Our excavator, Jack, made quick work of the concrete.

Other than the fact that the digger went through the ground like it was butter, our first clue that we had a problem was when the pad was removed to reveal these piling caps.

Anyway, to make a long story short, our house was built on pilings. Which we had already known, but the full ramifications would become apparent over the next month as the costs began to mount.

Our geotechnical engineer wanted soil samples, so this interesting rig showed up in our backyard to drill down, revealing that we had insufficient structural fill that would not support our structure without some serious engineering assistance.  The rest of the house was built on 31 pilings - so that wasn't going anywhere.  But if we wanted to build we were going to have to go to some extraordinary lengths.

At this point, we had to decide whether to proceed or to abandon the renovation completely.

Tearing Down the Deck

 Our deck needed to go to make way for the ground floor addition.  No matter, it was small and the stairs were so rickety the kids weren't allowed to use them. 

Unfortunately, a beautiful and strange tree the kids call 'the weather tree' also had to go.  They called it the weather tree because all you had to do was look at it to know what kind of weather we were having (?)  It had the most remarkable, squiggly leaves - and I was very sad to have to cut it down. 

We cut it down ourselves.  Well, my guy did the cutting, and I pulled it down and away from the house (there was much squealing on my part, I'll admit).

New and Improved

After meeting our designer Jesse over the summer months, this is what we submitted in October 2010 to the city for approval:

More functional living space on the ground floor
The dining room and kitchen are an addition measuring approximately 12 feet by 21 feet.  The new living room is where my husband's cave of an office used to be.

See that little office off the kitchen? That's going to be my office - some may think it a strange location, but I'm looking forward to being able to work there.  Right now I work on the dining room table.  Every time I have any work to do, I have to pull it all out, only to have to put it away when it's time to eat.  That's how I spent the last two years of my business degree.  It was a major pain, and not conducive to getting stuff done.

New and improved upstairs

Bed 2 and Bed 3 are where our kitchen and dining room used to be, and the new Family Room is what used to be the old Living Room.  The new plan gives us five bedrooms on one level.

The Layout

We love our neighbourhood – we’re close to great schools, our kids have tons of friends on our street, we back onto one of the prettiest parks in the city, and we have an awesome view. Oh, and we have nothing but farmland behind us.  It’s quiet and serene. Well, as quiet and serene as it gets with four kids and a beagle.

While the location was ideal, the layout was not.  A few years ago, my dad and his wife visited us on their way home to Australia.  My dad is a draftsman, and I talked to him about my renovation ideas.  He went around and measured the house, and came up with some rough sketches that would involve adding a small bump out on the ground floor for a dining room. He knew we had a limited budget and this seemed like a pretty good compromise.

I explained in this post about our layout – how the kitchen, dining and living rooms are upstairs, along with three bedrooms.  The ground floor is for some unexplained reason called ‘the basement’ even though it’s completely above ground.  Dad’s plan called for moving all of our living space to the ground floor, and adding two bedrooms upstairs where the kitchen and dining room had been previously.
Dad's Plan for The Ground Floor aka 'The Basement'
For the next four years I dreamed about making our house more functional for our family.  Over that time, Dad’s plan remained the basis for what was to come – we’ve stayed pretty true to what he suggested. 

In the summer of 2010, we decided to take the plunge.  We hired a designer to take Dad’s sketches and my plans, and make something we could take to the city for permits.  Along the way, we decided to add some more square footage on the ground floor to give us a pantry, a couple of offices and more family space.

For more on our new house plans, click here.