Monday, July 16, 2007

Step 5 - Demolition

There wasn't too much in the basement that needed to be demo'd, but there was enough that I didn't want to handle it myself and get rid of the debris. I had an old rocklathe ceiling with holes punched into it covering the entire ceiling in the basement, a paneled center wall, some paneling and shelves under the stairs, and I needed concrete broken away where I was adding new basement columns (more on that in a separate post). Luckily for me, there are businesses out there that will take care of all the demo and take away the debris for you. When you apply for your permit, the city asks you where you will be throwing your construction debris. For me, this job was $2400 and well worth it.

The jumble of wires and plumbing that need to be reviewed and redone.

The boiler and water heater is vented to the chimney - closing in the basement triggers the need for a ventilation system - this will be reviewd.

The sink will be moved to a different location and the plumbing will need to be cleaned up around the window.

That's an old wire hanging down - all the wiring will be made as neat as possible to be placed between the ceiling joists and hidden under a new sheetrock ceiling.

July 20, 2009

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Step 4 - moving out

Now that I've got the permit, the real work begins. All the stuff that was in the basement (and it's a lot) will be stored in the garage. The car has no say in this.

Ski boots, an unfinished doll house...

...the cleaning stuff on the shelves behind the washing machine...

....storm door inserts, a spare door (that will be used in the renovation), plant pots, 4 moving boxes of music CD's (that we've converted to MP3 so we don't use them anymore, but keep them anyway), paints....

, Christmas decorations, etc. etc. These IKEA shelves were dismantled and reconstructed to use in the garage.

Even this sink --- actually the sink stays. These sinks are typical to these houses of this vintage - it's concrete, made to resemble the old soapstone sinks. I like it because it's big and deep and will be perfect for my projects (which include a lot of potting of plants). It's final position is not it's current position, so it needs to be moved and it took a great deal of thought on how I was going to do that -- that will be the subject of a separate post.

All this stuff from the 700 SF of basement gets squashed into the 200 SF garage......

And now the basement is ready to work on...

[note the stonework behind the boiler - that was the window that was blocked in - not bad...]

July 17, 2009

Monday, July 2, 2007

Step 3 - getting the permit

I wanted to pull the permit myself. What that means is that the permit will be in my name and I will be responsible for making sure all the tasks required by the building department are completed. The tasks include the proper inspections for foundation, rough, insulation, plumbing rough, electrical rough, plumbing final, electrical final and final. As a structural engineer, it is not typical that I would get involved in this. When I work for a client, I create the drawings and the contractor pulls the permit. However, I wanted to experience this part of the job with my own house. I wanted to 'feel the pain' so to speak.

I went to the building department and filled out the permit application. There are hours each day that are alloted for people to do this. 'People' include homeowners as well as contractors. I stood in line - I think I was 4th. The woman in front of me wanted to pull her own permit for the job she wanted done - the building inspector talked her out of it. When my turn came, I explained to the building inspector that I wanted to pull the permit myself - he was skeptical. The building departments don't like homeowners in Massachusetts to pull their own permits because of the protection given to homeowners through the Home Improvement Contractor's Program. This program has the potential to provide some financial compensation to homeowners if a job goes awry. As long as the person pulling the permit has a Home Improvement Contractor's License (which anyone working for you should), they will be paying a fee to the state which goes into the Home Improvement Program kitty to fund expenses for the program to pay out. I do not have a Home Improvement Contractor's license. I explained to the building inspector that I was a structural engineer (which has a totally different licensing requirement) and I wanted to experience pulling the permit myself - I told him that I knew what that responsibility entails. He reluctantly did allow me to get my permit myself.

July 16, 2009

I was off to a good start - things could move forward now...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Step 2 - asbestos removal

Our 1940s house was constructed with steam heating pipes - the pipes were covered with asbestos. For the basement renovation, it's easiest to get rid of the asbestos before you begin than when everything is finished. Also, the steam pipes are in the way - I have to decide whether to keep them where they are or what to do about them. If I keep them where they are, there's a lot of ceiling space that is lost. If I take the high road, that is, if I replace the steam with something else, I can put the pipes in the ceiling and the problem goes away. That will be the subject of a separate post. This post is about asbestos ... I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here are the pipes before the asbestos was removed.

This was an easy job - S&S Abatement came in the morning and they were done by mid afternoon.

During the removal, plastic was placed over the pipes to avoid dust getting in the air.

After the asbestos was removed, the pipes were spray painted black. The black paint was mostly an asthitic - however, any asbestos that may have been left on the pipes, was adhered into place with the paint. For all intents and purposes, the amount of asbestos left was zero.

July 16, 2009

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A little thing about dirt

I don't know why I wanted to use the stone from the excavated material as the drainage material instead of just throwing it all out and bringing in new stone - I just did. It would have been less work to throw out the old and bring in the new, but I got it in my head that I wanted to sift out the stones from the dirt and use that -- call me crazy. I guess I am so used to sifting out the dirt from my garden that I just thought that it was normal. My garden, by the way, is the topic of another blog story.

As I mentioned before, the properties here are postage size - mine is about 6000 SF (about 55 feet wide by 100 feet deep). I have also created a garden around the house taking away all the grass and replacing it with gardens of all kinds. The consequence of that for my house work is that I have little lay down area in which to work. I have a driveway and a sidewalk along the driveway, an area about 8 feet deep by 25 feet wide in front of the house - and that's it. However, when one needs to dig a tench that is 6 feet deep, you would be surprised how much lay down area you need. Combine that with the fact that the dirt is sifted and separated into the stones and the dirt.

So the way it would go, I would fill up this area next to the driveway with as much dirt as I could. You can see the wheel of the wheelbarrow and the wood frame of the sifter to the bottom left of the picture.

That would then get sifted and separated between the sandy material ....

and the stones.

And as this excavated material coming out of the ground was sifted and became a small pile,

The sifted out piles became bigger.

And so it went for about 3 or 4 rounds - fill up the sidewalk, sift it out and put the separated piles of stone and dirt at the top of the driveway, place the drainage layer (sifted out stones) and soil in back of the drainage layer against the foundation after the foundation was waterproofed, then excavate more material out, fill up the sidewalk again, and so on. I can't tell you what possessed me to do this - it did get done eventually. I did hire a guy from a company for a few days, but they were inconsistent. Once I found a company that provide a fair work staff, I was able to get more stuff done. But that didn't happen for this phase of the work, unfortunately. For this work, I would spend time of the phone calling to see where so-and-so was and why wasn't he here. I did about 80 percent of this work myself because of it.

Now that the work is done, and I see the results of foundation and how water reacts, it makes all the difference in the world.

July 16, 2009

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A little thing about stone

As part of the foundation work, I reworked the openings in 3 of the windows of the basement. The windows were 33 inches wide by 15 inches deep. I removed some of the stones at the bottom of the opening making the opening 33 inches square.



There were a couple things I had to keep in mind. First, I could only make the window so big. In NE, we have frost depth, meaning that the foundation has to be below the ground by about 4 feet to be protected against frost heaving in the winter. If I made the window too large, it wouldn't allow me to have enough foundation covered. I could make a larger window or even a door, but then my job would be a lot larger and more complicated because I would have to come up with a way to protect the foundation. Second, some of the stones that came out of the foundation were too large for me to handle. Since I was doing this particular part of the work myself, I had to be clever about handling the stones. I'm 5'-3" and 135 lbs and picking up a 150 lbs stone isn't going to happen. So here's what I did.

I had some old 1/4" plywood that was damaged by water - I also had some pallets that I was going to burn. I created these 2' x 2' small pallets that you can see in the picture to the left. I used these as lifts to move the stone down off the window sill.

The 2 columns of pallets, one higher than the other were used. The stone was rolled to the higher column then rolled to the lower column. The higher column was reduced by about 3 or 4 pallets to make it lower than the right columns shown in the picture to the right - the stone would be rolled to the left (now lower) column, and so on, until the stone could be safely rolled to the floor. Once on the floor, it could be rolled to the other side of the basement and rolled up the stairs to the back garden where I would find some use for it in the garden.

Finishing the interior of the foundation will be the subject of a separate post.

July 15, 2009

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Step 1 - water problem, part 2

Field stone foundations are notoriously constructed bad - not just are they constructed bad, they are a bad construction choice as no thought was ever given as to how water was going to react with them. The way mine was constructed in the 1940s was with average 8-10 in. stones mortared together on the inside and outside faces and nearly dry-layed in the middle with some parts mortared. The inside face has been parged (this is a layer of mortar, in my case, anywhere between 0-1" thick). The outside joints are in constant contact with the soil and water and eventually degrade, deteriorate and disappear. The water and soil then can freely enter the foundation and start working at the interior joints and eventually water will be seen seeping through the inside of the foundation. The parge layer is the last barrier against water but as you can imagine, once water can get inside the foundation wall, it's a downhill battle from there no matter how much the inside parging is on the foundation wall.

For me, I wanted to repoint the exterior joints of the foundation, waterproof the outside joints, place a layer of drainage stone against the foundation on the outside, a filter fabric then backfill the soil. In New Englancd we typically have full basements; our basement foundation wall height from the concrete slab to the underside of the joists is about 7 feet. The outside of the foundation is exposed above ground anywhere from 2 inches to 12 inches around the house, which means the foundation wall on the soil side is about 6'10" to 6'0" below the ground.

Our house is a standard size footprint to other houses in our area of 24 feet by 28 feet. I decided to start with the side on the right shown below - a 24 foot length of the house which gets the most water coming in during large rain events - that side of the house is the low point for draining water from the adjacent property. It also happens to have a 6 foot high retaining wall 7 feet from the house foundation that I had to make sure wasn't undermined during excavation. I kept my excavated soil braced during excavation - soil is very heavy (about 130 pcf - pounds per cubic foot) - if it lands on you, there's a good chance it's a life changing event. In addition, if the soil moves into the excavation, it will affect the retaining wall in a bad way. The retaining wall is already leaning in about 6 inches, so I didn't want to make that worse.

Having said all that, this more difficult side is where I wanted to start. There is a window in the small ditch shown where a window exists. The window was filled with stone because it was more in the way in this location than useful.

I made a 3-4 foot wide trench for the 1st 3 feet down then stepped it to a 2 foot wide trench for the remaining 3 feet to the bottom of the foundation wall. I did know that the bottom of the foundation was not much further from the top of the slab in the basement, so I just stopped there - that kept most of the foundation wall dry and directed water to the inside perimeter drain that was previously installed.

I braced the soil back. It was tedious because I had to work around irrigation pipes, a gas line and an electrical line. I had a neighbor's high school aged
son help me for a while, but that was inconsistent; most of the work was done by me.

Before the wall were backfilled, the foundation was waterproofed with UMACO U-Seal, with an admixture, a cementitious material that is applied to the outside of the stone.

Finally, the drainage layer and backfill were placed at the same time against one another a few inches at a time. The drainage stone actually was sifted out of the excavated material with the remaining soil placed farthest from the foundation. Finally, about 6 inches below grade, a rubber membrane was placed so any surface water would drain away from the foundation.

Work progressed at the front of the house in the same manner
with the exception of 2 window wells that were constructed. Here you can see the foundations for the window well with a pipe placed inside the well to drain to the drainage layer that will be placed outside the window well.

The window well walls were built up...

A concrete slab with the final drain position was placed inside the window well...

Stones were chosen from the excavation and layed as tile within the window wells as the finished layer. The stones were set in a tinted mortar to resemble sand.

The work actually began at the end of 2006 and was completed at the end of 2007. All the drainage stone was sifted out of the excavated material - there was no material brought in - I did have to remove about 2 cubic yards of the sifted dirt - I tried to place what I could in the garden but there was just too much. There is about a 1 foot layer of drainage stone on the outside of the foundation as well as outside the window wells.

I completed 24 feet on the side of the house and 20 feet in front of the house. I still have an 8 foot section in front to do where the front steps are, but I'll do that work when the front steps are done (they need to be repaired or replaced) - this section doesn't have any problems with water coming in the foundation walls. The rear of the house has another 12 foot section that needs to be done - this section does have problems with water seeping through the walls, so I'll have to get to it at some point (not this year...).

July 14, 2009