Tag Archives: Construction

House update: exterior backfill and slab footer leveling

We got the outside of the footers backfilled. Which also means we got our garage pad excavated since that’s where the dirt for the backfill came from.

Before we backfilled, however, we had to put rigid insulation around the footers. This helps to insulate the pad so that the house is easier to heat. We chose to go with extruded polystyrene (xps) since it seemed more durable to us. Also, our plans say it has to be at least R-7 and this 2 inch xps foam is R-10 and was easier to find at our local big box hardware store than the right kind of expanded polystyrene (eps). 

We also spent a couple days ripping our form bords down to the right height and reattaching them so that they become the forms for the finished slab. I like that we were able to reuse materials. In addition to the wood, we had put all the forms together with screws, which means we were able to save those when we took the footer forms apart and use them again. Once the slab is poured, these forms will come down and one more row of insulation will go down, then we’ll backfill the rest of the way. And I am sure all this wood will find it’s use on the homestead.

We rented an excavator that Pops operated for us. He’s a wizard in that thing! But then, that’s what he did for a living for 30+ years.

Excavating the garage pad (and getting us fill dirt)

The Hubs and I took turns operating the little bobcat we also rented. Would have been nice to have something a bit bigger, but that’s all that was available on short notice. We used that to move the dirt around the house.

Almost done with the exterior backfill

And since we had the machine there, we decided to finally move the huge boulders into their permanent positions. 

These gigantic boulders came out of the hillside when we excavated for our well. We knew they would come in handy for landscaping and retaining. So that’s exactly how we used them.

Play boulders


The new garage pad with big boulders as a retaining wall

Just a couple days after finishing the backfill, we took off on a big family vacation that has been in the works for two years. 

The Castle Rock Family at Mt Rushmore

We got back from vacation this past weekend, and now it’s back to work!

First thing our hired hand and I did this morning in was some rebar work that needed to be finished. It was one of those jobs that would have been easy to forget.

Then we worked on leveling up the forms. They were pretty close to level, but needed a bit of adjusting here and there.

The first thing we did was go around with a transit level and measuring rod and see where the forms were high or low. Princess Girl and Pajii helped out today as well.

A transit level is basically a swiveling scope mounted on a tri-pod. You make sure it is perfectly level by using the adjusters, then site through it to a measuring rod or tape measure.

The site through the transit

Once we figured out the measurement that was most common, we called that measurement “grade” and brought everything else up or down to meet it. 

Sometimes we had to detach the form from the supports and pry the form up a bit and re-attach. But for the most part, we had to get some spots down a bit. Because there was not enough wiggle room in the system to push the boards down, I came up with the idea to plane down the high spots. We would find two “grade” spots not too far from each other, put a chalk line on it, then use the electric planer to take off the excess down to the mark.

Princess girl was in charge of the camera for a bit – obviously!

It worked great!

Planing down the high spots


That’s all we did today. Tomorrow I am going to order some fill dirt and we’ll start backfilling the interior on Friday (gotta work my summer job on Thursday). Tomorrow we also have some more bracing to do on the forms now that they are level. Don’t want those suckers to move a millimeter!

Then, over the weekend, we start trenching for interior footers and plumbing! This progress is so exciting!

House update – footers poured!

I haven’t written much lately because I feel like there’s not much to update you on. We’ve been working a lot the last several weeks to get our forms ready for concrete, but you couldn’t​ really see the progress. Besides that, I’ve been exhausted working all day in the heat. On top of that, I’ve had to work my regular summer job here and there, and have had a couple of migraines. All that together, and nothing got written here on the blog (though I do a better job updating Instagram and Facebook). However, we did pass our first inspection no problem (yay!) And then had to wait a week for schedules to line up. But we finally got a permanent part of the house built today! We got our footers poured!

It was an exciting day, let me tell you! This is the first thing we’ve done so far that is actually a part of the house. 

And I feel rather validated, because not only did the inspector not have a single issue with the work we had done building the forms, he said it looked good, and several of the concrete guys we’ve had out lately to give us bids have said that the forms looked amazing. 

And they performed marvelously today as we pumped the concrete into them.

And it’s all due to this guys right here:

Gary is a family friend who is a retired contractor and has volunteered hours and hours to help us get this far on the house. He is generous, loving, knowledgeable, and helpful. We could not have done nearly as well or as quickly as we have without his expertise and willingness to help us out.

And he’s not just a supervisor type guy either. He is right there in the mix, getting his hands dirty with the rest of us.

Today we had a large crew here helping. Not only was it Gary and the Hubs and I, but we had Princess Girl, our highered hand (a young friend who’s working for us for the summer), a brother-in-law of sorts, and a couple the dads. In fact, the Dads put together the forms for the patio we poured out of the left over concrete.

Everyone had a job and did it well. There were times of rushed activity, and times of standing around not doing much.

All told, it took about 4 hours to do both the footers and the little patio.

Its been amazing hour much help our hired hand has been. And Princess Girl is learning fast and is able to help with more and more.

At the end of the day, it was amazing to just sit and take it all in. To reminisce about all the work that’s gone into the project thus far. To be proud of what our hard work has accomplished. And to realize that this is just the beginning.

Actually that last part scares me a bit. 

Ok. A lot.

We’ve worked so hard already. And we are just getting started. We have so far to go.

But I know we’ll get there. In God’s timing, and in His will.

And when it’s all built, and we are sitting there of an evening, admiring the work of our hands, we’ll know it was all worth it.

And in the mean time, we just do the next step. Which tonight is wetting down the ground inside the footers so that it will settle and compact.

And now we’re off to bed. Its been a big day.

Let’s Dance

You know what it’s​ like when you’re trying to accomplish something, and it seems like everything keeps going wrong and you just can’t catch a break?

When for every two steps forward, you have to take one or two backward?

Yeah, we had that happen. Yet again.

You see, we had our footing forms all built, leveled, and were starting the bracing in preparation for putting in rebar.

Fully built footing forms

And then we were told we had to have a certification letter from an engineer stating that our soil compaction was within acceptable levels. As you can probably guess, the engineer told us it most certainly was not within acceptable levels and we had to do some work under the footings.

So, we had to break down all those footings into sections. All those beautiful forms we spent so many days building. 

Forms moved out of the way and digging the footings UNDER the footings

All had to be moved so we could bring in a backhoe and dig under the footings. 

Under footings all dug

Do you see her?


After a couple weeks where we were waiting on inspectors, I had to work several days at my summer job, I got sick with a horrible allergy induced head cold, and we had to wait for the holiday weekend (Memorial Day), we finally got to pour concrete. 

Concrete flowing

We were told we needed a “2 sack sand slurry” to fill the trenches. I estimated we needed 18 yards. Boy, was I wrong! We ended up needing about 25 yards. 

Not knowing what a “sand slurry” was, we really had no idea what to expect.

The third truck

Turns out a sand slurry is basically just sand and cement, no gravel. And it’s pretty soupy. Made it easy to just flow into the trench. We barely even had to screed it. Just enough to make sure it was at or below grade.

Filled trench

It set up very quickly, and at the moment is the consistency of packed sand.

Set up enough to walk on within minutes

We do not know what it will be like when it is cured. Will it harden into more of a concrete consistency, or stay sandy, or something in between?

It’s a family affair

After pouring the concrete, we decided to watch the sunset from our new area for our Sunset Swing (finally moved it down to our new location). Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for a sunset, but the Hubs and I enjoyed sitting there as the light faded and looked at what we had accomplished. I’m sure many more pictures will be taken from this vantage point in the future.

Overlooking our domain

So, we did get a huge chunk of work accomplished today. 

And I am reminded that two steps forward and one step back is still one step forward. And that is one step further in the right direction. 

Also, there is this:

There will be many set-backs as we build this house. I could get all bent out of shape. I could get frustrated at the slow pace. Or, I can look on the bright side, and learn to dance!

Building update – and a great wood cutting tip!

For those of you who do not follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you probably don’t know that we actually started building our house! 

Finally!

After months and months of permit delays. And more and more months of weather delays, we finally “broke ground” on Easter weekend.

Bringing in “DG” (decomposed granite) to level out the house pad.

The perimeter of the house outlined in compacted and leveled DG

Once the pad was leveled, it was time to build the footing forms. We decided to build the forms up and backfill rather than try to dig down into our very bouldery ground. 

Yes. “Bouldery.” See all those huge boulders in the above pictures? That’s what lies just below the surface up here!

The first day’s progress.

Yup, that’s me, putting one of the pier footing forms together.

We have a family friend who is a licensed contractor who is helping us get all this right (that’s him in the red plaid shirt). We couldn’t do it nearly so well or as easily without his help. As with many things in life, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. And we are so very glad to know him (and that he is so generous with his time) ’cause we don’t know much!

Princess Girl, “Mom, I need ‘more cowbell’!” So proud of my girl. Not only was she a huge help putting all those “cowbells” on the forms, but she also quoted a Saturday Night Live skit. Yep, we’re raising her right! 😃

Building: a family affair

The perimeter of the house footings – almost completely built. Now to do all the leveling and put in rebar, etc.

It’s so wonderful to see the progress after waiting for so long. 

And today I learned something new. Something that makes me say, “No way!” A new way to use a skill saw!

I’ve used a skill saw for 20+ years and just today learned something new. I’ve seen the pros (building contractors, etc) use a skill saw in a certain way but never knew why. Today, I tried it and was blown away with the results!

The old way: you lay the 2×4 flat on the sawhorse(s) and hold it with one hand while pushing the saw across the wood. All the while, the force of the saw pushes against the board and it is hard to hold it still. 

The old way.

Close up – old way

In order to hold the wood still, you can use a clamp, but that takes a while to put in place and remove, and when you’re making a bunch of cuts as I was today, they are too cumbersome to use.

I’m not sure what made me think to try something new, but I figured, what could it hurt?

The new way: So, I turned the 2×4 up on it’s long edge at about a 45 degree angle and the saw cut through so easily, I was shocked. I had no trouble keeping the saw on the cutting line, and the weight of the saw pushed it’s own way though the wood. 

The new way: turn that wood up on it’s edge!

Close up – the new way

The wood rests on the sawhorse and the force of the saw is pushing downward rather than across, so the board doesn’t move around.
So easy!

This technique will make the thousands of cuts I’ll be making over the coming months that much easier. 

Just goes to prove that it’s never too late to learn something new.

Change of plans

First, we had to delay starting our house because we had to move to Portland for almost 2 years to help care for the Hubby’s mom. 

We ended up needing to plan a bigger house than we originally thought in order to accommodate Hubby’s folks moving in with us.

Then we had to completely move the location of the house from one side of our 40 acre property to the other because the original site didn’t have a good spot for septic.

We planned to get more work done over the winter, but the weather did not cooperate.

And here we are, having to change some of our house plans. 

Yet again.

Plotting the original corner of the house

It wasn’t a major change, we just changed the directional orientation of the house a few degrees. It amounted to moving the house about 15ft. Not that big of a deal, except that it really cuts down on the amount of driveway and parking area we’ll have. It was just feeling…Well, cramped. 
And yes, we do have 40 acres, but only about 3 of those are not on the side of a steep hill. And the house pad is carved out of the side of one of those hills. So we are kinda limited on space in some ways. 

But I digress. Since we changed the angle of the house, we had to look at where the detached garage is going to be built and how to get more space.

Which made us consider doing some earth moving in a area where we planned to put our orchard.

Which would give us much more space on the house pad, but where to put the orchard instead? 

Which made us look around and decide that the other logical place for the orchard is actually better. 

Which made us realize once again that when plans have to change for one reason or another, there’s usually a silver lining. I could go down the list at the beginning of this post and show how  because we had to do it differently than originally planned, we’re actually better off now than we would have been had our original plans gone through. 

In the Bible, James tells us that when we make our plans we need to realize that God is the one who is ultimately in control and we can only follow through with our plans if it is his will (James 4;13-15). Similarly, Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

We try to remember these truths when making our plans, and realizing that when plans change, it’s all for the best, in one way or another.

Will this winter ever end??

3-5-17 Snowing again

This past week, we had a few days of dry, sunny weather. The birds started singing again. The trees started budding again. And Spring seemed just around the corner.

And now we’re 5 inches deep in snow again. I know, I know, that’s not much compared to some (we have friends who live higher up in the mountains who literally have a tunnel through the snow to their front door!)

But for us, at the elevation we live, in the particular mountain range we are in, 5 inches is…Well, it still isn’t much. But it’s the 10th or so storm system to move through since New Years. That’s more than one system per week. In a place that normally gets less than 10 inches of precipitation annually, that’s saying something. 

The wettest winter in our area in the last 50+ years, and we’re trying to build a house. Last year, while we were still sitting up in Oregon eagerly awaiting our return to the homestead, they had roughly 5 storms the entire winter here. This year, it’s just one after the other.

So, what are we doing about it?

Well, there’s not much we can do. God brings the storms in his timing. All we can do is trust him that he has a purpose for the delay. And maybe learn something in the waiting.

The Danish have a word: hygge. It loosely translated as “cozy” or “coziness” but from my understanding it is so much more than just that. “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life…Hygge is a philosophy; a way of life that has helped Danes understand the importance of simplicity, time to unwind and slowing down the pace of life.” (Source)

I feel like this winter has been one of discovering and reveling in hygge.

Today, as I sit in my cozy trailer with my chai tea latte and watch the snow fall, I contemplate the rest I have been given this winter. Had we been able to get the shell of the house up this Fall like we had wanted to, we would have been busy, busy, busy building over the winter. But that did not happen, and instead, we’ve had long periods of forced inactivity. (Well, there’s still animals and the family to take care of, and normal day-to-day stuff, but you know what I mean. If we were building, and when we DO build, we will have to do all that on  top of building our house.)
So, this winter, in my spare time, I taught myself to crochet. I’ve always wanted to learn how, and I finally have the time. In fact, as soon as I’m done with this post, that’s what I’m gonna be doing.

In my warm tiny home. With my 4 year old snuggling next to me on the couch. Candles lit, and relaxing music playing. On this snowy winter day. Hygge all the way, baby!

One of these days, things will dry out and we’ll start construction on our house. Life will get crazy busy and hectic. But today is not that day. And there’s a teeny bit of me that hopes winter lasts another two months. 

Stay warm and cozy, my friends.

Maridy

Rain, rain, go away

February 7 – Rainy day

What a winter this has been so far! We had a small snow storm just before Christmas and knew that we NEEDED to get our mudroom built. The day after Christmas, we started building it. We got the roof on just before the next bigger snow on January 4th. And we’ve had back-to-back snow and rain systems since then. In fact, as I sit here typing this, it is pouring outside. We’re supposed to get about 15% of our  yearly rainfall in this one storm. And we’ve already gotten over half in the last month alone. The bigger mountains around us have the most snow anyone living there has ever seen. What a blessing that mudroom has been.

January 5 – got the roof on just in time for the next snowstorm

Since the push to get the roof on, we’ve slowly been finishing up as we have time and inclination.

January 6 – enclosing the last bit of wall section. I always was a monkey.

January 6 – the fun-ness of construction in the winter – scraping ice off your materials

January 9 – the snow is gone, the rains have come. Time to add the gutter and rain barrels.

January 13 – oh look, more snow. And the beginnings of a door for the mudroom.

January 17 – still snowy – working on a floor for the mudroom

January 17 – mudroom floor before. At least when I was doing this project, the ground was mostly frozen, not the gushy quagmire it had been.

January 17 – mudroom floor after. We used heavy duty shipping pallets we found on Craiglist.

Once the floor was in, the mudroom was just about completed. It took us three weeks to build something that should have only taken one. But that’s construction in the winter for ya. The Hubby is toying around with a small wood stove to put in there so that on days like today (rain, rain, rain), we have a place to dry things out if need be. But even without a woodstove in there, it’s so very nice to have a place to kick off your wet and/or muddy shoes before coming in the trailer. It also keeps our fridge protected from the elements.

January 23 – speaking of the elements…more snow! There are three more solar panels under there somewhere.

We had a few days of warmer and drier weather over the past week and were able to get a few other projects done.

January 30 – sunshine! A beautiful day to clean out the chicken coop.

February 4 – more sunshine (but very windy) – finally built some steps into the hillside between Pajii’s trailer and ours. That will come in handy the next time it’s covered in snow. Slipping and sliding is fun when sledding, not so much when carrying dinner to your father-in-law’s house.

February 6 – despite the bone chilling wind (45mph), Princess Girl and I put up a fence around the rabbit hutch to keep the neighbor dogs out. Just glad it wasn’t raining like today.

So, at the rate this winter is going, it’s looking like things won’t dry out till March or possibly April. Hopefully no longer than that. In the meantime, we are planning and dreaming and looking forward to the day we can start construction on our house. 

And on days like today, when my plans for the day were ruined because of the rain, I see it as time to relax, and catch up on other projects that get put off too often. You know, like dishes. 😉

I hope you enjoy your day, no matter what the weather is where you are.