Tag Archives: home improvement

Settling In or Just Plain Settling: House after Elevation Project

HAPPY NEW YEAR! As the calendar turns over to reveal the start of a new year, 2014, we are still in the midst of our house elevation for flood mitigation project that began many moons ago. What’s left? Final inspections, certificate of occupancy, landscaping, driveway resurfacing, exterior painting and a few other odds and ends.

MOVEMENT AFOOT: We moved back into our home just about a month ago and continue to see some settling with the house. But how do you decide between to-be-expected movement and compromised structural integrity? Hairline cracks in most of the walls – fine. Gap in seam of granite countertop – ok. Buckling of floor boards due to misplaced shims between the house and the foundation – yep, that too. We had mentally absorbed all of those issues. But the list continues to grow …

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Built-in refrigerator pulling away from the wall

It may be hard to tell from the photo above, but the built-in refrigerator is beginning to pull away from the wall. Fueling my discontent here is that I paid a refrigerator specialist to secure it back into place just last month. Also:

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Granite countertop pulling away from the wall – brand new injury

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Yesterday we saw new signs of movement with the granite beginning to pull away from the wall as well as the floor beginning to buckle in a new location.

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Floor boards pulling apart

In the photo above you can see how the floor boards are tight on the right side and pulling apart on the left – again, brand new development as of yesterday.

THEORIES: Two thoughts on what is perpetrating these new injuries to my kitchen. One: the house is simply settling into its new foundation and due to temperature changes and shifting weight from our boys running around the house, the house is in flux. Two: Due to misplaced shims and missing shims (thin pieces of wood added to the foundation wall for the house to sit flush), the house is moving  – and will continue to move – until the house is properly shimmed.

I’M NOT A CONTRACTOR, BUT … It seems to me the only new problems are in the exact location where the shimming has been called into question. With a call into our contractor and a promise to investigate the issue, hopefully we can stave off any more problems.

Back Where it All Began

WEEK 26: Oh me, oh my what a week it’s been preparing to move home again. I can summarize the week’s main emphasis in one little word – cleaning. My goal was to rid the house of the ubiquitous remnants of dry-wall and construction dust. No small task considering that every cupboard on the first floor had to be emptied and throughly cleaned.

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Construction dust crept into every cupboard

Hauling out goods:   One of the things I learned about living in a small apartment with a small kitchen is that I generally store WAY too much food in my kitchen: cans, boxes, packages, spices. I found some spices in my cupboard  dating back to the George Bush era – and I don’t mean W. We haven’t lived here that long, I’ve just been throwing these items in moving boxes over the years and taking them with me, like that $5 bottle of bay leaves was some sort of precious metal. No more – I’ve decided to live lean and keep all food products in the 21st century. As my momentum picked up I starting tossing out anything I didn’t miss in the past six months of living away from home.  It was a pretty impressive clearing.

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The cleaning project snowballed into several car loads of items being removed.

I remember my grandparents’  house, attic and barn brimming with so much stuff they couldn’t tell you where or what they had stored away. Not here. Thanks to flooding and construction projects, every couple of years we unload heaps of belongings. Living lean – feels good.

There’s no place like home for the holidays: You know what else feels good? Moving home in time for Christmas. This holiday season I’m just a bit more overwhelmed than usual, but at least I’m home. In a house that no longer floods. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  (or rain – I’m good either way).

More than One Way to Skin a Cat

CAN’T HELP BUT NOTICE: As fate would have it, next door to our temporary apartment, the house is also being lifted. It too suffers from the occasional rising whims of the little brook near our house, about 2 miles down stream. With my new knowledge base on this subject, I’ve noticed a few things about this elevation that the casual observer would more than likely miss:

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Another house elevation under way

When you look a little closer, you can see some strings. It makes perfect sense that you would want to make certain the foundation was going to match up with the house. This technique was not utilized in our project and they had great difficulty matching up the pieces. Would it have mattered? Who knows. A spool of yarn could have come in handy is all I’m saying.

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A little piece of string ties it all together

Another area where this project deviates from ours is they are building the foundation up to meet the house, unlike our scenario where the house was lowered back down onto the foundation:

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Rising up to meet the house –

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Foundation meets the house – steel beams still in place

Although this technique makes it more challenging for the lifting company to remove the steel beams, logically if makes sense. When I asked my builder about this different technique, he said either way works. Ok – but I’m guessing one house will suffer more than the other. When a mega ton house is lowered, no matter how gingerly it is accomplished, there is bound to be some collateral damage. I don’t know the end result for this house, but our house suffered numerous cracks in the walls (minor) and a permanent slight shift in a bank of kitchen cabinets where a shim of wood was left in place atop the foundation while the house was being lowered.

You know how to remove a block of wood stuck between a hefty house and it’s foundation? Neither does my builder.

Complete Staircase for Elevated House

The front of the house is coming along this week. The staircase is complete except for the railing. The porch has had the columns placed this week as well. All the exterior trim work is done as well as the exterior faucets installed. We are still awaiting the leaders to be dropped for storm water run-off.

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Front view still awaiting the railings

You can see where the cedar shingle has been added and is still fresh. Over time it will blend and not longer be a drastic color distinction.

Mudroom Renovation

WEEK 21: The mudroom, like this entire project, is S-L-O-W-L-Y  taking shape this week. In an earlier post I had discussed the history of flooding in this room as well as tips on choosing tile (see: Lighting up $100 Bills).  So this is merely a pictorial update:

SEPTEMBER: 

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What lies beneath the mudroom floor

OCTOBER: The floor was built up and then the concrete was poured:

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Mudroom awaiting fresh tile

LAST WEEK OF OCTOBER: The tile was laid out and the sheet rock was installed this week.

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New tile and sheet rock

The tile will definitely serve the “mud” room well and hide what my boys will track inside.

 

 

 

Staircase Transformation

WEEK 20: Fresh on the heels of last week’s set-back, we’ve made some steady progress this week, albeit not nearly enough for my liking. The majority of the work effort has been restricted to the new front staircase. It’s great to see the transformation, but what I’d really like to see is a beehive of activity on my house. You know, like they show on TV where an extensive renovation takes 4 or 5 days on a shoestring budget. But, this is hard-core reality here, definitely not for those with weak inclinations.

JULY: Back in early July, while we were busy celebrating the Declaration of Independence, the front of our house looked like this:

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House elevated and separated from the foundation – July

AUGUST: By mid-August, our construction crew had nearly completed the new foundation walls:

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House lowered onto newly built foundation – August

SEPTEMBER: About six weeks after the above photo was taken, the crew began to construct what would become our new front staircase:

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Frame work for new front steps

Of course there was a lot of work that went into the formation of these steps including digging a sizable trench, forming the underground footings, and building the majority of the rest of the staircase out of cinder blocks. But by the end of the month, we had a front staircase:

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Front staircase framed, poured, and cured

OCTOBER: Nearing the end of October, the stonework has been added to the front staircase. Missing, however, is any semblance of a railing. At this point we’re not sure whether we’ll go with wrought iron or natural wood. Likely which ever gets us back in the house sooner.

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Front steps having stonework applied

The picture above also shows other key updates. The front left corner of the house show a new gas meter. That was a hard-earned element of the project and we’re happy to have it behind us. Also the new “basement” windows have been framed out and shingles have been added to this side of the house replacing a damaged white border.

Sure beats what we were doing a year ago – riding out the effects of Superstorm Sandy.

A Low Down Dirty Shame

WEEK 19: Mired in a sea of inept, lazy, self-righteous pin-heads this week, things could be better.  Sometimes life is bound to get a little dicey, particularly when undertaking a substantial home renovation. Allow me to elaborate.

A VOLCANIC EXPLOSION: The week started with a site visit in which our contractor had erroneously poured cement in the wrong place when building up our foundation walls. His solution was to jack-hammer out the aforementioned cement that was located in our basement (lowest lying floor). If you’ve ever seen this before, you’ll appreciate how much dust is thrown off. Through every crack and crevice this dust exploded upwards resulting in a scene akin to a volcanic ash flume straight to the top floor. There now sits an appreciative layer of a “dust” cover on every surface – EVERY surface. Our weekend task will be to undo this mess and seal off all interior rooms. Oh, that’s the contractor’s job, you say? Yeah, that’s what we thought as well when he said, “You don’t have to seal up anything. That’s our job.”

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Steps in dispute: approved for two, but NOT three steps.

DEJA VU: Last night the good times just kept coming when we had our Zoning Board meeting to determine the fate of our back deck steps. If you’ll recall, the steps were called into question by our self-righteous, non-stop belly-aching neighbor (she’s still single?). Turns out the stamp of approval from the city’s building inspector on our blueprints somehow did not include these steps. The building inspector feels our architect tried to pull a fast one and sneak something in on the plans. Apparently when we went before the board initially,  our architect did not ask for the proper side-yard variance. He then failed to attend the hearing on this decision last night. As a result, the topic was tabled until the next meeting which is held once a MONTH when MAYBE our pinhead architect will see fit to show up and defend his drawings. In order to move the project along, we may opt to simply redesign them. *similar problem was had with the front steps, but that’s another story

ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE SHOW:  The stairs in question are already built. We have permission for two steps leading to the ground, but not three (as seen in the photo above). Any changes now will cost more money. The contractor was following the plans given to him. The plans which were spuriously stamped by the building inspector which riled up our neighbor which resulted in us attending a meeting last night where nothing was resolved. Merely trying to lift our house out of the flood path while helping our city improve it’s standing with FEMA (who issues flood insurance) has been on par with sustaining a flood event itself. It’s nothing but a low down dirty shame.