Breaking Ground (and then moving it)
Holes, holes, holes. The backyard is filled with holes. Big holes and small holes. Some deep and some not as deep. Oh. And a trench.
There hasn’t been much progress in the past few weeks around the homestead. We were going to replace the deck and figured we be on the homestretch by now, but… I decided to be a good citizen and head down to the
bureaucracy permit office to make sure I was legal. This simple act of following the rules initiated week after week after week of delays as we had to get a site inspection done, then get drawings from an engineer for the footings and the ledger attach. Honestly, it wasn’t that bad. It should have been a fairly quick process, but we hit a snag (and there’s always a snag).
My deck plan was fairly simple. It would be a large rectangle, with stairs. In fact, I drew up some detailed plans :
The side of the deck next to the house would bolt into the house and a row of 4 posts would be set on the side away from the house. We figured we’d get a couple of drawings from the engineer on where to bolt in and what size footings to use for the posts and we’d be good to go. Not quite the case.
The rim joist (the part of the house where the deck would attach) wasn’t going to support a large deck AND the house. Since we decided we wanted to have both a house and a deck standing for the next few years, we looked into our options. We could
- Replace the rim joist with an engineered piece of lumber
- Put an extra row of posts right down the center of the deck and attach the deck to the house or
- Put a row of posts along side the house and have essentially a freestanding deck.
We had planned on using the area under the deck since that is where the walkout basement opens up. That eliminated option 2. Option 1 would be expensive and tricky and probably require cutting a big hole in the basement ceiling. The same basement we had just finished remodeling. So that left option 3.
I proposed this to the engineer and he said it was fine but required us to find out about the foundation since we would be disturbing it. I found some old documents attached to a previous permit for the house when it was renovated before we bought it. All we had to do was verify the documents were correct by digging out one part of the house foundation. So I began what would be some light digging.
Good news! We found what the documents described.
I sent this off to the engineer, expecting we could use this hole as is and dig a few more and be done with it. Bad expectation.
Instead, we had to replicate the existing footing and column. Which meant digging 2 more feet down, 2 feet wide and 2 feet out from the house. 5 more times. We got a little break as the ones away from the house only needed to be 2 ft x 2 ft x 1.5 ft. Ok, no big deal. It’s just some digging. We started on Saturday and expected to finish the digging on Sunday. Another bad expectation.
After 2-3 hours of digging in 100+ degree heat, we ended up about 9 inches further down in this hole. Even with the rental of a 2 person hole-digger, we got essentially nowhere. The soil here, if you can call it that, is mostly clay with a some rock thrown in for variety. Add in the fact that we are in a severe drought and we might as well be digging through concrete. We did manage to use the hole digger to auger the fence posts for the fence we are putting in at the same time (I know, apparently I have Home-Improvement-ADHD.)
We needed help. We thought about renting bigger equipment or hiring a construction crew to come in, but really, we were just digging holes. Big holes, but still, just digging holes. We took a chance and went with day laborers. A couple of guys helped us (ok they did 90% of it) dig the holes we needed in about 6 hours. All for about $300, a couple of sandwiches, and 5 gallons of water (it’s still 100+ degrees). Money very well spent.
So now our backyard looks like something out of a WWI movie with fox holes and piles of dirt everywhere.
I mentioned a trench earlier (trust me, I did). I am also running electrical wire from the house to the shed. So I needed a trench to bury the wiring. I figure it’s not really juggling unless you have at least 3 projects in the air at any one time.
And finally, while the day labor fellas were having all the fun digging the holes, we were able to get the fence posts set in the holes.
This weekend, I’m going to try to get a couple of the forms in to pour the footings, get some wiring done for the shed and buy a bunch of the materials for this plethora of projects. Wish me luck.