Thursday, April 27, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Mud

Yesterday was another block laying day, but we had to cut short an hour early because walking and working in the mud was just too impossible. Wet clay seemed like ice when we'd try to walk and every step was precarious. Our yard was more like a pond.

The ducks loved the rain
The crew was able to get the scaffolding up and lifted piles of blocks to be ready for a drier day. When they started it was raining and by the end of the day the rain was almost over.

Our driveway puddles
Trying to get close enough to the house without slipping was a challenge and even then my crocs were covered in mud, making my feet rather filthy. 

My view as I walked up the driveway
 In spite of the rain and mud, we enjoy seeing every bit of progress. I understand the moist conditions are actually good for the curing of the mortar between the blocks.

Our back patio

This is where we normally entertain around our fire pit. We have a bit of cleaning to do before any entertaining happens here!

Piles of block all around the house
I love the blue of the new clean block. We are reinforcing the blocks with rebar every 36 inches horizontally and vertically to make sure the strength of the block is not compromised by any sideways movement.

Pallets of fresh new block decorate our yard

I never thought that I would enjoy seeing these piles of block stacked around our yard, but they are a sign of progress.

I don't think they can move the bobcat until the mud dries a little.

Window and flood vent openings
I watched the masons cutting the block and then setting it in place and they are amazingly precise. All the concrete is mixed on site and carried in metal troughs to one of the guys laying block.

Our flood vents came
Thanks to the advice of our town zoning administrator, we went with an expensive but very efficient flood vent. This is called a dual purpose vent because it provides an opening for flood waters to ebb and flow by use of an internal float, which lifts with the water, unlatching the vent. In addition, the vents provide ventilation as a bimetal coil fully opens the vent at 75 degrees and fully closes it at 35 degrees. They are marine grade stainless steel and made to withstand harsh environments..

Our breezeway walls are going up.

Just a little mud...

She's still standing even with all the mud and puddles

My viewpoint this morning...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Building New Walls

Today is Friday and on my time schedule for the contractors, we are a week ahead of schedule. Our mason, Dean Dixon from Dean's Construction, has already been at work since Monday. Since it's raining, I am writing from the confines of our sailboat but do plan on getting out to the site in a few minutes.

Clearing the site for the block

Here you can see the aluminum pole in place as a corner guide for the block.

Watching the crew clean up the edges of the old block was so exciting. To see the possibility of the old block meeting up with new block was great progress. After waiting for so many years and months, seeing our drawings come to life was very satisfying.

Here the old block is cleaned and ready for the new layers

You can see in the pictures that our mason used an aluminum corner pole that stands as a guide between the old block and the new block. He also keeps a laser focused on the job to make sure that each layer is perfectly straight.

We are happy with the quality of work Dean's Construction's crew are providing us. 

No more bulkhead or crawlspace!

I did not expect this much of a 'construction site look' but know that this will all be cleaned up soon and we will no longer have to worry about a wet crawlspace or flood threats.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Lifted

Friday morning was cool and slightly overcast. Although the calendar said it was Good Friday, Wolfe House and Building Movers were hard at work first thing. Seeing the house sitting about three feet off the ground was impressive and we were excited to see the rest of the lift.

Someone's coffee might upset the balance of this beam

The first foot took about three minutes as the engine pressurizing the lines to the jacks chugged away. The crew quickly set about piling up more cribbing and shims until the piles were even with the jacks and then depressurized the jacks, setting the house down an inch or so to rest on the cribbing. After all the creaks and pops, they pulled the jacks and lifted them up one layer. Once all four guys were in agreement, John, the foreman, started up the engine and set all ten jacks to rise another twelve inches.

A view from the street

I could bend over and look into the crawlspace at first but by the time noon came, the house was over three feet over my head and the crawlspace was just piles of dirt and concrete.

I can see clearly under the house now

Eric is 6'3" so you can see how high it is here.

I was worried about the house shifting as it's massive weight sat on the piles of wood cribbing but quickly realized that I had nothing to fear and could freely explore the construction of our floor joists. 

I was amazed by the strength of the jacks.

Still higher!

Now the crew has to climb the cribbing to reach the jacks

Lunch took a little longer than I expected and when I got back to the site, the crew and the tractors were already gone. Eric and I were thrilled that they had finished a week ahead of schedule.

Adjusting to make sure the house sits plumb over the footers

A short video...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Lifting

Our house just waiting for the lift
This morning I walked up to the construction site of what used to be our house and looked around as usual. I noticed a couple of pieces of steel that were still unused and figured the guys would be continuing the process of leveling the steel. I went back to our garden and started futsing about planting and weeding. Around 10:30 a.m., the foreman rode up in his bobcat and told me that the process was going faster than he expected and that they were going to  start lifting around 1:30 p.m.

Scoring the block for a clean break

Talk about being thrilled! I quickly called Eric who was over 150 miles south on a work appointment. Thankfully, he was just finishing up and was able to hit the road. 

Here you can see the steel and the shims
The crew was kind and actually waited an extra 15 minutes for Eric to get back. He drove in and we all went to the front of the house were the engine and control board were connected to all the jacks under the house. 
Jacks were connected to the control board with pressure hoses

John (the foreman) explained that the first foot would take the longest and then a little shorter time for each subsequent lift. As he talked, he was turning the control that started the lift and before we even realized it, the house was already an inch away from the foundation.

Even our chimney was scored and braced

The crew ran around the house and checked to see how the separation worked. Some of the blocks broke away at the scoring marks but other broke away below along the seam between blocks. Thankfully, all the breaks were at or below the marked line.

Eric doing a Live Facebook Video
The lifting continued until the house was almost three feet higher than it has been for 63 years. The next couple of hours, the guys crawled under the house and set pilings and shims to take the strain off the jacks.

Three feet up! (approximately)

So now, we think the rest of the lifting will happen tomorrow, a whole week before schedule!

Now the whole balance is off!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Construction Phase : Setting the Steel

Another load of cribbing and steel
Today was another dry day and Wolfe House and Building Movers worked hard breaking into our block foundation to lay the steel beams that they will use to act as the new foundation as the house gets lifted.

You can see the shims on top of the beam 

Each day I think they can't bring in any more steel beams or wooden cribbing logs but today first thing, the long truck pulled down our driveway with another big load. 

Our crawlspace is looking a bit breezy

I did a walk around before they started and then several times during the day. They measure and measure again and then use a massive circular saw to cut through the block if necessary or just hit it with a sledgehammer until the block gives way. Each opening has to line up with the next so that the steel sits evenly.

Setting steel for the garage

Even after they do all the work to slide the steel beams in, they spend a long time placing wooden shims of all sizes around the beams in the block openings.

Every steel beam is perfectly leveled
So now, the neighborhood is quiet again. I checked the weather and we still have a week of dry weather ahead so that will really help our project not only stay on schedule but also stay dry - remember we flood out very easily.

The house and garage will left together

I am looking forward to a whole new landscape around our house. As you can see in the pictures, not much of the old design is left - only a few hostas and daylilies trying to pop through here and there.

The control board has arrived!
From my perspective, it seems that we are ahead of schedule but I know that we still have a long way to go and complications could slow this lift down. I choose to look on the bright side. :-)

Only a few pieces of steel left

Braley House Elevation Project : Construction Phase : Prepping the House

Prepping the Chimney for the Lift
Today I am writing from the table in my sailboat. Our house is totally under construction. Wolfe House and Building Movers have cleared our the sidewalks and porches. Trenches are dug into the crawlspace to make room for the steel beams.

That's it. Doesn't sound like much but believe me, they have been working amazingly fast. Again, let me digress.
Equipment for the job 

Last Thursday was our scheduled move out date, Alas, the weather intervened and we had torrential rains that flooded our yard. We were reminded of why we started this project in the first place. Since the ground was saturated, the plumber called and said they were not going to bring in their backhoe and have it get stuck in the mud, so we rescheduled for Monday.

Friday morning was cold and still raining lightly, so we had our preconstruction meeting inside our dining room.We had a pretty impressive group of people ready and excited to start our project. Dean Dixon – Dean’s ConstructionGregg Meffley – H&B PlumbingPaul Felty – Triumph ElectricalDavid Gordon – Chesapeake Home Improvement GroupBill Hildebrand – MEMA Regional Liaison Officer for the Upper Eastern Shore, Michelle Lloyd – Deputy Emergency Manager,Cecil County Department of Emergency Services, and Lisa Rhodes – Deputy Director of Planning, North East, MD.

Removing our front breezeway slab

Saturday, Eric and I finished projects we had to finish around the property. Wood from downed trees was still on the yard and had to be moved; construction debris from an old chicken coop we demolished had to go to the dump; our old lawn tractor was dead and was ready for the recycle center.

Sunday was almost a celebration as we knew the next morning early our contractors were arriving and we had to be out of their way. Our sons came home for a few hours and helped us install a new storm door on the interior porch door that was now an exterior door. Our neighbor's tree fell across our creek and so Eric helped them cut and clear it. I spent most of the day cleaning the house, closing the curtains, securing valuables, finishing the last dishes and loads of laundry, wiping down the empty refrigerator and also transferring essentials to our sailboat.
60 foot long sections of steel beams 

Monday morning, we woke up early, took our last shower and were out of the house by 7:30 a.m. The electricians pulled up just before 8 a.m. and checked to make sure there were no hot wires in the crawlspace and also installed an extra eight feet of ground wire to our electrical panel. The plumbers also were there right at 8 a.m. and got busy installing a yard hydrant for water during the project, disconnecting and capping the sewer and pulling out all the pipes from the crawlspace. By 9:30 a.m. we were ready and waiting for Wolfe House and Building Movers to come. We heard their trucks backing up and looked down our driveway to see massive trucks maneuvering the tight turn to enter our driveway. they dropped off steel mesh boxes of cribbing wood, a backhoe and bobcat tractor as well as several tractor attachments.

Busting through crawlspace walls

The foreman walked the property and started measuring and disappearing down into our crawlspace while the other workers started removing extra concrete in our porches and sidewalks. The foreman only had one surprise for us that he needed Eric to remove the bottom few rows of siding. Of course, Eric jumped on it and worked like a madman to stay ahead of the tractors trying to make openings in our walls. By the time 8:30 p.m. rolled around, Eric and I were exhausted and crawled into our comfortable by small berths on the boat.

Sliding in the steel