Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Braley House Elevation Project : Removing the Steel

So I have been a little lax in writing any new information but today, the afternoon sun is a little too hot for my blood, so I came inside to sit in front of a fan and write... in the sailboat.

Baby ducklings are swimming around the boat now.

If I focus on the view in front of me, I can find relaxation and peace, both of which have been a little lacking in the last few days. If you read my previous blogs, you know that we are lifting our house eight feet higher to eliminate the damage of flood waters. The lift was fast. Massive steel beams were set in place and then the block layers moved in. We had to do a little scrambling to answer some detailed questions that we didn't know we needed to know, like how far off the ground do you want your windows? All in all, the walls went up smoothly.

Have to get all the steel removed.

Then we called the lift company, Wolfe House and Building Movers and asked them to remove the steel beams. We answered their questions, sent them pictures of the walls and all seemed fine until they rolled up the driveway and my quiet morning became very hectic. I didn't know enough - plain and simple. The foreman complained that he did not want to remove the steel as we didn't have the main support beams supported. My response was,"Well then, let's support them!" How hard could it be to grab some 6x6's and some block which was laying all over the place and fix the problem? But no, they asked me to call my mason because they didn't want to jeopardize his work. So I did.

You can just see the steel beams poking through.

Of course, on this day in history in our county, there was a crazy bus accident on Interstate 95 that closed the road (all eight lanes) in both directions for several hours. No problem - everyone can take the peripheral roads - right? Right, except there were far too many cars and gridlock ensued. Don't forget we live right in the middle between Philadelphia and Baltimore on the route to Washington DC or New York City. So our kind mason got stuck in the traffic - FOREVER! Not really, the time spend waiting for him just seemed like that. I resumed my work of mowing the lawn thinking he would take care of everything until I saw him walking down the driveway towards me with a funny smile on his face. You know - that look that says, "I'm smiling but I am pissed because this lady doesn't know what she's doing but she paid me a lot of money so I have to be patient" look.

Who has steel I-beams with their name on it?

He was perturbed because after all his driving, they did not need a block layer at all - just someone to install support beams. We had a little discussion and the foreman of the lift company read his directives from his cell phone, "Customer/General Contractor is to support all beams before the steel is removed." Well, we looked at each other and our mason said, "that's you!" to me. I might have a get-it-done kind of attitude but I knew that I did not have the strength or materials to install support beams in our now 11-foot high basement.

Can you see me trying to put up supports in here?!

I made an effort as I looked around at the five able-bodied men doing nothing. 'Let's use some of this block and lumber." Silence and dropped gazes. Hmmm. That didn't work. I guess I was a little naive. Our mason must have felt sorry for me and took the initiative and installed two supports with the help of my expert pole holding capabilities. He walked me around the inside of our new basement and told me what we needed to do to ensure that the interior of the house didn't collapse once the steel beams were pulled out. Armed with my notepad, I called Eric, only to find he was in the middle of a training appointment, Next, I called my brother who works as a general home repair guy. He jumped to my rescue as he was working from home on some estimates - only he was an hour away. The delay gave me some time to research where I could get the beams and supports we needed.

You can see the steel being pulled out of the house.

The lift company was able to remove steel beams from our garage area so their time wasn't wasted. My brother and I went back under the house and measured again before setting off to find our supplies. We were in luck. We had the right information, we found the lumber and bolts to make our LVL beams and then went and found a 350 pound I-beam which they cut to our specifications. I got a call from Eric saying that he was an hour away from home and I envisioned us working together as a team finishing our job, 

Almost. My brother and I got home first and we set about drilling holes to bolt the LVL beam together. Being a home repair guy meant that he had every tool imaginable in his sprinter van. We then went under the house to clean up the ceiling where we wanted to install the beam. I got busy bringing in an extension cord so he could cut off some old nails hanging down and then I turned towards him as he commented on how easy the old nails were pulling out of the wood but before he finished, I heard the clatter of the aluminum ladder falling against the block walls and then saw my brother flipping over in the air and falling head first towards the base of the ladder. 

It's in times like this that I really wish I could stop time for a couple of seconds to adjust a few details. But in the real world, I have to deal with real time situations and I watched my brother's head slam face down into the rubble of broken concrete block and then his body smashing against the rungs of the ladder as it fell onto the ground. My brain was in over drive and recording bits of information as fast as I could catch them. He was groaning very loudly so I knew he was alive and not unconscious. He rolled himself sideways pushing himself with his legs - they probably weren't broken. As he turned - blood was gushing down his face over his right eye - but his eyes were okay. I couldn't see any punctures anywhere else. I tried to tell him to sit but then ran to get my phone and dialed 911. I turned around and he had walked on his own out of the basement and I found him an old office chair to sit in while I was talking to the phone operator. I kept checking his eyes to make sure he wasn't going unconscious as the call continued. 

Although  I felt like the ambulance was unnecessarily slow, they made it and bandaged him up and decided we could drive him to the hospital instead of taking the ambulance. Two hours later, he walked out of the urgent care facility with a three inch gash that was terribly swollen and red with a more than a dozen black stitches holding his forehead together. The groans of shock in the waiting room surprised him as he hadn't seen how nasty his head looked. I drove him home just to be smart and gratefully turned his care over to his wife - a well experienced nurse.

Back at the crime scene - or at least the job site now tainted with bloody bandages and gloves...The sun had set and I found Eric and our son, John who kindly left his evening routine to help us in finishing up securing the last beam in place. I took over holding the work light as they drove the last few shims into place. By 9:30, we were back on our boat in the dark, exhausted, dirty, but really grateful that my brother's injuries were not so severe as they might have been, and that we were ready for tomorrow.

This morning, Eric and I woke up early with the sun and walked around the house to check our work. after a couple of adjustments, he left for work. The lift company came and removed the steel. I need to finish this blog post so I can inspect the site once more today and make sure all has gone as planned.

So now you know what happened between the lines when I say, we had the house lifted, new walls built and then the steel removed...

Just a regular morning's view from the boat.