Monday, September 15, 2014

Plum Slammed

The concrete in the garage has been poured. The slab is nice and level though in the picture above you can see how the stem walls resting on the footer dive down into the concrete where that corner of the garage sunk 3 inches after they built the house. Isolation joints have been cut so that when the concrete cracks, and all concrete cracks, it will break along those lines instead of random patterns. The door you see leads out to the back yard and hasn't been used once since we bought the place. It eats up a corner that can be better utilized so it is going away. When I tackle the siding project I plan to stud in the bay and side over it. As you might be able to tell, it no longer fits in the opening anyway since the concrete in that area was about six inches lower than the rest. I'm going to screw it shut so that it is weather tight for now and some full length cabinetry will be going in that corner for storing stuff relatively dust free when I do my wood working projects. Now that the slab is complete and I can't park cars on it for a week or so until it fully cures, I'm going to use this time to do some repainting and organize things more efficiently. The above picture shows a half bay that is beside our parked cars and my work area. You can also see the new surface mount outlets I installed to replace the one outlet I had in the area. I just hate spending all my working time plugging and unplugging things so this way I can keep everything plugged in and ready to go when I need it, once I get my new workbench built.

This is the opposite side of the garage where my wife parks her car and where she has a potting bench. I also store some ladders, hand tools and my rack of clamps. I plan to put her stuff back over there and rework it a bit so it is a bit more organized. One of my old open shelves that is going to be replaced with closed shelving will go over here to store pots, extra soil and mulch that doesn't much matter if it builds up a layer of dust on over time.

So what's with the title? That is an expression my brother who has spent his post collegiate career in the deep south uses when he is completely worn out. After the garage floor was poured and while they were starting on the driveway, I used that time to correct something that has always bugged me. Our house has four downspouts that funnel rainwater from the roof to lower areas of the land. Three of the corners have the downspouts funneling water into underground piping that runs down to the bottom of the hill. The fourth downspout which is located towards the side of the house that slopes toward the house, just adds to the problem and keeps our front lawn kind of swampy during wet years. The best way to fix that problem would be to dig a trench from one side of the driveway to the other side and down the hill. Up until recently, this was a problem with a blacktop driveway blocking me. When the concrete guys removed the asphalt, I hustled in there and dug a trench so I could lay some pipe to connect the front downspout to the underground pipe that carries the water from the rear downspout. Because I didn't want to inconvenience them, I had to hustle. I dug like a madman and got everything plumbed and back filled the ends that weren't underneath the driveway so when they concrete guys showed up for the day, all they had to do was dump some gravel in the trench under the new driveway and proceed with their day. I was so utterly spent that I actually had to sit down and rest a spell in the shade for five minutes between trips to put my tools away in the basement or risk perhaps passing out. It didn't help that it was one of the hottest days of the year so far and nearly 100% humidity. All I could think while sitting in the shade was that I was plum slammed. I eventually made it back up to the garage for the last of my tools and called it a day just 15 minutes before the concrete guys showed up. So now there are two reasons why I will probably sleep better tonight.

Friday, September 12, 2014

All Broken Up

The hard part of the garage floor has been completed thanks to a jackhammer. If you can look closely, you can see that there was a little bit of chicken wire embedded in the bottom of the concrete. It was way too little and poorly placed which is why I find myself here today blogging about it. My advice to homeowners, if you are going to pour concrete, do it right the first time and say someone in the future from having to redo it.

On the other hand, I had guessed that there wasn't a footer poured in the garage door opening as their should have been which is the reason it heaved there and forced me to use several inch shims to seal the gaps between the door and the floor. I was wrong. There was a footer and it appears intact. After doing some measuring with the laser level the contractor had, I'm pretty sure I know what happened now. On that corner of the garage, they had built it over about three or four feet of fill judging from the landscape. That was 40 years ago. Since then, that corner of the house which comprises just the garage has sank about 3 inches. The rest of the house and other side of the garage is as level as can be but lasers don't lie and that worst corner of the garage sank probably soon after they built it. That along with some improperly compacted fill under the slab caused all the problems. I can take care of the fill and compact it correctly but there isn't much I can do about the sunk corner of the garage short of jacking it up and leveling out the concrete. Since it is only the garage and doesn't affect anything else though, I'm inclined to just leave it alone. The only real affect on the structure is that the garage door header is slightly lower in that corner. In the future when I replace the garage door, I'll have to decide if it is something I want to fix or not.

In other news, our local nursery was having a special on trees. If you purchased one tree over $100, they would plant it and every other tree you bought, no matter what the price, for no labor charge. The only additional charge is what we have to spend for materials such as fertilizer, mulch and stakes. It was a pretty good deal so we ended up buying a serviceberry tree which was the one that cost over $100 but was nearly 10 feet tall. We also got three fruit trees, a McIntosh and Red Delicious Apple and also a Northstar sour cherry tree. I have a particular weakness for sour cherries which make the best pies on earth. We are going to put the three fruit trees in front of our house to kind of break up the view. Right now, those coming up the side street look right into our kitchen and dining room windows. In the future they will be looking at our fruit trees. The serviceberry tree is going out behind the house where we can look out and see it lovely spring blooms from our other dining room window and also the living room windows.  The best part of all this is that they come with a two year warranty so if they die, we get another tree to replace them with and a new warranty. After cutting down over two dozen dead trees on our property in the last two years, it will be nice to see some new trees in their places.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Something Concrete

At about the same time we made the decision to do some concrete work, the weather changed from raining once a week to nearly every day. Needless to say, it has been slow going on our landscaping project but it is still proceeding a bit at a time. Above you can see the forms for the new sidewalk going in. It will act as a barricade to prevent water from running from our front lawn up next to the house. The new landscaping will slope the soil from the house towards the sidewalk. This should keep things nice and dry for the foreseeable future.

Finally we were able to get the sidewalk poured in between the rains. We ended it short of the driveway for the time being until we get that fixed the way we want it at the elevation we want it. Then we can pour the rest so that it matches up appropriately. This time around, we also used rebar in the sidewalk, something the previous occupants didn't do so if the sidewalk moves, it moves as one and isn't all cattywampus.  I still need to clean up along the sidewalk and backfill with soil but probably won't do that for awhile yet.

So before I can pour the remainder of the sidewalk, I need to pour the driveway. Before I pour the driveway, I need to pour the garage floor. Above and below are some photos showing why I need to do something about it. The garage floor slab appears to be a total afterthought to who ever had it poured. Judging by how far it has heaved in adjacent chunks (up to three inches in places), they didn't use any reinforcement. They also didn't cut any break joints in the slab so when it broke as all concrete does, the cracks form a maze across the floor. They also didn't use any isolation joints where the slab meets the footing so when the floor heaved, it caught the perimeter footing breaking the slab up even more and in the corner seen above, broke the footing. Not only are the various chunks of concrete heaved in relation to each other, the entire slab has heaved to that the center of the slab it four to five inches higher than the sides which means the garage door fits like crap. All this I plan to fix by tearing out this mess and redoing it properly.

I am going to start by digging down to good soil and back filling with gravel that will be packed down well. Around the perimeter there will be an isolation joint to prevent catching on the perimeter footing should it heave in the future. A footer below frost line where the garage door opening is will prevent that part from heaving at all. If it should heave, the entire slab will be reinforced with rerod so that it doesn't move in relation to each other. Finally, regular break joints will be cut in the concrete so that it will break (and all concrete does) in an orderly fashion where I want it to break.

In preparation for doing the concrete work, I emptied out the garage which was no easy feat. It amazed me how much I had in there and now that it is all out, I'm going to take this opportunity to do a little more organizational work as I put it all back in to free up some space and make things less cluttered. Of course once I got everything out, some of it in the elements, it has rained almost continuously. Murphy's Law I suppose.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Year of the Landscaping

I finally took a picture giving you a lay of the land. What you have is a lawn that slopes toward the house where it is absorbed into the ground and some of it channeled around the east side of the house seen in this photo or across our driveway and into the deep ditch beyond. It wasn't an ideal situation. The other thing that we wanted to fix was our front step. To step onto our porch from the sidewalk was about a thirteen inch step up. Okay for me but not for mother-in-laws or grandparents with bad knees who must scale it. About three weeks ago, I was simply going to pour a step in the middle to make it easier but it didn't solve the drainage problems. So we took out the old sidewalk and are preparing the area for a new one.

The new sidewalk will be higher which will create a barrier for water running back down the slope at least on the western three-fourths of the house. The eastern fourth will still have to run around the east side of the house but I plan to help it along by regrading up near the house, installing a flower bed with some sort of barrier to help funnel the water away from the house. Before all of this, our basement has always been dry but I would like to keep it this way by solving problems before they occur at less convenient times. The new step up onto our porch will be a measly four inches which should be much easier on the knees. Right now we are just waiting for a dry spate of weather so that we can actually do the pouring of the concrete. I'm not going to complain because the crops look absolutely perfect here. I suspect people will be getting near to 300 bushel per acre yields in areas with better dirt than we have here in this area. Still, I'm sure we will see at least 240 to 250 bushel per acre here which is unheard.

While the concrete fellow was here, I asked him if he would be interested in quoting pouring our driveway seen above. It is asphalt that has buckled, cracked, heaved and shattered and grows a pretty good crop of grass during the summer. It is a hard surface that keeps the cars out of the mud on years like this year but it really is an eye sore. It also was not pitched correctly the first time so water from the street and the uphill 60+ acres, runs down along the street edge into our driveway, part of the way back up towards the garage and then off over the edge of the ravine causing a huge gully to form. The top soil from along our driveway is slowly being carried away down the hill and I really don't want to part with it.

Our garage on the other hand also has problems. The concrete was poured on not well packed soil and without any reinforcing. As a result it is severely heaved and broken into a dozen plates. It is like a miniature version of earth tectonics. Plates floating and crashing into each other forming pressure ridges and such. When we first moved into this house, I had to shim the sides of the garage door by three inches so that it sealed up against the concrete and made a mouse proof barrier to keep vermin out. This winter, it heaved some more and I could probably shim it another six inches on the outsides just so the garage door seals across to the middle point where the actual door still touches the concrete. So I had the concrete quote that mess as well hoping I could get a mass discount.

We had already agreed to doing the sidewalk and when he came back with a quote for the garage and driveway, it was a little more than I wanted to pay. Right now I am focused on residing the house and figure that if push came to shove, a well sided house would bring better returns than a nice driveway and garage floor if we should have to sell it in the short term. I told the concrete guy that it was outside of my budget and that we would rater get our house sided first and see what money we have left over before finishing the driveway and garage. I put a line out there and wanted to see if he would bite. Almost immediately, he told me that the quote he gave me was a rough quote and that he would do a better calculation to see if he could come closer to our budget. The next day he came down to only $500 more than what I told him our budget was so we shook hands and are getting them done as well.

Since he is here already along with lots of his tools, he would like to start on the garage sooner rather than later so for the last two days, I have been spending my mornings cleaning out the garage. The large power tools too heavy to be moved down to the basement, I am moving inside next to our kitchen area where we have a breakfast nook that we use only to store incoming mail and such on. Anything water resistant for several weeks it going on the backside of the garage and away from view of the road in case thieves get tempted. The water sensitive stuff and high dollar power tools are getting carried a wheelbarrow full at a time around the back of the house and schlepped into the basement. Other low dollar and not as water resistant/rust resistant as the other things is being carried under the deck and some of it covered in plastic. I still have a couple more days left before they will be here to tear into my garage floor and I'm still on pace to get the rest of the items out. This time of year usually give us pretty stable weather and in most years it is usually hot and dry. I'm hoping now that most of my garage is now outside and scattered around, that at least the stable weather holds up. Otherwise our neighbors might end up with lots of items scattered across their lawns.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Getting My Just Desserts

I'm not sure how that expression came into being but it means that I got was was coming to me because of my actions. Let me set the scene.

I was in the grocery store picking up a few basics and heading towards the checkout lines. For some odd reason, three of the four lines in operation had people backed up three carts out the end of the aisle. Rarely do I see this kind of traffic at this grocery store but then again, I rarely come right over the lunch hour. However, one lane only had one person in it and he was handing cash over to the clerk. I headed towards that line.

Just before I got there, a lady waiting to checkout two lines over saw the situation too and started backing out of her line to get in line where I was heading. I could have paused and let her ahead of me. But I only had a few things in my cart compared to her cart full of prepackaged junk foods which usually signals welfare cards and longer waits so I took an extra long step and cut her off at the pass. I pretended like I never even saw her and started putting my groceries onto the conveyor belt. That was when my 'just dessert' started kicking in.

I noticed the old fellow paying for his groceries had one arm in a sling and judging by the fumbling, it was his dominate arm. As I waited, he kept fumbling in this pocket, that pocket, back to the billfold and into a pocket again as he tried to make exact change for his bill. As someone who almost always uses credit, I have long since gave up trying to pay for things with exact change because it takes too long and I don't have the patience. This time however, I waited patiently for five minutes as he and the clerk swapped bills and coins until he finally came up with a combination that gave him a bill which took him about two minutes to tuck into his wallet with his one non-dominate hand. Finally he moved out of the aisle so that the clerk could start ringing me out.

Immediately I knew that my 'just desserts' were going to keep on coming. She moved as a glacial crawl. In the time that it took her to ring up about a half dozen items, most clerks would have rang up an entire shopping cart full of stuff. The lady that I had prevented from getting in front of me was already paying her bill at another checkout line. I still had another dozen things to get rang up! With about six items left to ring up and I was probably ten minutes into the process at this point, the clerk turned and started bagging the dozen things she had already rang up. It took her nearly 40 seconds to a minute to pick up each item, swing it over to the plastic bag, place it inside, arrange it just so and swing back to pick up a second item. Another five minutes click off the clock.

The lady behind me who came up a couple minutes after I first got in line started cursing under her breath and I couldn't help but feel her pain. She already had most of the contents of her cart on the conveyor belt behind my items and as they say about the pig and breakfast, she was committed. I was just about ready to tell the clerk that I would bag if she would finish ringing up my items when a bagger finally came over and finished bagging up the remaining items as she resumed scanning the last six items on the belt. In about 15 seconds, he had not only bagged the remaining items, had loaded the bags into my cart and was waiting for her to finish scanning the last five items remaining. I suddenly understood why he ran off to help other checkout lines.

Finally 20 minutes into my checkout experience that usually lasts only about five minutes tops for a full grocery cart full of groceries, I was able to swipe my credit card and get the heck out of dodge. But not before I committed Karen's name and face to memory so that I will never step foot in her aisle again. In the time it took to ring up my 18 items, each of the other lines had probably checked out six people with full carts. She literally has no business being in a grocery store. Perhaps she was only there to deliver my 'just desserts'.