Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Retaining Wall Construction Begins

Spring came to 3283 in full force today. I was awakened by lightning and thunder before 6:00 this morning. A band of thunderstorms passed through West Michigan. It was relatively intense, but also relatively short. By 8:30 it was just a sprinkle...by 9:30 the sky had cleared. The afternoon turned gorgeous. Sunshine and warm weather. Inland Holland reached the lower 80s. It was probably mid-70s at the lake.

And with the warm weather came the construction of the retaining wall and steps. The work started mid morning...once the weather cleared. When we had the heavy rain a couple weeks ago, water and sand found their way into the basement. To temporarily solve the problem we filled much of the slope to the entry door. Dan Deitz sent one of his guys to help with the rescue. He dumped yards of sand in the slope to the entry.  So, the first task today was to remove that extra soil and begin recreating the slope to the door.

The retaining wall work is being done by a company called the Aesthetic Gardener, owned by Mervin Hochstetler. Mervin and his helper, Dan, worked on the project today. And they had a great tool to move the sand. The project has seen a number of excavation tools. Today's was the smallest. But, it was just right for the job. And I can see it being used for many landscaping tasks.

The gadget is called a Toro Dingo. It's a stand up rubber tracked end loader.
Just what every big boy needs once he graduates from the sand box.
The Dingo cut the slope easily.
And....it really looked like fun.
The Dingo got very close to the wall/footing.
But, Dan still needed to do some shovel work.
Once the slope was somewhat recreated, Mervin spent some time calculating the size of the base area and the width/tread of each step. The rise will be equal to the thickness of one timber -- about 5 1/2 inches. Then the base was leveled and the first few timbers put in place. Mervin and Dan took care that each board was square and level.

Dan is leveling out the area at the base.
It was good to be able to look out the basement door again.
Mervin checks level on the first timber to be installed.
The timber retaining wall will be tiered on the north and south sides. And the steps will form the tiers to the east. To build them required lots of cutting, fitting spiking and more shoveling.

Dan cut amazingly square cuts on the timbers with a chainsaw.
You can see the stairs taking shape as Mervin uses a sledge hammer to set spikes.
After a few courses of timber were installed Dan began to
back fill between the  retaining wall and the basement foundation.
The guys worked their way up each side of the structure. They are about one or two levels below the height where the terracing will begin. while there is a lot of work left by the end of the day I was able to get a good picture of what the final product will look like. Stay tuned, there will be progress pictures tomorrow.

At the end of the day walls and steps started to take shape. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Windows [Pella, not Microsoft] Delivered

So far nearly all materials for the work at 3283 have been provided by the contractors.  I have purchased a few minor things...but nothing significant. Today a the largest purchase I've made so far was delivered. And besides some cleaning and caulking [no I wont bore you with more caulk pictures] this delivery was the the "progress" made today.

In the addition and the relocated porch bathroom there will be five windows. There is a large double casement facing the lake, two small awning windows on the north wall of the addition and one small awning window in each of the new/relocated bathrooms.

At about 7:40 this morning -- right on schedule -- the Pella window trick backed down the driveway  and delivered these windows. I helped unload, so no action shots. We stored the five windows in the garage. Are today's pictures of windows leaning against a wall....or last week's scraping/caulking pictures more boring?

Today's "advertising" shot isn't for a contractor, but for a product.
We've been happy with the Pella windows installed a few years
ago when the dormer was updated.

Not a very large load....but the driver said he was working his way north
along the lake shore all the way to Manistee.
So I guess a 7:30 scheduled delivery was necessary.
Here they are. The four small ones are exactly like those across the front
second floor. The large ones match those on the back second floor...
but we added the dividers to create three small panes at the top.
I have similar dividers on order to make the old windows match.
If all goes as planned there will be action shots tomorrow....the construction of the retaining wall is scheduled to begin in the morning.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

An Annoyance...Scheduling...Caulking and Scrapiing

Today was more like I thought yesterday might be.  Not exactly leisurely. There were no contractors working at 3283 today. But I did have one "annoyance."

It rained until about 9:30 this morning...not heavily, but steadily.  I was meeting with a potential HVAC contractor at 10:00. So I arrived just as the rain was stopping. I pulled in front of the garage, turned the car off, and stepped out the door into a puddle. I had time, so I thought I'd move the car so I could avoid the water later. I got back in, turned the key and.....nothing. Well not exactly nothing....more like that click,click,click,click that is autolanguage for "your battery is dead."

I went inside and called AAA. Of course while I was on the phone the contractor showed up. But AAA was efficient and I was only on the phone for 5 or 10 minutes.

I took the contractor on a tour of the house: showed him the basement and the location for the furnace; walked him around the main floor -- showing where the old heat registers are located; showed him the new rooms in the addition; and then, took him upstairs. The challenge in providing heating and cooling at 3283 is finding a way, or ways, to get  duct-work to the second floor.  Each of the proposed contractors will have their own approach. We will likely make the choice of contractor largely based on how the ducts will reach the upstairs bedrooms.

The HVAC guy was still looking around when the AAA service man showed up, very easily jumped my car...and suggested that the battery was likely "toast."  I was told that I would be getting an updated quote from the contractor shortly. I hadn't turned the car off, and was now free to drive into town and deal with my "annoyance."

Auto Zone was the closest "chain" auto-parts store to 3283. "Junior" eventually figured out what the right series of batteries fit my car. I skipped 'good' and 'best', settled for 'better' and he proceeded to install it for me. Well he installed it with only 2-3 'suggestions' from me --- like how to fit it into the brackets that hold it in place.  I've written a lot, so far today, with no pictures. So I thought you might like to see my new battery.
Think this one will get me another 74,000 miles?
Besides the auto annoyance and the visit from an HVAC contractor some progress was made on the 3283 project today.

Some of it consisted of scheduling:

  • Mitch, from Consumers Power, will be at 3283 tomorrow about 2:00 to detrermine route for underground electric service, and [hopefully] schedule the connection,
  • Five Pella windows will be delivered on Monday between 7:30 and 8:30 AM,
  • The retaining wall will begin being constructed on Monday or Tuesday.

And some consisted of scraping and caulking:

  • The band boards around the front porch that were installed yesterday needed a bead of caulk along there upper edge. I used the sunny afternoon to complete that task.
  • But I also noticed that previous caulk above the new boards [at the base of the bead board siding] was in disrepair. So, I scraped the old caulk and will allow the wood to dry overnight and re-caulk that area as I wait for Mitch tomorrow.
Can there be anything more boring than pictures of scraped or caulked walls? Check these out and let me know.  I will be headed to Livonia tomorrow once Mitch and I coordinate on getting                     electricity to 3283.  Unless there are surprises tomorrow, the next post will likely be Monday.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Surprising and Pleasant Progress

As you read yesterday -- or not -- I had thought today would be free of work on 3283. Or, at least it would be free of contractor's work. I was going to make calls, check status of orders and so forth. I even allowed myself to sleep past 8:00. Then I started making calls and other contacts. I checked on the windows for the addition [they are due next week]. I talked to one roofer. And then I sent a text message to Jeff Sparks to see if he was still an option to build the retaining wall.

Surprise!! He sent a text back saying he was at 3283 working on the "band board." My mode quickly shifted from leisurely to normal. I got dressed and headed to the cottage.

In order to maintain existing structural integrity; allow for some slight correction of sloping floors; and, provide for inconsistencies among the original framing of the cottage, porches and the addition, the number of "sill plates" varies around the top of the foundation. Some areas sit on only one, most have two and some have two--plus shimming lumber.  To handle this and maintain a consistent look on all walls the carpenters installed what they call a "band board" that will be below the siding on all outside walls.

As I arrived I saw a "mini-shop" set up behind 3283.
The table saw was to rip the boards to size; the miter saw to cut them to length.
John and Bill are installing part of the band board on the front wall.
At their right, they prepared the wall for the entry deck to be attached.
Water guard and flashing over the ledger board are part of that preparation.
Jeff is installing a drip edge that will be between two boards
making up the total "band board" around the front porch.
We are not changing the entry to the back of the cottage. It will still be into the south end of the screened in porch. But we will be building a new set of steps and entry deck. The old deck wasn't properly attached to the cottage, and water damage to both the porch frame and the siding was evident. The current standards require a water barrier and metal flashing be installed to protect the cottage wall and the ledger board that will support the deck floor.
Jeff and Bill are working on water seal
where the back entry deck will be built.
The ledger board, with flashing above, is in place on the two walls
that will support much of the entry porch.
We are anxious to end the use of our "temporary steps."
The Sparks Crew worked a "long morning" which turned out just right for me, because I was able to meet a second "certified arborist" who gave me advice on what to do to make sure the large oak east of the cottage that was quite stressed during construction remains healthy.

The band board will have to be painted white as will the siding on the new addition. But just seeing it around the entire structure made things look more finished to me. Especially looking at the front porch, and mentally picturing the entry stoop, I am seeing more and more a finished product.

What do you think?

The band board follows the top of the foundation
around the addition and the front porch.
It also ties the addition to the main house.
I can picture the entry deck, with two steps, leading up to the front door
and a walk from it heading toward the beach. The band board will be
painted white, there will be a new green roof, and a lawn will cover the sand.
Accepting suggestions on other landscaping.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Professionals and Amateurs

Today the electrical upgrade to 3283 moved indoors. The B&L crew finished up the majority of work to replace the old electric service panel and organize the existing electric wiring. It was a lot of detail work....finalizing splices in junction boxes, fastening wires to supports, installing a smoke detector and providing a hook up for the water system pressure control valve.

But the most noticeable [and photogenic] activity today was the connection of the wires from all the house's circuits to the new "load center."  Andy claimed not...but I have to believe that at the annual Electrician's Conference there is a contest to determine who can feed a circuit breaker box with dozens of pairs (triples) of wire the most neatly. He did confide in me the un-written rule that once one electrician begins to "trim out" a circuit box no one else finishes. Its one man's work product.
With circuits feeding from the right side of the panel in place,
Andy works to organize and connect those to be connected on the left.
The "finished" load center feeds 20 existing circuits and provides breakers
for two new circuits in the addition.  I'll be adding a third new circuit,
and B&L will add one new 240 amp circuit to serve the garage.
It's almost a shame that well organized wiring is covered with the face plate.
But, the cover at least provides spaces for each circuit to be labeled.
I guess I appreciate the work of professional electricians because I have for much of my life felt I was an above average amateur one. B&L handled getting the "old" cottage in order. I'll be wiring the addition. Their work will be completed and inspected by the Township Electrical Inspector. Then I will apply for a permit for the addition and complete that work.

But, today I began to set up for running the wires in the addition.  Amid a trip back to Lowes for some additional supplies, visits from potential landscapers, an asphalt paving contractor, and a tree expert [to give advice on making sure the large oak east of the cottage remains healthy] I managed to drill a bunch of holes and install some boxes.
The switches to control the overhead light and ceiling fan in the bedroom,
and the light and exhaust fan in the bathroom will be in these boxes.
The stud needed to be cut out to allow them to fit in a narrow wall.
The north wall will have three outlets. Drilling for wires to run between
the boxes was challenging through multiple tightly spaced  studs.
No contractor is scheduled to be at 3283 tomorrow. I'm going to use the day to handle some banking, hopefully talk with roofing and HVAC contractor candidates, check on the scheduled delivery of the windows for the addition, and seek advice on painting.  But, most importantly, I want to try to finalize selection and scheduling of someone to build the retaining walls.  None of these activities will generate my typically amazingly demonstrative photographs. But, I'll give an update if there is more to report that me sleeping in late.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Electric Underground

No, Its not the name of a '70s band. It's what was worked on this morning. The B&L team had certain tasks requiring wire to be run underground. Two of these were dealt with today.

A post mounted lamp stands atop the stairs to the beach. The underground cable feeding it was cut during the excavation and needed to be reconnected. But to reconnect it, it first had to be found.  The guys had a handy gadget that attached to the wire [by way of an outlet at the base of the post] which sent a signal through the wires that could be received by a special wand.  After 10 or 15 min of wanding and test digging they found the end of the buried line.

Once found they needed to make a secure waterproof splice to new wire, and run it to the house. Oh, and to run it there, they needed to dig a trench. Good thing we're in sand, because two electricians dug about a 30 foot long 18 inch deep trench by hand.

The actual splice consists of a heavy duty mechanical connection
encased in a silicone filled, shrink wrap tube.
Here, Andy is shrinking the waterproof tube over the splice.
Otis finished digging the trench and assembled the conduit  into the house.
They then laid the new wire in the trench and fed it into the basement.

After a layer of backfill in the trench a caution tape was buried to
warn any future diggers that wire is below.

The second underground task was to find and reconnect the power to the water well.  This line was found using the same tool that sent a signal to the receiver wand. At the same location the existing water line from the well to the house will also have to be reconnected. This connection will be made by the plumbers once I let them dig their trench from the northeast corner of the house across to the southeast corner, and then over to the garage. Andy and Otis dug about 3 to 4 feet down to find the wire and pipe and Andy made a splice to the new wire. They then determined the length of wire needed to be buried along with the water pipe and coiled it in the hole to be installed in the plumbers trench.

After finding the well wire Andy went through the same splicing process.
In the afternoon -- a nice, sunny warm afternoon -- I got my hands dirty and caulked the new basement windows along the south wall. It was nice working on the house while enjoying one of the first days that actually felt like Spring. Unfortunately, no one took pictures of me working...so you'll have to take my word for it.

While I was outside the B&L crew retreated to the basement to work on making order to the existing wiring.  No action pictures -- I was caulking -- but there was an obvious change when I saw the day's progress.

The "rats nest" of wires under the old service panel is gone.
They have all been organized and routed to the new circuit breaker box.
Much of the order was created by eliminating the existing service panel
and replacing it by a large junction box.
[Yes, the wires will be put totally in the box and the cover lifted to seal them in.]
Besides organizing existing wires the crew provided feeds for future needs.
This junction box will be able to feed the dishwasher and (future) disposal.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Weekend Update

I stayed in Holland this weekend.
I hadn't planned on it, and had even planned on being in Livonia on Monday. But the problems of last week suggested that I be here for some follow up. And, thankfully, Bobbie came here again yesterday to provide me with lots of support...real and moral.

I believe that before the plumbers and electricians dig their two trenches [one, across the back of the home and toward the garage and two, to the septic system] the erosion problem needs to be solved. So, the retaining walls along the slope to the basement door need to be built -- sooner rather than later.  Last Friday I tried to contact potential contractors to build the walls. Most suggested that they could only get to the job a number of weeks into the future. Saturday I met with two that thought they just might be able to get to the work within a week. Neither promised -- but both would get back to me soon. So, my hopes have been lifted. Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

There is no question that the 'flood' and the impact on the project had my spirits at a low point. They were lifted by Bobbie's visit. She came here yesterday. It was good seeing her. It was good for her to see the "project." Somehow with her here the sun actually shined for a few hours...and it seemed to get warmer.  I cleaned the dirt on the basement floor that was left by the half-inch of muddy-sandy water some on Friday but there was still a mess in the basement. Bobbie helped me both yesterday and today.  The section nearest the door where the water came in still needs work. But, with her help most of the rest of the basement are beginning to clean up.

Its going to take lots of repetitive brushing and sweeping to remove all the dirt and sand that is now stuck to many parts of the floor.  But thanks to Bobbie's help the place is definitely ready for more indoor electrical work tomorrow. And the project will move on.

This update isn't as much to chronicle the last 36-48 hours as it is to give public thanks to Bobbie for coming and lifting my spirits and pushing a broom.  Love you, Bobbie.

Bobbie helped a lot with the sweeping.
But her moral support was what was the best part of the weekend.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lots and Lots of Wire

Today's post will be short. I was on and off site on Friday as I opened up for the B&L crew...then tried to identify someone to help with retaining walls to protect the basement door. I'm finding that the economy must be improving -- at least in West Michigan -- since those I met with Friday seemed to have their near term schedules very much filled. I will consider other options over the weekend and early next week. Stay Tuned.

Homes have lots of electric wire buried inside walls and under floors. Old houses have lots of wire form different eras. 3283's initial electric wiring was installed in the early 1900s and not updated in one single logical manner. Over time wires were strung as needed to serve the latest new ''modern'' purpose. Their routes and logic can best be described as random.

B&L is trying to make some sense of the wiring. Friday they disconnected the circuits from the old circuit breaker box and extended all circuits serving the second floor to the new service. They also removed all the first floor circuit wires and will begin to organize them on Monday.  Also, they ran new ''special purpose'' circuits to: the water heater, the sanitary pump, the electric range and the furnace.

A maze of wires.
Most on the left are to connect the second floor circuits.
Those on the right are from first circuits that will be identified and connected to the new panel.
Much of the crew's time was running and securing wires -- some new and some old.
Wires from the second floor will be spliced to
extensions leading to the new service in this junction box.
Here's our new circuit box with some of the new wires ready to be installed.
It was a very good thing that Friday's work was done indoors. Michigan weather refuses to turn to spring. Though May is only about 10 days away today was cold and very very windy. Still "under construction" the house is still not "tight." Wind blows through it. And today the wind blew. Sustained winds over 20 MPH and gusts [often] up to 40 MPH. Lake Michigan responded to these winds with some very impressive waves.

Still no leaves on the trees. But there are buds showing on the lilacs.
The wind howled all day and the waves were as high as I've seen them..
 More Next Week

Be Happy !!  Have Fun !!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Deitz Team To The Rescue

West Michigan got a lot of rain in the last 24 hours or so. A LOT of rain. The TV news just said it is the 13th day in a row of measurable rainfall in the area. If I'm reading the NOAA data correctly, Ottawa County has seen 1.20 inches before midnight last night and 3.79 inches today (as of 4:00 this afternoon).  That's 4.99 inches of rainfall in the last day.

We knew that rainfall runoff  would need to be "managed" in the area of our basement door. We knew that we would have to build retaining walls to direct the rooftop  runoff away from the slope into the basement. It was a "landscaping" project that would be handled after the "big work" was done.  It will have to be dealt with sooner.

As I arrived at 3283 this morning it was obvious that rain had caused severe erosion where rooftop flow was near the the slope toward the door.  A piece of plywood was left covering the door opening....and I saw that sand had been washed in front of it.  Pulling it aside, I saw what I feared. Water in the basement. But it wasn't too bad. Less than a 1/4 inch...and only impacting the floor under the addition.

The erosion ....and water path...from the north side of the addition.

The erosion ... and water path... from the east side of the  cottage.
I began to clean up the sand the water washed in as Andy and Andy from B&L Electric showed up to start work. They saw the problem, and saw I was dealing with it  - even suggested using a shop-vac to pick up the little bit of water that had found its way in. So they began their work. The rain started again, and we saw the path the water was taking...and propped a piece of plywood in the opening. Light rain brought more water and sand down the slope....but it wasn't major. The water was absorbed by the sandy soil.

The doorway with our small dam in place.

But then the heavy rain started. I'd guess the majority of the 3+ inches fell within an hour or two late in the morning. Runoff ran down the slope like a river. The dam across the opening held fairly well...but leaked badly.  By noon there was water creeping across most of the basement floor. Not feet of water, not inches of water. But a 1/4 inch or more in most of the basement. The electricians tried to work...but couldn't let wire and supplies get wet. And we didn't know how much more might find its way in as the rain continued.  So, they hooked up some temporary power for me to run lights and the shop-vac before they headed home.

Without the temporary power they hooked up I couldn't have handled the water.

A virtual river of water flowed directly at the doorway.
The extremely permeable sand eventually absorbed the water that pooled.
It just came faster than it could be absorbed. 
Without the dam set in place by Andy and Andy from B&L
the river would have  flowed   right into the basement.
B&L was there when the problem became obvious. They helped me secure the doorway and mad sure there was power to the house. But there was no more they could do. And they headed home....saying they could get back to work as soon as the water problem was solved.

So, I was left at 3283 alone...with a wet basement and the likelihood of more and more rain on the way.

Water eventually covered most of the basement floor.
It wasn't very deep...which almost made it more difficult to handle.
The water brought sand with it.
And, although minimal topsoil was still on site
it seems like most of it found its way in with the water.
I made two phone calls. Both were quickly answered and both responded quickly with the help I needed to begin dealing with the problem. Both were members of the Deitz team.

I called Ben of Bob Tolsma Plumbing. He was on the road dealing with dozens of sump pump problems in the area. When I told him of the problem he immediately said he's be at 3283 in less than an hour to help get rid of the water.

I then called and texted Dan Deitz about the problem. He quickly pulled Jeff back into the shop from some medical tests and sent him to 3283 with the heavy equipment needed to move dirt around.

Every member of the Deitz Team responded quickly and helpfully.
I was very very stressed when I stood in the basement, alone, wondering what I was going to do.
But Dan Deitz and the people he has working for and around him made things much better....going above and beyond the project and thinking of the people impacted.

What did they do?

While there wasn't a storm water sump pump in the basement, there was a sanitary lift pump installed. Ben opened the access port to the pump well, disconnected the discharge line and connected a temporary discharge hose, opened the roughed-in toilet flange and made sure the pump operated properly in its stand-in role. He even helped me sweep water toward the pump opening for a while. Once he was done I knew even if more water made it into the basement it would be able to be pumped out.

The top of the sanitary lift pump was opened to allow water on the floor to be pumped out.
Ben had to jerry-rig the discharge line to pump to a temporary drainage hose.
Dan sent Jeff to 3283 to move dirt around...to fill the gorges eroded by the deluge of run off. Jeff put a full 4'x8' sheet of plywood across the doorway opening, and secured it in place with a end-loader's bucket full of sand. He brought what seemed like dozens of large end-loader loads of sand from our stockpile to re-fill and re-slope the area by the east side of the house. This will hopefully direct water away from the slope to the entry.  And, finely, he dumped a large pile of sand right smack-dab-in-the-middle of the planned down grade toward the door.

Jeff used both the large Trojan and smaller Cat to move sand around.
This is one of many and many loads brought to the house from the stockpile.
The slope isn't there anymore. But there shouldn't be any more basement flooding. That last pile will be dealt with when we build the retaining walls and steps down to the door.

The Deitz Team: Deitz House Moving Engineers, Bob Tolsma Plumbing, and B&L Electric really came through for me today. None of this was their problem. But they went above and beyond. This is a sign of someone who interacts with people both professionally and personally.  I could not have chosen a better team to work on my project.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped me today.