I am amazed at how time spent working on big projects can move so quickly yet feel so packed with events as well. It is time compressed. Super compressed.
This week ‘we’ did all the important concrete work for our wee little house. We are acting as our own general contractor on this house. However, since we are humble enough to know our limits, we have graciously accepted help from a builder friend (Winsome Homes) in finding some of the sub-contractors and with the primary framing. When possible, we are also jumping in and helping and will take over completely at the end of next week when the framing is complete.
But this week was more about watching the pros at work: a crew came in to frame our footings and stemwalls (DLC, Inc. Foundations). They were impressively fast. We were glad to have professionals build the foundation of our building, considering how important it is to everything that comes after. Here are a few pictures of their work:
Anyhow, after the foundation, we spent the next two days (with the help and major guidance of the Winsome Homes crew) setting up and pouring a slab floor for the first floor of our house, which is technically a ‘garage’ type space but will be used for farm work (our small apartment living area is upstairs).
The building and pouring was in many ways blessed: the weather cooperated beautifully both days—giving us breaks just at the right moments. We were also glad to have the expertise of experienced workers with us. It was a fun event, because we were able to be fully a part of every step. This is a unique experience, I think, for owner-builders working with subs (usually these guys are general contractors, but in our case they’re acting as subs). Some photos:
Of course anyone out there who has ever built a home will know that this can’t have all gone perfectly the whole time. The weather was clear but cool, and the coolness slowed down the concrete setting process quite a bit. It took us awhile before the slab could be finished for the day. And when it was, it looked awesome.
And, again, as anyone who’s ever worked on a real project knows: reality happens. For some reason, last night around 9:30, I (Katie) started getting panicky about the slab. I couldn’t articulate why, but Casey was sympathetic enough to drive us out to the site anyway to placate me, even though there was no real reason to worry.
Whew. Are we glad we did so. Apparently, between 5:15 pm, when we finished the slab, and 9:45 pm, when we showed up again, a dog and cat (or several) walked all over the slab. And because it was setting and curing slowly, the slab was still wet enough to easily imprint. In other words: we had little prints (some of them up to 2-inches deep) everywhere. I don’t think I need to explain how we felt, after having spent a day working in the cold, wet weather to attain a beautiful finish, and then to discover the state of our slab while exhausted … you fill in the details.
Fortunately, we still had a few tools on the site, and so Casey re-troweled over almost every print while I held a small spotlight on an extension cord overhead. It was dispiriting work, and there was nothing we could do at that point but minimize the problem. And the hardest part: there was no one to blame, really. And in that kind of situation, whether it’s fair or not, you so desperately want someone to blame. We know that our next-door neighbor had taken precautions to keep his animals in, so it’s unlikely that it was them (if it was their animals, they’d have to have been speedy and sly because their owners were very conscious of keeping them away from the site). It just happened.
In the end, our goals are more concerned with functionality than aesthetics, so it’s not a big deal. The slab will still be infinitely better than the gravel floor we were originally planning before deciding on a poured floor. But it is hard to not feel somewhat deflated and disappointed, even if it is temporary and fixable (which we may or may not do, depending on coast and how it looks after curing).
We suppose this is just one of those trials that have to occur during a big project. And if that’s the case, we’re glad this one doesn’t disturb the integrity of our building in any way. We’re also glad that we’re animal lovers and kind of think the little cat prints are cute.
So, that’s where we at right now with the house building adventure. The framing begins Monday, which will be intense and make this whole thing feel real, like we’re actually building a house rather than some over-built bunker structure.
And, since we’re not actually builders and this is a farm blog, I thought I should sign-off with a farm-related photo. Our cover crop of oats and fava beans is looking beautiful and lush. Here it is: