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"demolition" Category

Concrete Diaries

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nothing very interesting has happened lately. Mostly it’s been just brute labor. We rented a concrete saw to cut up the old foundation. We cut up the old foundation to make room for the new foundation. After cutting, we used a sledgehammer to break up the concrete. That got us nowhere. Then we rented an electric jackhammer to break up the concrete.

That worked for the thin stuff, but when we got to the real footings, the 18 inch deep stuff, it got us nowhere. Each visit to the tool rental place was like another installment of an arms race. I’d return the tool and say, “got anything stronger?” And the dude who worked at the tool rental place (who shall go unnamed because I don’t know his name and he was a big jerk) would say: “well, we got the 2990.” And then I’d have to say, “[long pause] What’s the 2990?” And he’d give me this well if you need to ask look. And then I’d say nothing. Saying nothing turns out to be a powerful move in the building trades. Saying something only invites rebuttal. But if you say nothing then you leave your opponent, er, rental place dude, vulnerable to the possibility of saying something stupid. Sometimes these tense bouts of tactical silence can go on for minutes. Anyway, I ended up with a 90 pound jackhammer and a ginormous, diesel-powered air compressor that needed to be towed behind me. The silence technique usually requires that I leave with a tool that I have no idea how to operate.

Bert showed up just in time to fire up the jackhammer and start pounding. The great thing about Bert is that he just goes for it. It would’ve taken me thirty minutes to double check all the air compressor settings and reading of panels to figure out what the blinking red light was and wondering about why there were so many dials and so few operable buttons. But Bert just plugged it in, turned it on and started pummeling. 

Once the hammering was complete we were left with many piles of concrete. I spent several days loading them into my truck, hauling them to the landfill, and then unloading them at the base of a giant concrete mountain. The landfill somehow recycles concrete. They probably send it to China to put into baby formula or cat food. By weighing my full and then empty truck at the pay station I figured that each load was a ton. So in the end I loaded and unloaded ten tons of concrete by hand. When one envisions the process of building the dream home, the whole tons of concrete thing rarely makes the highlight reel. 

Raise the Roof

Monday, September 15, 2008

We finally put a roof on the shed. Walking on the rafters scared me, mostly because I’m a big wuss. See the photos below. 

Here’s an update of our progress and plans so far. The old house has been torn down. We are cutting parts of the old foundation off so that we can make room for the new foundation. That will involve a concrete saw, a jack hammer, a demo bar, a sledge hammer and a 20 gallon can of elbow grease.

Next we’ll dig the ditch for the new foundation. I estimate that that will take about four days. Normally that would be a problem, but I have time to kill since the building inspector is at a conference this week. We’re still waiting for estimates from the truss roof dudes and the energy analysis dudes. The truss dudes are going to build trusses for our roof. They deliver them to the site, crane them onto your built up walls and then you just nail them into place. Sweet! The energy analysis dudes look at your plans and tell the Great State of California if your house meets Title 24 energy requirements. What are those requirements? Only people with computers can tell you that, but apparently it’s a pass/fail sort of thing. 

So while we’re waiting for the paperwork, we’re gonna dig ditches. Hopefully this will be the last set of ditches that we dig. We’re going to France in October and I’m hoping to get the foundation poured before we leave. 

There Is Satisfaction in Complete Destruction

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Last week was all about pry bars and sledgehammers and demolition. In fact, the one tool that has probably been responsible for the most work done so far is something called a demolition bar. It’s a very long pry bar with one end bent at fifteen degrees and the other at ninety. Bert says that many things will try to resist the demo bar, but none succeed. Whatever the demo bar addresses eventually succumbs. It is heavy, so it can knock things down. It is long, so it provides the leverage to pull things up or apart. It is hard, so things like concrete or nails do not impede its path. The sawzall used to be my favorite tool, but the demo bar has dethroned it. 

After the roof came off the rest of the house fell quite readily. Bert came over with Scott to help remove the shed roof from the kitchen. That happened so quickly that we decided to take the side and rear walls down as well. Ironically, we broke for labor day and then I returned on Tuesday to take down the laundry room and the front facade. Working alone is three times slower than working with two other people. Weird how the math works out on that huh? When Scott and Bert were helping we took down three walls and a really heavy roof section in half a day. Alone I took down one wall and one little four by eight foot room in about six hours. That left us with just the car port, which Ed Botello the hauling guy pulled down via a rope tied to his truck. Ed deserves an entire post so I’ll sing his praises later. For now I’ll describe him as a compact bulldozer of a man who gets things done like nobody I’ve ever seen. 

The carport was the last of the original structure and once it fell we were left with two giant piles of debris. One pile was “clean” and one was “dirty”. Dirty goes straight to landfill. Clean is recycled and most of it eventually ends up as mulch. The dump has giant piles of different grades of mulch that you can buy for a low price. I’m positive that some of the lumber of the old house will eventually end up back in the garden.

While taking down one of the walls I split open a piece of wood and found a bunch of termites. Man those guys are tenacious. It seems like every wall and most of the ceiling was spongy from their efforts. Somehow they manage to eat most of the wood while leaving a fairly rigid structure behind. It’s as if they know that if they ate completely through the house would fall down and they’d ruin their meal ticket. You can see photos of the termites and their handiwork in the gallery below. 

Tearing down the front of the house brought out the neighbors. Every hour or so I’d see someone stop in front, mouth agape and with a “dang!” expression on their face.  I met Kevin from down the street – a woodworking teacher and carpenter. And I met Jake from across the street, a nice guy and also a carpenter. My next door neighbor is a carpenter too. And a few doors down is a roofer. For such an anti-growth town there sure are a lot of dudes in the building trades living here. Everyone has been really cool, offering advice and generally being stoked on the project. 

I’m putting together a video from different stages of the tear down. Until it is ready, please enjoy these photos of recent interest.

Roof B Gone

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today was going to be a mellow day. I did a dump run first thing in the morning then came back to the house to strip off some more roofing materials. It was hot and I was planning on starting the weekend early. Then Bert came by. Bert is so awesome. After working a full day and then having a midday surf session he came by the house to help out. I had already loaded up the truck to make another dump run so I felt a little guilty asking him to help when I wasn’t even going to be around. But… I guess I’m just a slave driver… so I asked him to take a crack at the newly exposed roof decking. On the drive to the dump I kept having visions of poor Bert dropping through the termite ridden decking down twelve feet and smashing head first onto the piano, er, workbench. 

By the time I returned Bert was still alive and the main roof decking was gone. He had singlehandedly stripped the roof! Well, that meant the game was on. Bert and Kari and I then went hog wild, tearing down the rafters, balancing on the ceiling joists and prying off whatever wouldn’t cause the structure to collapse beneath us. So fun. Luckily, I mean, thanks to keen planning, nobody lost a finger or an eye. We removed the entire roof, thus accomplishing the hardest and most dangerous part of the house demolition in one afternoon. We also got our demo permit just in time to stay legal. 

The termite damage inside the house was extensive. Some boards lifted right off the nails as if they were made of paper mache. A pry bar would easily penetrate 2×4 studs sending me off balance at the unexpected lack of resistance. See the gallery below for some of the more affected spots. 

Here’s a gallery of some recent pics from the project:

It’s Alive!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I thought video might be cool in the blog. Here’s one we made a couple of weeks ago after we had gutted the house. It gives a bit of a feeling for the condition of the old place.

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Holy Eyesore!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Our poor neighbors. We spent most of last week gutting the house. Taking everything that wasn’t holding a wall up and tearing it out. Note the very large and very obsolete satellite dish on the left edge of the frame. That came off the roof. And I’m still alive! Next to it is concrete from the back porch. The lower right contains drywall. Upper right is unpainted wood. Those four things are actually recyclable. All metal can be recycled, so were gonna tear that sink out of it’s melamine casing and put that in the scrap pile. See the volkswagon over there? We sold it to our neighbors Joe and Sari, who live on 48th ave. They’re gonna fix it up. Yay! All this stuff that we thought was junk is actually going to have another life. The metal will become iPhones. The wood will end up as eco-toilet paper. The concrete will end up thickening Jamba Juices. The VW will become another VW – just with every single part replaced. 

This is what you get when you turn a house inside out.

This is what you get when you turn a house inside out.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Yes. We have begun to labor. As in actual physical labor. Over the last two days we have torn down the old shack and gone toe-to-toe with the blackberry bushes (again). 

The shack was built on a dirt foundation. It was completely eaten by termites and it had about seven layers of roofing. Structurally it was comprised of old 2x4s, randomly spaced between 2 and 3 feet apart. Then it was clad in tongue-and-groove siding. Then it was clad in wood shingles. Inside, someone had drywalled it and then poured an uneven foundation into the interior. It was not difficult to take this building down. I feel after this small endeavor that I know a little bit more about what holds a building together. Long nails and any sort of sheathing. A stick frame of 2x4s is structurally worthless. It isn’t until you throw plywood or some sort of sheathing along the outside that you gain any strength. And if you hammer that in with nice long nails, you’re gonna have a helluva time undoing it. 

After much deliberation, and the kind advice of our landscaper friends, we went chemical and sprayed RoundUp™ made by MiracleGro, owned by Monsanto. These nice folks are the leading producer of genetically modified seed and employers to many hardworking children in India. We sprayed this stuff on our flourishing blackberry bushes and the leaves started turning black within an hour. Obtaining instant gratification like that is some crazy magic business and it seems waaaaay too good to be legal. 

Tomorrow we plan to rip all the drywall out of the house and load a big truck with what used to be the shack. Friday we’re gonna try to move the volkswagon out of the back yard and into the street with a FOR SALE CHEAP sign. We’re trying to get a dude with a Bobcat to come out on Monday to grade the back yard so we can start digging the foundation for the new & improved shed.