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Pour, Baby, Pour


Monday, October 13, 2008

Our last couple of days in the states were a whirlwind. There were several things that needed to happen before we boarded the plane. I beg your patience while I backtrack a couple weeks…

The plan all along was to have the foundation poured before we left for France. I think we even planned to be further along initially, but those were just silly high hopes. The roof of the office was nearly complete and the old foundation had been cut and hauled off to the landfill. All that was left was to dig the trenches for the foundation, build the forms and pour the concrete. The labor wasn’t going to be a problem, but we had a couple of technical hurdles that needed to be overcome. Firstly, we had not yet submitted our house plans to the building department. Well, actually, we did manage to do that, but they came back needing revisions. A lot of revisions. The plans were sound, but they needed a bunch of boilerplate stuff that architects usually stamp on without thinking – stuff like “I promise that this will all conform to all the codes it is supposed to conform to”. It’s like a big wink that architects and building departments do to each other as part of the process. The architects can’t possibly specify every little detail that the code requires and if they did the building department would be swollen with plan checkers making sure all those details were there. So they use a shorthand method that manifests in the form of a note. The note declares something like, “you know and I know that this is supposed to meet the codes, and it’s a bother to write everything down, so let’s just promise that this will meet the codes and agree to let the contractor handle the details.” Except the note is 200 lines long and written in blueprint shorthand like: “Smoke detectors installed per CBC Section 907.2.10.1.2.”

Alas, there was no way I was going to finish the ditches, build the forms AND update the plans before leaving. The forms needed to be inspected before pouring as well. Add this to the fact that we discovered an abandoned septic tank underneath the old foundation and you can imagine how cloudy our outlook was becoming. 

Yes, the abandoned septic tank was a surprise. I found it while digging the trench for the footing. A solid BONK against the shovel about a foot down. It ran about ten feet along the footing. The tank itself was made from concrete walls and measured five by nine by six feet. Whomever abandoned it was supposed to fill it up back when the public sewer line was run down the street. They wisely deferred that task to me. The city told me to talk to the county. The county asked me what the city wanted me to do. The Santa Cruz County Sanitation Department inspector is a dude named Calvin. He is a cool cat. He’s one of those guys who is nice because he knows that if he needs to beat up everyone in the room he could. He’s been doing his job for a long time and the stuff he cares least about in this world are the minutiae involved with my project. “Fill it with slurry. I’ll check it out later.” Thing is, that he needed to give me a permit saying it was filled before we could pour the foundation. But having the concrete truck come out twice (once to fill the septic tank and once to pour the foundation) would be expensive. “Um, I was hoping I could just pour it the same day that we poured the foundation and you would just sign off on my permit if I promised to do it.” He’s got his old school raybans on. “Yeah, whatever…. As long as it’s cool with the city.” Oy vey, another trip to Capitola city hall. Don’t get me wrong. All this back and forth driving is totally worth it to make this all happen smoothly. 

Another shout out to the Capitola building department. These guys have been so helpful and so understanding about the project that we’ve actually spent some time trying to figure out how to do something nice for them without making it look like a bribe. I can’t publicly tell you what they did, but it can be aptly described as: enabling. 

We now had our ducks lined up. They were haggard ducks, they were a bit wobbly and a some even tardy, but they were there. Our plane was leaving Thursday at noon. The pour was to happen on Wednesday. The forms were finished and inspected on Tuesday. Bert again came to the rescue and helped me finish the forms over the weekend while Reggie took his family to Disneyland. 

On the day of the pour we had a guy named Stewart from Santa Cruz Concrete Pumping who manned the concrete pump. This is basically a huge diesel engine that manages to push concrete through a long tube to wherever you need it to go. I’ve seen it in action but I still don’t believe it works. A fifty foot, four inch tube of concrete is very, very heavy. This machine manages to push it out in a steady glug, glug, glug that boggles the thoughtful mind. Stewart is one of those people who loves his job and is thus very good at doing it. He ran around, jumping over the forms, giving us tips on how to make sure the concrete filled the forms evenly and keeping the consistency of the concrete (which he called “L.A. butter”) steady. If you are ever in need of a concrete pump and you are in the Santa Cruz area, you should definitely call Stewart.

During the pour Kari and Reggie and I smoothed the top of the concrete, making a nice even surface for the top of our foundation. By the end of the day we were pulling stakes and cleaning up the site a bit. Bert offered to pull the forms off the next day, so I went home and packed. We slept, woke up early and drove to SF to catch our flight. One more day of impedance and we wouldn’t have a foundation, just a big moat waiting to be filled by rainwater.

One Response to “Pour, Baby, Pour”


  1. DB Says:

    badass. stressful, but damn cool.