Job Diary - First Month of Construction
Today we broke ground on the house. I can't believe it. We had very good weather, even though we are about two weeks later than we hoped. The excavator unloaded the trac-hoe and started with the sewer line. It was no big deal but we felt pretty relieved to get started. He will probably have to come back both tomorrow and Saturday to finish up for the footings guys, who will be there on Monday morning.
On Saturday the excavator faxed me a bill for what he did this week. It surprised me that he was so efficient getting the bill to me, when he wasn't near that efficient getting onto my job. It was three hours and $400 higher than I expected, and than what he thought it would take. I called him right up and asked about it, and he said he ran into more work than he expected. I told him that he did excellent work, but that I wouldn't plan on using him again.
He was one of the higher priced people I found, and I got the impression that he would work faster than other excavators. I feel like I made a mistake believing that the trac-hoe was the tool for the job. We probably would have gotten done faster and at a lower rate of pay using a front end loader for our job.
The footings guys showed up today but all they did was stake out the footings and lay out the steel reinforcing rods. They told me that they would be able to form and pour tomorrow on one day. With the way our lot is dished out, we have to use a concrete pumper to pour concrete, which costs us extra. As soon as the foundations are in, we are going to haul all the fill dirt we need and backfill and get things level so we can use a normal concrete mixer truck. The charge for this pumper will be $125 an hour, with a two hour minimum, so it costs us at least $250 extra to go that way.
We have the inspector scheduled for tomorrow right at 1:00 p.m., the time that the pumper arrives. The plan is for the inspector to look at the steel that will be laid through the forms to reinforce the footings and approve it, and then the pouring can start. Theoretically, they will get all the pouring done inside the two hour minimum of the pumper truck.
The footings contractor delivered as promised today. The inspector was there exactly when he said he would be, too. He actually had some questions about where our footings were situated relative to our setbacks. I explained it to him and measured with him. Then he called in and they confirmed the changes in our boundaries. He didn't say anything more about it, just signed the inspection form. He is a good guy. He's a fireman who inspects for the city part of the time. A lot of the firemen are good at construction. I understand they all are good at one trade or another, and trade services with each other when they build their own homes.
The footings crew poured the footings n probably less than a half an hour. My neighbor had a small pour to do for his RV pad on the side of his house nearest me, and when the footings were poured, he had them pour his pad, all within the minimum time. I'm going to pay for the pumper, and he'll pick up the concrete, a good deal for both of us.
Footings guys removed the forms today. The footings look great. The footprint of the house looks way smaller than we thought. The foundation guys say they are ready to start in the morning.
The foundation crew spent most of the day bending and tying steel for the foundation walls. They will do the same tomorrow and form and pour in one day on Monday.
This time the pumper truck was a little early and the inspector was a little late. He had to come and verify that the steel reinforcing was right. When he gave the okay they started to pour, and they moved that concrete very fast. They had one truck emptied in a half an hour, and we had to wait again while another concrete truck pulled in to dump his load into the feeder box in the pumper truck. When he got finished the first truck was washed up and gone, and he went to wash up behind the house while a third concrete mixer dumped into the pumper. They can pump very fast but everything has to be perfect for you to get done under the minimum pump time. It took about three hours to pour the whole foundation. It looks massive.
We waited three days for the concrete to cure some before dampproofing the walls with foundation tar. A friend and I got on our oldest clothes, and then bought disposable rainsuits for $5 each and set in with throwaway poles and rollers. It took us a long time, maybe seven hours. We had to knock off the steel guide ends with a sledge hammer to give us a smooth surface, and we brushed it down with a broom before tarring. That is a messy job, and you can get really tired doing it. We got by with four buckets of tar, though we had to soak our rollers in the tar puddles at the base of the wall to finish the last part. At the end, we threw away the rainsuits and were good to go except for the really tarry shoes. My friend threw his away. Next time, I would cover my shoes in plastic bags tied at the ankles with rubber bands.
I would like to start backfilling right away, but some people have advised me to wait a week to avoid bending a wall. We can backfill the basement, using the sandy soil that we have on the property, so I have a new excavator lined up for that for tomorrow.
I really like this new excavator. He is more liberal with his time than the last guy, and he lets me help, plus he is less per hour for the same thing. Today we backfilled the basement all day. I helped with a shovel, and there was a helper who ran a Bobcat around in the hole. The excavator limited the helped to half a day, and we got it done.
This excavator, Richard, is the only one who quoted me sewer, water and electric trenches together, at a good fixed rate. I have to be careful because I'm fast going over my excavating budget. He hooked up the sewer for me at the end of the day today, with me as his helper, and he's only charging $100 for all the parts for that on a time and materials basis, with just $20 for his time. That helps a lot. He's willing to be flexible. He also has some connections that I am going to check out for the gravel that I need to fill in the garage floor.
My uncle came over and helped me hang the window well. He's a handyman (for a living) and he had the tool that sets the fasteners in the concrete to hold the window wells. He won't let me pay him. I got the window well in Salt Lake for about half of what it was going to cost here, plus a small delivery charge. It looks beautiful, and I can really see the shape of the house now.
The excavator's friend, Richie, runs a dump truck, and can get me gravel for better than the lowest price I found. The best I had was $4.12 a ton, and Richie will do it for $4.
This was a huge day. My excavator had his truck and a second guy with his dump truck, and they started pulling the fill dirt I found right around the corner a quarter of a mile away for $7 a load. They just tag team back and forth, and leave the front end loader in position, so each driver loads his own truck and drops it. I got a full load about every 15 minutes. Meanwhile, Richie was dropping off a load of gravel about every hour and a half. And his partner at the same rate with another truck. They had to go much farther for it. Every so often Richard would stop and move the dirt or the gravel around with his trac-hoe.
About two in the afternoon I connected up with a contractor that I have been leaving messages for. He had a good sized pile of fill pushed up at a development about two blocks away. I asked him if we could take some off his hands, and he said please do. I asked him if he wanted money for it, and he didn't. I located his superintendent in about 15 minutes and he was there in a half hour and told us where to take the dirt from. We got quite a bit of the free dirt. I managed to limit the paid dirt to $100.
10/31/00 They finished backfilling today. I went out and checked on them, and Richie told me that he thought we had about 275 tons of gravel. I told him that my estimate was nearer to 200 tons. He said he'd check on it. He called me tonight and said that he checked the tickets again and it was only 220 tons. I appreciated that. So I got the gravel for the garage for $880.
Now I'm having problems getting the framers to go. The first one that I chose passed on me because we decided against the ICF's and SIP's. The framer he referred me to should start tomorrow, but he's telling me that he's stuck on another job. He agreed to bail out somebody whose framer did a poor job, and now he is told that all the trusses on this other house have to come off and be reset. He says he might be there Thursday, but not tomorrow, which will probably be a snow day anyway.
The framer did not show today. When I finally got him on his mobile, he said that the snow day set him back some more. I thought he had planned for that. Maybe tomorrow.
No framer today. When I finally tracked him down, at home, he said he'll probably be there Monday afternoon, because he has to finish up some more on the other house.
We managed to get the basement floor poured today, and they brought bales of straw that I helped to put over the pour because it is starting to be pretty cold out.
I dug the power trench myself with a shovel because we have to be ready to put in a temporary power pole on Monday. It took me all day.
I met my electrician's helper at the site and we put in a temporary power pole that he loaned me. I will pay for the meter base. No framer at all, and I couldn't reach him on the phone.
It is getting frustrating how much time I am missing work. It take a long time to drive out there and unless I get a very early start, I miss quite a bit of work, often I don't get there until lunch. I have given up trying to make up the hours. I need the evenings and weekend for phone calls and for my family. I started writing up my time as vacation. The good thing is that I have almost two weeks coming, and we only have two months left in the year anyway. I hope nobody at the office minds the phone calls that I have to handle during working hours.
This framer, John Fulmer, finally admitted that they have quite a bit more work at that house they are reworking. he is basically a no-show, so I am going to go to plan C. The next guy on my list is Rick Jones*, and I have been avoiding calling him because my friends Lucy and Ivan passed him over when they framed about six months ago. I called them back and asked them to tell me honestly what they thought of Rick Jones. Lucy said she wouldn't hesitate to use him if she were me. She decided against him because she felt he would not work well with a woman. I called him, he said he was available, and we arranged to meet tomorrow afternoon to sign papers.
I got a sample construction contract from a friend and the framer agreed to all of it, even the paragraph about liquid damages. He agreed to finish my framing by the 29th of November, or pay me $50 a day in late fees. I'm pretty excited, and he definitely has the qualifications to do this. He will be out there tomorrow.
The framers evidently came out, but I'm surprised they only laid out the baseplate on the tops of the foundation walls, maybe an hour or two of work. I'm trying to reach them now to find out what gives. The power is all hooked up as of today, and nothing should be holding up the framers.
Nobody showed up on the job today. I checked with my neighbors who can see the site out the side window. I finally located the framer, and I can't believe what I heard. They don't work on Fridays, because they only work four days a week, ten hours a day. I've never heard of that before. This means that even though I had them set up on Wednesday of this week, they won't really do a single thing until Monday of next week. This is a waste of valuable time