Friday, September 19, 2014

Moving Out

I took a picture of the progress of work on the outside of our garage so that you can see where the sidewalk now meets up with our driveway. It also shows the garage door sitting nice and level with the the far left side of the garage jacked up two and a half inches. It also shows the gutter downspout on the right side of the photo feeds into a pipe that I buried underneath the cement and hooks up to the downspout on the left side of the garage which runs underground to the ditch behind the trees in the far left background.

Unfortunately due to many inches of rain, work on finishing the driveway is on hold until things dry out. I'm taking this opportunity to work on the inside of the garage. I did some electrical outlet work while I had some of the drywall off to jack up the garage. I installed new drywall, mudded and taped it and am in the process of sanding it down and doing some touch up work as needed. Drywall is really cheap and fairly easy to do yourself with a minimal of tools but it certainly is a time consuming process. Before I paint the drywall however, I think I am going to experiment on the garage ceiling which has the dreaded popcorn texture. Our entire house is full of the stuff and I hate it because it traps cobwebs and you are forever sweeping the ceiling and then sweeping the floor to clean up the popcorn texture that fell off while you were removing the cobwebs. A couple years ago I removed the popcorn in the mother-in-law suite I remodeled downstairs but sprayed it with water, waited and scraped it off with a putty knife. It was a laborious process that took forever. Since then I have heard that you can scrape it dry and end up with a 'textured' surface that looks pretty good painted. I tried a small patch with a putty knife and it looked okay but I don't want to do an entire two and a half bay garage ceiling ten feet up with just a putty knife. I found a popcorn scraper at the home improvement store that does a 12 inch swatch at a time and attaches to a broom or mop handle. It was reasonably priced so I'm going to give it a go. It also has a place to attach garbage bags to it to contain the worst of the mess. If the garage ends up looking decent and it wasn't a lot of work, I might end up doing more popcorn removal throughout the rest of the house.

Not a very good picture but all I had was my cellphone with me and the target started moving before I could get the picture taken. We have a doe and a yearling along with another doe and twin yearlings that live in our ditch. I see them just about every evening munching away at our lawn. I have also seen three turkeys and about twenty offspring roaming about several times a week in the same place pecking at bugs and things as they walk through. I haven't yet tired of them. I haven't seen the fox or its kit from last year yet this year. They perhaps moved on or went back to where they normally roamed before giving birth. Or the could still be there and I haven't seen them because foxes are pretty skittish around humans especially ones making lots of noise working on nearby garage and driveway projects.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

All Jacked Up

I had every intention of leaving my settled corner of the garage alone. Once I leveled out the garage door to my new level garage floor, I went out and looked at the door from the outside. Basically I transferred the out of level problem from the bottom to the top of the door and to me, it appeared to be even more noticeable. But jacking up the garage seemed like a major enterprise that I wasn't inclined to tackle just now. So I called it a night and went to bed. In the wee hours of the morning I woke up and got to thinking about jacking up that corner of the garage using bottle jacks. Suddenly the expense seemed minimal and I had a fairly clear idea of what I needed to do to get it done. The time to do it was now before I tackle the siding which I knew would be problematic trying to get it straight on a sagging corner of the garage. With the garage empty and another week and a half of pouring concrete and letting it curing ahead of me before I could pull a car in, it seemed like this was the time to do any jacking. I told my wife and with the sun not yet up over the horizon, I drove down to the farm to nab several of my dad's bottle jacks and then got to work ripping off a few lower feet of drywall on the sagging side. I got lost in the project so the above picture just shows what everything looked like when I was done and shows the bottle jack I used.

I used a sawsall to cut the toenailed studs from the sill plate and then ran it along to cut any nails from the sheathing that made it into the sill plate. I then screwed some 2 x 4's along the studs so that I had something to jack against and then put the jack sitting half on the sill plate and half on a scrap end of 2 x 4 and jacked. I learned a couple things pretty quickly. The garage was way heavier than I thought and 2 x 4 material wasn't enough. I ended up splitting the 2 x 4 into shrapnel. I ended up screwing two more rows of 2 x 4's, which was all I had, above the one I had put on previously which you can see in the first picture. Although the bottom 2 x 4 still bulged and cracked, it held together and after a couple hours of frustratingly trying to arrange jacks here and there to get things lifted up evenly, I finally succeeded. I ended up needing two and a half inches of shims on the lowest corner, which meant a full thickness 2 x 4 and one ripped down to an inch thick on top of that. I slid those in place and then tapered it down as I worked back towards where the garage stem walls hadn't settled. I set everything back down and after measuring, the garage door opening was now perfectly square. I screwed everything down. On a side note the mass of wires above are my incoming hard wire phone lines which aren't even used except to keep continuity in the system. My phone service actually ties into those lines in the basement using a local cable company's coaxial cable.

I had previously adjusted the garage door to my level floor before this procedure and you can see it here. By looking at the top horizontal metal piece and the door frame, you can see how uneven it was due to the settled corner. After I got done cleaning up from my jacking procedure, my door was once again not sitting square to the level floor. I adjusted that but the door still was jamming up and not closing properly. Tired and aching, I gave up and went in to cool off and watch a movie. Two advil later I started feeling like giving it another shot. I discovered that the outside door jam trim that I had removed to jack up the one side and nailed back in place was interfering with the door thickness and ten minutes later had it adjusted properly. My garage door now functions and best of all, it actually looks good in the opening. Still left to do is to temporarily flash along the concrete stem walls where my sill plate is now exposed in the low corner. This will keep things vermin and water tight until I tackle the siding. I also need to replace the drywall I tore out. I priced out a new, much, much, much lighter, much more insulated door to replace this one. It may not look like it but this door is on its last legs. I've screwed and patched it together a dozen times but all the wood is splitting and falling apart faster than I can keep it together. Now that I have a nice square opening, putting in a new door and getting it to look nice from the outside should be a breeze.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Plum Slammed

The concrete in the garage has been poured. The slab is nice and level though in the picture above you can see how the stem walls resting on the footer dive down into the concrete where that corner of the garage sunk 3 inches after they built the house. Isolation joints have been cut so that when the concrete cracks, and all concrete cracks, it will break along those lines instead of random patterns. The door you see leads out to the back yard and hasn't been used once since we bought the place. It eats up a corner that can be better utilized so it is going away. When I tackle the siding project I plan to stud in the bay and side over it. As you might be able to tell, it no longer fits in the opening anyway since the concrete in that area was about six inches lower than the rest. I'm going to screw it shut so that it is weather tight for now and some full length cabinetry will be going in that corner for storing stuff relatively dust free when I do my wood working projects. Now that the slab is complete and I can't park cars on it for a week or so until it fully cures, I'm going to use this time to do some repainting and organize things more efficiently. The above picture shows a half bay that is beside our parked cars and my work area. You can also see the new surface mount outlets I installed to replace the one outlet I had in the area. I just hate spending all my working time plugging and unplugging things so this way I can keep everything plugged in and ready to go when I need it, once I get my new workbench built.

This is the opposite side of the garage where my wife parks her car and where she has a potting bench. I also store some ladders, hand tools and my rack of clamps. I plan to put her stuff back over there and rework it a bit so it is a bit more organized. One of my old open shelves that is going to be replaced with closed shelving will go over here to store pots, extra soil and mulch that doesn't much matter if it builds up a layer of dust on over time.

So what's with the title? That is an expression my brother who has spent his post collegiate career in the deep south uses when he is completely worn out. After the garage floor was poured and while they were starting on the driveway, I used that time to correct something that has always bugged me. Our house has four downspouts that funnel rainwater from the roof to lower areas of the land. Three of the corners have the downspouts funneling water into underground piping that runs down to the bottom of the hill. The fourth downspout which is located towards the side of the house that slopes toward the house, just adds to the problem and keeps our front lawn kind of swampy during wet years. The best way to fix that problem would be to dig a trench from one side of the driveway to the other side and down the hill. Up until recently, this was a problem with a blacktop driveway blocking me. When the concrete guys removed the asphalt, I hustled in there and dug a trench so I could lay some pipe to connect the front downspout to the underground pipe that carries the water from the rear downspout. Because I didn't want to inconvenience them, I had to hustle. I dug like a madman and got everything plumbed and back filled the ends that weren't underneath the driveway so when they concrete guys showed up for the day, all they had to do was dump some gravel in the trench under the new driveway and proceed with their day. I was so utterly spent that I actually had to sit down and rest a spell in the shade for five minutes between trips to put my tools away in the basement or risk perhaps passing out. It didn't help that it was one of the hottest days of the year so far and nearly 100% humidity. All I could think while sitting in the shade was that I was plum slammed. I eventually made it back up to the garage for the last of my tools and called it a day just 15 minutes before the concrete guys showed up. So now there are two reasons why I will probably sleep better tonight.

Friday, September 12, 2014

All Broken Up

The hard part of the garage floor has been completed thanks to a jackhammer. If you can look closely, you can see that there was a little bit of chicken wire embedded in the bottom of the concrete. It was way too little and poorly placed which is why I find myself here today blogging about it. My advice to homeowners, if you are going to pour concrete, do it right the first time and say someone in the future from having to redo it.

On the other hand, I had guessed that there wasn't a footer poured in the garage door opening as their should have been which is the reason it heaved there and forced me to use several inch shims to seal the gaps between the door and the floor. I was wrong. There was a footer and it appears intact. After doing some measuring with the laser level the contractor had, I'm pretty sure I know what happened now. On that corner of the garage, they had built it over about three or four feet of fill judging from the landscape. That was 40 years ago. Since then, that corner of the house which comprises just the garage has sank about 3 inches. The rest of the house and other side of the garage is as level as can be but lasers don't lie and that worst corner of the garage sank probably soon after they built it. That along with some improperly compacted fill under the slab caused all the problems. I can take care of the fill and compact it correctly but there isn't much I can do about the sunk corner of the garage short of jacking it up and leveling out the concrete. Since it is only the garage and doesn't affect anything else though, I'm inclined to just leave it alone. The only real affect on the structure is that the garage door header is slightly lower in that corner. In the future when I replace the garage door, I'll have to decide if it is something I want to fix or not.

In other news, our local nursery was having a special on trees. If you purchased one tree over $100, they would plant it and every other tree you bought, no matter what the price, for no labor charge. The only additional charge is what we have to spend for materials such as fertilizer, mulch and stakes. It was a pretty good deal so we ended up buying a serviceberry tree which was the one that cost over $100 but was nearly 10 feet tall. We also got three fruit trees, a McIntosh and Red Delicious Apple and also a Northstar sour cherry tree. I have a particular weakness for sour cherries which make the best pies on earth. We are going to put the three fruit trees in front of our house to kind of break up the view. Right now, those coming up the side street look right into our kitchen and dining room windows. In the future they will be looking at our fruit trees. The serviceberry tree is going out behind the house where we can look out and see it lovely spring blooms from our other dining room window and also the living room windows.  The best part of all this is that they come with a two year warranty so if they die, we get another tree to replace them with and a new warranty. After cutting down over two dozen dead trees on our property in the last two years, it will be nice to see some new trees in their places.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Something Concrete

At about the same time we made the decision to do some concrete work, the weather changed from raining once a week to nearly every day. Needless to say, it has been slow going on our landscaping project but it is still proceeding a bit at a time. Above you can see the forms for the new sidewalk going in. It will act as a barricade to prevent water from running from our front lawn up next to the house. The new landscaping will slope the soil from the house towards the sidewalk. This should keep things nice and dry for the foreseeable future.

Finally we were able to get the sidewalk poured in between the rains. We ended it short of the driveway for the time being until we get that fixed the way we want it at the elevation we want it. Then we can pour the rest so that it matches up appropriately. This time around, we also used rebar in the sidewalk, something the previous occupants didn't do so if the sidewalk moves, it moves as one and isn't all cattywampus.  I still need to clean up along the sidewalk and backfill with soil but probably won't do that for awhile yet.

So before I can pour the remainder of the sidewalk, I need to pour the driveway. Before I pour the driveway, I need to pour the garage floor. Above and below are some photos showing why I need to do something about it. The garage floor slab appears to be a total afterthought to who ever had it poured. Judging by how far it has heaved in adjacent chunks (up to three inches in places), they didn't use any reinforcement. They also didn't cut any break joints in the slab so when it broke as all concrete does, the cracks form a maze across the floor. They also didn't use any isolation joints where the slab meets the footing so when the floor heaved, it caught the perimeter footing breaking the slab up even more and in the corner seen above, broke the footing. Not only are the various chunks of concrete heaved in relation to each other, the entire slab has heaved to that the center of the slab it four to five inches higher than the sides which means the garage door fits like crap. All this I plan to fix by tearing out this mess and redoing it properly.

I am going to start by digging down to good soil and back filling with gravel that will be packed down well. Around the perimeter there will be an isolation joint to prevent catching on the perimeter footing should it heave in the future. A footer below frost line where the garage door opening is will prevent that part from heaving at all. If it should heave, the entire slab will be reinforced with rerod so that it doesn't move in relation to each other. Finally, regular break joints will be cut in the concrete so that it will break (and all concrete does) in an orderly fashion where I want it to break.

In preparation for doing the concrete work, I emptied out the garage which was no easy feat. It amazed me how much I had in there and now that it is all out, I'm going to take this opportunity to do a little more organizational work as I put it all back in to free up some space and make things less cluttered. Of course once I got everything out, some of it in the elements, it has rained almost continuously. Murphy's Law I suppose.