July, Friday the 13th in all its glory: cave-in under our existing house. At 3:30 pm that Friday, a spawl sheared from the earth wall under the kitchen slab, exposing 8 linear feet of old footer face and almost 3 linear feet of its underside as deep as 1'. Our house had become immediately and dangerously compromised.
I scurried to Lowe's to gather materials for "quick fix plan #25": create a 4' tall form filled with concrete at the base of the shearing wall to prevent and/or minimized further slumping of any spawls. The drawbacks were concerns over personal safety during the execution of this plan, plus it would do nothing to backfill nor support the newly exposed footer. Business hours were drawing to a close in Bloomington, and we nuked that idea. At 5:30pm, Robert Jr. suggested a plan that appealed to everyone.
Dan went to one store (Roger's Building Supplies stayed open an extra hour just to sell us these products) and I went to Lowe's to get the other supplies. By the time we got back, we realized it would be too dark to safely pull-off the repair, so we tabled things until 6:00am the following morning. Sleeping in the house that night was difficult.
Saturday (7/14) 6:30am finds Robert Sr., Rob Shadoin and me positioning the first I-beam in our plan, while Harold sites the bottom of the post. We sat six 8" by 20' I-beams into the ground at 5' center, sinking each one from 5 to 8 feet down until they hit rock. Funny thing, a month ago I thought hitting rock would be the worst case scenario and never considered our house might fall over!
After Robert Jr. deftly punched each I-beam into the ground with his track hoe (38 tons of push), Dan, Harold and I slid-in 4x8 "pallets" framed and studded with 2x4's that we built the previous night. Stacked and joined, these pallets created a 32' long by 10' high wall behind the I-beams leaving a minimum space of 4" between the pallet and dirt walls. The result was a space created to hold gravel, to prevent further spawl slumping, to backfill the exposed footer, and to provide an extremely safe wall against to work.
Pictured is Robert Jr. directing the gravel shooter's operator where to drop the #11's limstone (a small, semi-self-compacting gravel).
It was a total success!
Me, losing my hair and my mind. Craig Binkley background left, Harold background right.
A bunch of I-beams: $1500
Other supporting materials an labor: $800
The relief of stabilizing our compromised house: Priceless.
In an odd turn of fate, those expensive I-beams will be usefull in supporting the 2nd story addition; check back in a month for those details and the introduction of Mark Dwyer, the welding Man of Steel.
Reminiscent of the piles driven along the river front wharfs and dikes, Robert Gilliland Jr.'s plan saved our house. He's our hero of the day.
July 16th., the footers are poured. The footing form used here is a newer product made by Certain Teed called Forma-Drain. Instead of putting in temporary footer form (either lumber that becomes forever form material or rented, metal forms), all footers need adequate drainage. The usual method is the application of some type of perforated, PVC pipe that is drained away from the house. The Forma-Drain product is a one-step procedure: heavy vinyl forming material, left in place permanently, that is perforated on one side (placed facing away from the concrete). This does two things: it relieves labor from the removal of temporary forms and it lowers water collection lower. (Click the above picture for Certain Teed's homepage.)
Addendum: After fighting numerous cave-ins from dirt spawls, I'm afraid this new drain is clogged. For assurance of proper drainage, we've installed traditional, perforated drain pipe at the footer to gather ground water. The tip here is this: the CertainTeed Form-a-Drain is most ideal in an excavation over which you have complete control, but in a tight dig like ours (where you can't safely clean-out the form drains for fear of being crushed by intermitent spawls) it just didn't pan-out.
Here's a shot of the Arxx blocks going into position; the scaffolding is designed specifically for this product.
Friday, July 20th -- This is the day we poured the basement walls, but look how it began. Another spawl sheared from the excavation, knocking through a corner of the blocks and into the basement floor. At 6:30am, we started by digging at the spawl, loading and hoisting 5gal. buckets to remove the dirt. Around 11:00 am, Jake (Robert Jr.'s righthand man) came by and dug us out with the track ho. By 3:45, we had torn down, repaired and reinstalled the Arxx blocks.
Delivering the concrete into the forms is a bit of an ordeal. First, the mix has to be thinned by using pea-gravel instead of larger stones. That costs more. Secondly, the mix needs to be poured directly into the top of the forms via a hose. That costs more, too. Chris Worthington's trailer-towed pump is a pretty cool machine, in that it spews out concrete mix like a pastry sack, but a little heavier -- and it costs more.
Ideally, 3 people are on the business-end of the hose (one to control the spout, one to manage the immediate hose, and the 3rd to manage the hose slack on the ground). Holding the hose is a challenge, because it is driven by a hydraulic pump. Every second or so, this 100 pound hose jerks and surges grinding and wearing away at whatever it's resting on (i.e.: my hands). That's me in the fancy hat, and no, you can't have it.
Friday the 20th, and our basement walls are poured. The following Monday, 100 tons (yep, 100 tons) were conveyed into the overdig between the walls of the basement and the walls of the hole. The relief of having backfill in is tremendous, as we fought many tons of cave-ins throughout the duration of the open hole.
The slabs are ready for pouring, Aug. 2nd. Some notable features here: basement bath (with shower) waste lines are in; the long, running trench in the basement floor marks the location of the bearing walls to be built on the 1st & 2nd floors (the trench allows more conrete to gather acting as mini-footer for the concentrated load of the bearing walls); the 1st floor/back door wrap around is formed; the 1st floor connecting form is built (with steel rebar pins stuck in both the existing house footer and atop the new basement wall, the connecting slab will join old to new); and lastly, the sill plate and rim joist boards are installed (they will also act as the South form for the connecting slab). Not bad for making it up as we go.
Aug. 3rd, the slabs are finished. Harold summed-up this milestone noting that the catastrophic variables that we cannot control are now mostly behind us (like, 90% behind us). Our existing house is as stable as it ever was, and probably moreso. Starting at 6:30 in the morning and ending at 6:30 in the evening, it was a rewarding Friday.
By the way, if you find something provocative about the simple notion of "6:30 in the morning", you're not alone. There are more of us than you think. Generally, we hold meetings on every 1st Thursday, but not until 11am, or whenever we wake-up.
Aug. 8 -- The bearing wall in the basement is erected. The uncompleted section to the left is where the stairwell will be located; the left doorway will access the utility room; the middle door is to Missy's office; and the last door is from her office to the small bath.
With three tri-axle truck loads of topsoil, the retaining walls' grade gets a little closer to completion.