Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Well On Its Way

It's not easy to come up with a play on words at 4:30 in the morning. I met with a guy from Williams and Taplin yesterday. I showed him the spot to drill the well, and he surveyed the site for access. This took all of five minutes. The guy (I forget his name even though it was embroidered on his jacket) wanted to chat though. In a thick downeast accent I got the history of all the wells he had drilled in the area and a lesson on drilling in the middle of winter. At $12/ft I should expect to pay around $3000. A house right over the hill produced at 90' (very lucky) but the average is about 250'. He's got sheets of fiberglass and kevlar that he can spread on the ground so his rig doesn't bury itself in mud; he'll need them at our spot at this time of year. On any day the temperature is above freezing the roads are posted; heavy loads are prohibited. Drilling in temperatures significantly below freezing can be troublesome. So we're looking for a day right around freezing. Shouldn't be too hard to find over the next couple weeks. Then we just cross our fingers and hope to hit water without drilling too deep. The well is on its way.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Turning Point

Lewis the Excavator called yesterday morning and said he could be at the site in a half hour to finish the job. In three hours he and his machine had pulled all the stumps and created a level building site and parking area. We have one towering pile of brush and stumps ready for burning. We can call the well driller now; he should be able to drive right in once the newly excavated ground freezes up again. While Lewis was digging, I spent a couple hours splitting next winter's firewood.
When just a week or so ago it seemed like things were a little bogged down, yesterday's work, just three short hours, marked a turning point in the process. Soon I'll start building the forms for the foundation...

Saturday, February 16, 2008


Chloe and I took our 50' tape and mapped out the house's foot print; and, despite the error, the septic tank can stay where it is. A lucky turn for the installer. It was just within the setback requirement. He doesn't have much more to do, and I get the sense that he'd rather be finished with us. We need some big stumps pulled and some dirt pushed around, but I can do the rest when I rent some equipment.
The 1/2 acre land purchase from our neighbors is close to going through. We received the necessary documents from the attorney a few days ago. All that's left is some signing and payment. I hear the girls waking up. They'll be clamoring for breakfast so I'd better post this and get cooking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Following Instructions

Sure, men aren't supposed to excel at following instructions. The job of a septic system installer, however, depends on it. Requires it, in fact. Unfortunately, deviations happen. My septic installer decided to place the septic tank where he thought it should go rather than where it was placed in the plan. Although the system would work just fine in either spot, the setback (8') for the tank in relation to the house works in one place but not the other. I'll double check to make sure it won't work where it is, but, more than likely, it will have to be dug up, disconnected and moved.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Septic Chambers oh boy

This is Michelle again. And these are septic chambers. I really don't understand why we have to have these elaborate things to contain our household waste, but there you are. I am going to make sure we don't have a giant septic hump in our yard covering them up though. The land slopes down slightly here, so that should help.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Windows Part 2

The first change came when we found out that Marvin clad glider windows don't come in the color we want. We like gliders because a wide window opening can be divided vertically as opposed to horizontally like a double hung. Michelle's got a deep seated aversion to casement windows rooted in some house from early childhood. That and she doesn't like to crank; she'd rather lift or slide. So we switched from gliders to double hung and added a simulated divider vertically down the middle to create same visual effect. With this sorted out, I e-mailed a list of windows, sliders and doors to Viking Lumber, and the next day I got a quote for something over $18,000. This number was a little larger than we wanted. Now that our choices had dollar amounts attached to them it was easier for us to take a harder look. Do we really need to have a beautiful glass door ($1400) leading out to the screened in area? A door that will be open from June to October? We were also able to eliminate 2 small awning windows and 2 small double hungs. A 3 panel set of fixed casement windows totaling $1100 could be substituted with one large window divided in thirds with SDL's (simulated divided lites). Theses changes will bring the total down to about $14,000.
Slowly, the septic system is coming together. The chambers and the 1000 gallon septic tank are on site waiting for good weather.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

water level wonders

The next step in the building process is nigh. The road's in. There's a septic system at some stage of completion. (Though I still haven't heard back from the excavator about the changes we want.) The rest of the site work is next, and for that I've been reading about water levels. While most contractors would use a transit or a laser level to create level building site or set the forms for a foundation, there's a simple low tech method that produces unimpeachable results. A water level is nothing more than a clear plastic tube filled with water. Since water is self leveling, it's easy and fast for two people, one at each end, to establish points on the same plane. A slightly fancier version uses a reservoir at one end and has the advantage of single person operation. I'm going to make a reservoir water level using a 5 gallon bucket and 35 ft of clear plastic hose. By placing the bucket in what will be the center of the house and adding water, I will be able to establish points on a level plane at all the corners of the building. I'll have to wait for a sunny day above freezing; an ice level would not produce reliable results.
I can't believe it's already February. We've been reassessing our building schedule, and we're taking a more reasonable approach. Our winter rental ends in June, and we were hoping to have some structure with a roof over it by then. While this might be possible, camping in a construction zone with two kids would make the rest of the summer less than pleasant. Michelle's swamped with work, and having a quiet place for her to set up shop will allow us to have some money coming in during the building process when there so much going the other way. So we're going to start looking for a place to rent for another six months or a year. As anyone who's built or renovated a house knows, living in it makes it a lot harder.