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Building Your Dream Home - Part 2

Razing the Cottage With new house plans and permits in hand, subcontractors hired and a Septic Design in process, it was now time to raze the existing cottage. I considered employing the local fire department to burn it down, however I chose the demolition route instead. Though I did not contact the Fire Department, I was convinced that this route would have led to multiple delays and pitfalls, as I would have been at the whim of several town employees and weather conditions. The demolition route required only the excavator subcontractor and had less weather related schedule risks. In addition, the demolition cost and effort was very reasonable. Within two days, it was as if the cottage never existed on the land.

It is important to note, however, that the cottage was relatively small. It was 22’ x 30’. If the cottage had been significantly larger, then the Fire Department route may have made more financial sense. The demolition effort itself basically consisted of three parts. First, all of the furniture and appliances needed to be removed.

Most of these items were old and musty and were not worth saving. Next, the excavator used a large backhoe and tore apart and crushed the building into small pieces. Finally, the excavator loaded the debris into several 20 cubic yard dumpsters, which were then hauled away by a dumpster company. Finding the appropriate dumpster company was a little bit of a challenge, as there are strict regulations on the disposing of certain home construction material. In addition, the dumpster costs can dramatically increase depending on how far away their facilities are from the construction/destruction site. Breaking Ground After the cottage was razed, and the stakes were placed outlining the boundary of the new home, it was time to break ground. This was a very exciting time as my dream was about to begin to take shape. I was building a large contemporary home with a wall of windows facing the lake front. Admittedly it was only a hole in the ground, but this hole represented the rough footprint of my future house. Seeing the hole, I could begin to more easily visualize my future home.

Digging out the hole and preparing the site for a foundation is one of the most critical aspects of building a new home. As a result, I spent several occasions with both the Excavator and Foundation subcontractors reviewing the house plans and the site prior to, and during the excavation. It was imperative that all of us were on the same page to ensure that the foundation walls, with all its jogs and step ups/downs would be located and installed per the plans. During these meetings a few adjustments were necessary to the foundation plans, however with all the team members involved the changes were minor and absolutely necessary. The changes helped prevent more serious problems later on and ensured that the outside aesthetics of the home were maintained. As I already indicated, the foundation is extremely important to any quality home. If the foundation is not built upon a solid footing, nor constructed of the appropriate concrete strength, the foundation walls will crack in short order. These cracks can lead to water in the basement, settling in the framing, and eventually cracks in the finished walls and ceilings. Consequently, it is imperative that the excavation site not only be properly dug out, but also backfilled with crushed stone and sand to provide for a stable base and to enable proper drainage underneath and around the home. In my case I had the excavator dig out sufficiently to enable 18” of crushed stone to be backfilled into the hole and still meet my foundation plan requirements.

Once the site was prepared for concrete, the foundation crew installed concrete footings 18” wide and 12” deep. In addition they installed several cement footings in the middle of the house footprint for lally columns. The footings represent the base of the home and support the concrete foundation walls and the home itself. Due to the fact that it was winter, Calcium Chloride was used as an accelerator to speed the curing time of the concrete. In addition water had pooled in a portion of the hole, so constant pumping was necessary during the curing time. After a couple of days, the foundation crew installed forms for the concrete walls. A day later the foundation walls were poured. Three days later the forms were removed and the foundation walls were in. I then had my excavator subcontractor return. After tarring the outer walls, just up to the level of where the finished grade would be, he installed a perimeter drain around the foundation and then backfilled the foundation with clean sand and fill.

It is important that boulders and clay not be used as backfill material. Boulders can crack the foundation walls while being pushed into place, and clay can lead to improper drainage around the home. With the foundation in and backfilled I was ready for framers. The Framing Stage The framing stage is probably the most exciting part of building a home. In a relatively short period of time, literally days, a house begins to take real form. Within less than a week knee walls were up, floor joists were installed and a plywood sub-floor was down. After a couple of weeks, the first floor walls were up and ceiling joists were being installed. I was so impressed I was convinced my new home was a month ahead of schedule. Boy was I wrong.


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