We have done it. We have built our first poured wall foundation. For years I held out, opting instead for the laborious masonry foundation walls. The slower, more methodical and time tested technique of laying block by hand was my preferred method of foundation construction. All around me, though, most builders have made the switch to poured foundation walls. The process takes about half the time, seems to cost a smidge less (more on that) and is a lot less weather dependent. My biggest fear was that the contractors that pour these walls wouldn’t have the attention to detail that my masons have always had, and I’d wind up with out of square, off-level walls. Well, thanks to the crew at Modern Poured Walls, we have a square, level platform for the rest of my house. The walls, which I chose to pour 10″ thick vs the standard 8″, are like a fortress, and the process took two weeks start to backfill as opposed to almost a month. My masons will still have work to do- there’s a fireplace and some other things, the poured wall will be a viable alternative for our company moving forward.
There’s a common perception of the residential construction world that there isn’t any real skill or knowledge required, that, really, if a typical homeowner had a little time, they could pretty much take care of everything they need construction-wise. And, I suppose, for some, that might be true. Coordinating different sub-trades- that’s a few calls. What’s so hard about that? Navigating permits- that should be pretty cut and dried. But, today, building anything really does require broad knowledge about materials, installation techniques, project management skills, building science, and interpersonal relations- along with a bit of legal knowledge and street smarts. Fixing a roof leak sounds simple, but it might not even BE a roof leak. The thought that one can hire just about anyone to replace a window, let alone build an entire house, though fairly typical, couldn’t be farther from the truth. While most decisions are based on cost, cost is probably the least important criteria to use when vetting a contractor- and probably the one criteria that, at the end, was most meaningless to a given customer’s satisfaction with the job. No one remembers the money they might have saved, if they are instead focused on the time they wasted, or the cost of paying someone to do it over. Refer back to my post a while back-https://myershomes.comhow-to-choose-a-custom-home-builder/ to help you figure out the kinds of questions you should be considering. Watching the Cavs game last night (Go CAVS!!) LeBron makes things seem easy. Like he goes out on the court, and everything just comes to him. What you don’t see during the game, are the thousands of hours he spent by himself, working on a practice court, perfecting his technique. It looks easy to us because we don’t see the total commitment it takes from him to make that spinning layup look easy-
If you’re working, you know that some work days are just plain more fun than others. Sometimes, especially after a long, hard winter, I really need one of those fun days. So last week, I got a dose of what I needed, because tearing down a house is ALWAYS a fun day! Demolition Day is fun for a lot of reasons- first is the signalling of the start of a new project. That always gets me going. The start of a new project, the promise of shaping a new home, creating a new thing that will be in its place long after I’m gone, that will stand the test of time and will stand firm in the wind, keeping its families safe for generations.. Second is knowing that my team and I are going to take one structure that has played out its usefulness, and build, in its place, a new home for a new family. A place where children will be raised, family milestones marked, happy times had, and a new anchor for a new family. And third, there is really not much chance I can mess up! In a world that has gotten so complicated, the basic act of demolition is devoid of chances to paint a wrong color, no chance to install the wrong tile, no worry about the levelness of walls, and no chance to forget to wire for a revered light fixture. All the standard worries melt away as the home disappears into the great beyond that formerly beloved homes disappear into. Left in its place is a blank slate, waiting for the first shovel for the new foundation. Demolition Day would seem so destructive and wasteful, if it didn’t mean that a massive act of creation, involving dozens of skilled craftspeople, was on the verge of erupting. Waiting only for a little spring sunshine and for someone to say “GO”!
The adage goes, “To make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs”. In the remodeling business, this is an often overlooked truth. To remake anything is an act of destruction, and then construction. Both of which entail making a mess. Cutting, sanding, painting/staining, varnishing are all intrinsically messy jobs that all have to be done to start and finish any project. So, to a large extent, remodeling at its base is all about mess containment and control. On many projects, there’s more to the control of dirt and dust than the actual construction. Partly this is accomplished by the use of actual barriers- there are great products now that we use to help accomplish this (note the plastic lined temporary walls in the photo). But part of the mess control is to work in an organized and planful way with tradesman that understand that we are guests in someone’s home. The work-site may be someone’s living room or kitchen. It isn’t out in an unoccupied house or building-it might be right in the middle of where a family lives. So, sometimes something as simple as taking your time to perform your trade is all that’s necessary to help keep things clean. Faster isn’t usually better- especially when someone’s sanding something in the middle of your house! And, truthfully, working in a planful manner is almost always faster in the end- less mess to clean up at the end, less damage to things that weren’t in our scope of work, and an overall better result-
This February is officially (well, named by me anyway) Frozen February! For the first time that I can remember, we’ve had sustained polar cold settled in over the NE Ohio area for over a month that doesn’t have a family holiday in it, with lows as low as -21-and multiple days and multiple weeks with negative temperatures. The effect of that on homes can be catastrophic! First, the higher declination of the sun in February makes for more roof melting (more than you’d get in December or January) on Southern, Eastern and Western exposures, making for massive ice dams that aren’t typical for many of us. Along with the ice dams, which maybe aren’t causing any damage yet (wait for the melt!) the low temps have caused frozen and burst pipes to be a major event for many of us. Temps in the -20 range will truly test the insulation, draft stopping, and general construction of your home. Many will fail that test. If yours is one of those, get help immediately! Turn off the water, call your plumber, and then your insurance company. If you are traveling or vacationing,, make sure to turn the water off at the main (don’t forget to turn off or unplug your water heater(s) too) before you leave so you don’t find a massive surprise on your return. If it’s too late, give us a call, we can help-
This past week I visited the historic town of Charleston. One of the more interesting things is that the history of the people is marked mostly by the things they built. The homes all come from certain eras of Charleston history- colonial, antebellum etc. A Hugenot church built when the French threw them out of France and they came to the New World, or the oldest Synagogue. These and other religious buildings frame this particular city in a way that not many cities are defined. The filler was the warehouses, tenements, and homes built to accommodate a bustling colonial and antebellum port city. The history of the people, marked by their buildings, lays like geologic beds through the city itself- here was where a million or more slaves were brought to the new world. Here was where the wealthy rode out the humid and hot summers. Here was where they built cookhouses after the building code required they be separate from the living quarters (after another massive fire). Here was how they shored up the masonry buildings of Charleston after a large earthquake. Over and over again the history of people, as written in their bricks, mortar (filled with oyster shells!), and timbers, is written and preserved. In our industry, we sometimes forget that our homes represent only a single moment in time, but one that reaches out into an unknowable future. We want to satisfy a particular client, but our work will be judged by dozens, if not hundreds, of people we can not know, but will be living in our homes in the future nonetheless. Will the future residents of our homes want to preserve the features we think are so important 100 years from now? We can’t know. But, our homes will be there, silent testament to the times we live in and the people that we build for, anyway.