Tuesday, June 1, 2010

House addition - demo and foundation

Should we do it or shouldn't we?  This house is great for just us, but when guests come, we get a little crowded. We don't need a bigger house, but it would be so nice to have an open kitchen where we can both cook and be together in our office space and entertain.  Are we going to be here for a long time?  Why not, it is a great neighborhood and we love Utah. But we live on the Wasatch Fault so we'd be doomed in the inevitable earthquake in our brick masonry house.  But that might not happen in our lifetimes and hey, a new home addition would be built to today's earthquake-resistant building standards. 

So goes our thoughts over the past 4 years.  With the down turn in the economy, we thought now just might be the time to find a good contractor and just do it already instead of dreaming our lives away.

So on May 13, we broke ground on a new addition to our house.  We'll be adding onto the back of the house, which will increase the footprint by about 245 feet, but we'll go up a story for a master suite and add a full-height basement.  In the end, we will almost exactly double our living area, which will bring our house to a modest 2400 square feet.  We'll have 2 bathrooms and 3 to 5 bedrooms, depending on what you want to call a bedroom (which would depend on if you feel good about putting your kid in a basement room without an egress window, I guess). There will be plenty of storage and a master closet about the size of our current bedroom.  I'm not kidding; our current bedroom is 10'x13'. It will be so nice.

So here are some pictures of the progress so far.

I didn't get a very good outside "before" picture, but you can at least see the mess we had going on back there.  The deck was a scorcher in the summertime too, since this is the south side of the house.

I put the deck on the online classifieds (love 'em!) and was able to trade the redwood in the deck in exchange for the nice dude's labor to remove it.  I'm glad the wood will be reused.

So then we were down to this for several weeks.

The real work started on May 13.  Our contractor, Adam [Lone Peak Builders] and his father removed the small back room that had once probably been a screened-in porch but had eventually been made into the eat-in kitchen area.  That really opened up the kitchen for a few hours :-).

The next step was to move the power line, which Drew had just buried a few years ago. I wish I had been allowed to operate that little excavator; it looked like fun, but there probably wouldn't be a fence or trees left if I were driving it.

My artist cousin Ruth was staying with us for a couple of days at this time, so she got to be in on some of the excitement and dream big with me on future landscape plans.  It was great to visit with her and show her a little bit of our town.  She'll probably be the last house guest that has to sleep in the basement on a hard futon.

Then it was time to dig for real.  This is the view from our back door while they were digging the basement excavation.

We found a really cool hand-dug well!

It was only seven feet deep, so Utah water well abandonment regulations didn't apply, but I still had the guys backfill with the clayiest soil we had dug out and add water to compact it.

The location will be under our basement slab, so that will surely seal it.  It was a shame to destroy what must have taken the first inhabitants of this house days of hard labor to dig.

So at the end of the day, we had a large excavation in our back yard. About 25 feet by 17 feet by 10 feet deep.  I think they said they hauled off 5 dump trucks of dirt.

The hole was huge.

And so was the pile of dirt stockpiled to be used later as backfill. 

That was a Friday.  It rained a lot that weekend and I was worried we were making a swimming pool, but the ground absorbed it nicely.

The next step was footings, which Drew helped construct.  If you look closely, you can see three different layers of sediment on the far wall of the excavation. The top grayish black 2-3 feet above the electrical conduit is top soil, the next couple of feet is a wonderful loam, and the bottom 1 foot is gravelly loam.  We are very close to the Wasatch Fault, and I suspect the gravel is a fault-related deposit.

The footings set up for a couple of days, and then it was time for walls.

Because our driveway is narrow and new, a big heavy concrete truck would probably crack it.  For this reason, Adam opted to have a concrete pumper truck out on the street that used a gigantic long boom over the house to reach the site.  This video is about a minute long and shows the Alta View concrete operator with a remote control unit on his chest extending the boom on our tree-lined street over our house.  It took quite a while, so I sped up the video by 4x. It is pretty amazing what they can do.

And here is a very short clip of the concrete going into the forms. The guys definitely earned their pay that day; it looked like very hard work.

So we have let the concrete cure over the weekend and this week they'll be framing!


  1. Wow Lucy... how exciting....good luck with it....end results will be amazing.

  2. Hi guys! You really don't get a sense of the scale of that hole until you see a man standing in it! I can't wait for future updates. It's so fun to follow along on your adventure in remodeling :) Thanks again for a great stay in SLC!

  3. Hi Lucy. Cool blog. I have a quick question - was the foundation for the addition deeper than the existing foundation? If so, how did you go about bracing the existing foundation wall and the floor joists before digging out to full depth?

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    2. We did dig below the existing basement floor, but we had what is locally called a "shelf basement". Basically, the floor space of the basement is smaller than the main level floor plan by two or three feet in from the walls. That way, the load bearing foundation walls are only 4 feet deep, and the basement part is essentially a dug out space inside of that. We didn't brace the existing 4 get off foundation at all, which, in retrospect, seems like a potentially costly oversite.

      After this hold was dug, they poured the new basement foundation, tying it into the old at the sides with rebar. Then, I think they braced up the middle of the existing floor in the old basement with temporary wood bracing, and cut out the old basement wall with a giant concrete saw.