It rubs the lotion on its skin

 No animals were harmed in the making of this photograph

There’s a very good chance that I’m going to have to explain my project to a police officer before I finish. There are piles of dirt in a trench in my yard that only grow under moonlight and nobody has seen my wife in over a week. I’m sure this photograph won’t help my case any, but what can I say. He jumped in there (and out… it’s only a foot and a half) all by himself. Don’t judge me.

Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. Good news is that I was done today by 9:30. More good news is that I get some new tools tomorrow! But the bad news is that due to the spacing of current columns, I will only be able to do one pillar at a time. Bummer.

Sorry about the crotch shot. A main vent from the HVAC system is right behind me. 

What you can see in this picture is the first part of Hole #2, and the “support” of the old column. Being very generous, that’s about 4 square feet of concrete on a 5 inch thick slab. The concrete was poorly mixed, as it crumbles pretty easily. If you look at the banks of the hole, you will see an obvious change in coloration about 5 inches down from the surface. This discoloration marks the frost line, where any foundation support should start about a foot under. This current slab, obviously, is not under the frost line, and you will notice that the discoloration under the old slab extends about half way down the hole, or about 9 inches. This discoloration indicates a degredation of the soil under the support, giving clues as to why my kitchen was sinking into the ground.

Obviously, I left all the dirt under the column in tact. Before I dug out the hole, however, I placed a jack behind the column to help support the load of the beam and take some of the weight off of that newly exposed column of dirt. The jack was probably not needed, but it’s my damn foundation, so I’m not taking any chances. I will need to finish this column ASAP, so this might be the first column to be completed this weekend. We’ll see.

New Tool Review – Digmaster 9000

Well, here it is y’all. The Digmaster 9000.

What you see here is simply the greatest feat of engineering that the world has ever seen. The Digmaster 9000 is 1.21 Gigawatts of pure digging prowess.

I love this new tool, and so do a lot of people. I am a little upset that current vernacular would allude to the Digmaster as a “shovel”, which clearly is unfortunate, but I will have to excuse my language–no, my species–for not having evolved enough to be able to adequately describe this masterpiece. Here are a couple of reviews I read before I decided on the Digmaster 9000.

The Digmaster 9000 is the greatest thing since I sliced bread. -Jesus
The Digmaster 9000 is 1000 more than the 8000.-Tim Allen
Cocaine is a helluva drug.-Rick James

Simply put, I have never in my life had a tool as great as this one. But don’t take my word for it. Come over and try it out for yourself. Maybe remove a cubic yard or two. I promise you won’t be dissapointed. Tomorrow would be good.

Check out my new digs!

I got some lumber on the way home and made my frame for my concrete pillar. Turns out that the hole I dug yesterday was woefully inadequate. It was too small on all sides, and the soil on the far bank (from the picture) was piled in a loose hill that was throwing me off. But I fixed that mess.

You may notice that the plumb bob is not exactly pointing at the 18″ mark. It’s more like 17 and 5/8, but I can live with that. Plus, more of the yardstick is dug into the near bank than the far bank, so it’s probably a little closer to dead center than that damn 3/8″. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

I found that digging the hole takes about 3 hours, 6 blisters, and 800 mg of Ibuprofen. But I did it, and I’m almost ready to position the form. But despite the banality of digging a hole, I have learned two things: I have learned that I should bring home my bumpcap from work, and I also found that it doesn’t really matter what your reasons are, but carting out wheelbarrow loads of dirt after sundown looks nefarious. It’s best to stop before it gets too late lest the neighbors call for backup before checking out my project. Lets see how long it takes before my neighbors “casually” bring up their gun collection.

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

My flooring was due in on the 25th of May and my cabinets were supposed to arrive in late July. I have already brought my flooring home and I just got an email from Diamond (our cabinet manufacturer, if you can’t guess) saying that they preliminarily expect to ship out our new cabinets on June 8! I’ll get an update when our order starts down the factory line, but the message is the same: Holy crap, I’ve got to get to work! At least I have finished all of my classes for the semester.

Can Ya Dig It?

Who knew digging a hole would be so involved?

The task seems simple. Dig a hole. Fill it with concrete. Done.

It’s not exactly rocket science, but it is more difficult than that. I have calculated that with the type of dirt I have under my house (mud), I need 36 sq ft of pressure area to support my wall. Divided over 4 columns, that’s 9 sq ft per column, which is a very convenient yard-by-yard hole I need to dig. The frost line here in Atlanta is 6 inches, so I’m digging 18ish.

But to prepare the hole to accept a ton of concrete (literally), I need to do a couple things. First, I need to rough out the hole. Then I need to create a wooden square form that goes on top of the hole to shape and contain the concrete, then finalize the hole. Then, I flatten the bottom and tamp it down. Then I throw rocks and sand in the hole, place in some steel reinforcement mesh, a couple rebars, and hang mounting hardware. Then I can fill it with concrete, which is another beast entirely.

Last night I roughed out one hole, and tonight I’ll probably rough out another. It only took about 2 hours to remove about a half a cubic yard of dirt, which isn’t that bad. However, it’s certainly not the most exciting job I’ve ever done.

Floor has arrived, fellas!

I ordered the floor on Tuesday and Lowe’s said it would be in on the 25th. I got a call yesterday that it was in. It’s not often that an order comes in two weeks ahead of schedule–especially on a 2 and a half week lead time. I know that Dalton isn’t that far from North Atlanta, but still…

Blazer full of wood.

For those that are wondering: Yes, this is the Blazer’s first pallet. It was a very proud moment (If I have to explain why, an explanation is not going to help). A special thanks to the Lowe’s employees who piloted the forklift and dropped the pallet in my car without a scratch!

So whowuddathunk it would only take 10 minutes to put the flooring in!

Flooring In Da House!

Ok, so it’s not exactly installed… Details, details. I couldn’t start on it anyway, because the instructions explicitly state that the new hardwood flooring should sit in the house and acclimate for at least 72 hours before you go nailing it down. I am not anticipating that will be a problem.

Changes? We don’t need no stinking changes!

Apparently, if I order all of the cabinet equipment and plan on installing it myself, Lowe’s doesn’t care much if I screwed up dimensioning the room. However, if they’re going to install it, they need someone to come out to my house and verify my dimensions.

Here’s how the process is supposed to work: I give Lowe’s my sketch and we spend 5 hours designing the new kitchen. Then the installer comes out and re-measures my kitchen, and we spend about an hour going over the “new” dimensions, hypothesizing work-arounds, discussing installation quirks, gaps, mis-fists, part re-ordering and modifications. Then, the installers give the information back to Lowe’s, we adjust our order accordingly, and then sign for it.

He was supposed to arrive at 11:00 this morning and be here ‘till noon. He was late, and I had to wait until 11:08 for him to get around to showing up. He got his tape measure out, measured out the space for each new cabinet, scribbled all over his sketch, and finally said, “OK, I’m not used to this. Your measurements are spot on. First time this year.” He said he would turn his drawing back into Lowe’s and that he would call when the cabinets came in. He was out by 11:15.

So is there anything really mystical and magical about a tape measure? I wouldn’t think that crappy measurements were that much of a plague, but apparently I would be surprised. The only thing that confuses me about a tape measure is how one can own five of them and not know where to find one when they need it.

An Unstable Foundation

With my wife in Africa, it is time for me to address an inadequacy that has been plaguing us for years: much of our life is not built on a strong foundation… Literally.

Sarah and I bought our house right after we got married and we were told that our house had foundation problems in the past. I looked under the house and saw that the beam supporting the main load-bearing partition in our house was too weak. However, a replacement beam was installed that was the right size and was supported correctly. Everything was good, we were assured that all of the foundation issues have been addressed, and we bought the house. Yay Us!

Except the new beam was installed in the wrong location. Whoopsies.

So the main wall in our house—you know, the one that supports the kitchen cabinets and all of the living room electronics, as well as 1/3 of the weight of the roof—is sinking into the ground. These things happen, so I called a couple contractors to see how much they needed to fix the problem. It shouldn’t be that difficult. I got back a few quotes.

$15,000. Fifteen. Thousand. Dollars. For a beam.

Jeezus! It turns out that there’s a lot of work to be done, including a lot of engineering, and adding the word “Foundation” to any construction project automatically increases the cost 5 times. Luckily, I know a Mechanical Engineer with a couple of years experience in structures that works for cheap. I analyzed the old beam and verified that it is crap, designed a new beam and verified that it is awesome, and then made the biggest mistake since my wedding: I told my wife I could save us $13,000.

She must have heard “I will save us a ton of money on this beam, so we’ve got a ton of money to spend on something else… like a Kitchen!”

So yes, we are getting a new kitchen. At least I’m paying to have the new cabinets installed, but before that happens (which very well may be while I’m in Africa), the beam will have to be fixed, the floor will have to be leveled, the old crappy hardwood flooring will be ripped out, the old kitchen will be ripped out, and the new awesome hardwood will be installed. We also have a few design considerations left, like what countertop we are going to get.

So stop by often and check on our progress!