All My Friends Know the Low Rider








This is what the Blazer looks like with 3/4 of a ton of crap in the back. My car took it like a champ, but I certainly wasn’t the first off the line when the light turned green.

That concrete didn’t stay in my car long, as you can see. I put another ton of concrete in a hole , completing two of the new foundation pillars.

Because the worst part of the sag happens in the middle of the beam, and now that the two middle pillars are poured, pretty soon I can install the floor jacks and start re-leveling the house. On this type of concrete, it will be a few days still before I can put the weight of a house on it, but the hard part is done for these two supports.

For those keeping track (me), this slab was over a ton of concrete (2060 pounds), 150 pounds of rock, 2 rebars, all completed by my lonesome. My live-in brother in law came in at 7 this morning and slept until 6:00, just as soon as I was done washing all my tools. I’m sure it was just a coincidence.

Foundation New Tool

New Tool Review: Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Margarita Mixer – Block Party Edition

Well, you know it’s a party when you bring out a Margarita mixer that measures capacity in cubic feet. With a 30 gallon capacity, you know you can get the whole neighborhood drunk and have enough blackmail material to retire in no time!

Wasting away again...I am very pleased with my mixer. At first, I was cruising Craigslist for a gas-powered, mega capacity, tow-behind model, but it was very convenient to be able to run this thing under the house. Plus, it’s really not that loud, even when tumbling 160 pounds of… margarita mix. What’s better is that I bought the floor model, and Lowes gave me 10% off and it came completely assembled! Although I did hear from 5 employees “Wow! You’re buying that thing? I’ve never seen anybody buy one of those.” Made me feel good, you know, like the whole world knows a secret that you’ll find out when it’s too late. But the real reason no one bought one before is that the rest of Chamblee is just too lame to need a 4 cubic foot margarita mixer. Yep, that must be it.

So if you’re reading this now, that means that you’re too sober. Come on over and we’ll fire this thing up. I’m always ready to party.


A ton of work!

On Saturday, Jamie came up and we did a ton of work. Literally! And here’s what a ton of work looks like:

meh. I guess it was heavy...

That’s 150 pounds of rock, 21 80 pound bags of concrete, 6 pounds of water per bag, and a couple rebars, and we’re up to 1962 pounds. Add in all the dirt we moved to backfill the form, the tools we moved in and out, and the giant Five Guys burger I had for lunch, and we’re easily over the 2000# mark.

So it turns out that I may have to reorganize my project progress a little bit. At first, I was going to buy this quick setting concrete that would be load bearing in only 12 hours. When I priced out the difference, regular concrete was about $3.50 for a bag and the quick setting concrete was close to $5. That difference was a little tough to take, being that I probably need about 100 bags to finish the job. But then when I went to buy the stuff, I found out that the $5 bag was only for 40# of concrete, and the $3.50 bag was for 80#. So now it’s $10 vs. $3.50, almost triple the price. No sanx.

So, I’m using the cheap stuff, but that’s not all bad. It will be nice to break up the days of schlepping concrete, but that means I have to start the kitchen demo a little earlier than I thought. I guess my main goal is to keep the dishwasher and kitchen sink functional for as long as possible.


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.


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.


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.

Foundation Hardwood Floor Kitchen Remodel

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!