Ups and Downs

Last weekend was a series of ups and downs.

Things are moving forward again.  Last week, all the debris was removed from the house, the footings were poured, concrete testing was performed, engineer inspection was complete, and they will be installing forms for the foundation walls, which are scheduled to be poured by this mid-week.

This weekend we got a call from our neighbor.  In the middle of the night the wind blew a partition (the old wall of the extension was left up to block debris from getting in this neighbor’s yard) into his backyard and damaged his barbeque, table, fence and garden hose.  Now he is hopping mad.  We told him our contractor would cover the cost of the damages but now he says he does not want to let the construction crew on his property.

Last week we offered him some “inconvenience money” to make up for the noise and the hassle of the construction but he wouldn’t take it.

We don’t know how this will effect the work but hope he will come around.  After all, if we can’t get on his property he will have to look at a wall of cinder blocks and flashing which won’t be pretty.

In these old Brooklyn neighborhoods, the real culprit is change.  No one likes it.  We find it funny that our neighbors would rather have the old overgrown backyard overrun with mosquitoes and rodents than suffer for a couple of months and have a nice clean well-kept house and yard next to them.

The Concrete, the Rebar and the Worry

On day 80 of our construction countdown, the crew was scheduled to lay the concrete foundation for the extension.  Pretty exciting, right?  As always, things went awry.

We were excited that the concrete pouring was happening because the cold weather is coming and concrete should be poured and allowed to cure in temperatures over 40 degrees.  I was able to go to the site at the allotted time to take photos but when I arrived the crew was still be digging out the area.

Prior to pouring concrete, a number of inspections must be done.  Our structural engineer must inspect the rebar framing (short for reinforcing bar) to make sure that it is in the correct place, depth and quantity.  A concrete inspection lab must test a sample of the poured concrete and confirm that the concrete is what the supplier says it is. They also complete what’s knows as a TR-2 report for the D.O.B.

If our concrete was delivered by a concrete truck we’d also need a TR-3 report for the DOB. This report certifies that the supplier is properly mixing the concrete. In our case, because there is no access to the backyard and because our contractor does not want to risk running a tube of concrete through our house, the crew will be mixing the concrete on site from premixed bags. This takes more time but we save a little cash because we don’t need the TR-3 report.

Since I had no idea how this process works, I just smile and nod to the all Spanish- speaking crew.  Eventually, I go sit on the stoop and greet the guy from the concrete inspection company.  He is concerned because the mixer is not even on site–which to him means he may be waiting awhile.  Our structural engineer then shows up, and thankfully explains things to me. He sees that the rebar has barely been started and will likely take a few hours and by then it will be getting late and with the sun going down the temperatures are expected to drop into the 30’s.

I made a flurry of phone calls to our architect and contractor, in the end the concrete will not be poured until Monday. Luckily no rain or freezing temperatures are in the forecast for next week otherwise we would fall even further behind schedule.

Moral of the story:  Is wise to visit your renovation site on a work day?  I came away feeling like things were very disorganized and communications were not well executed.  Now I am worried.

It sounds crazy but it might just work…

Because of hurricane Sandy, we are behind schedule about a week and a half, due mainly to transportation issues for the crew.  Although demolition was almost complete, they were not able to haul away the debris yet because alternate side parking rules were suspended and it was too difficult to get a dumpster right in front of the house.

Our second bit of disappointing news was that our contractor quoted us a price to rebuild our neighbor’s shed that we have to tear down.  A whopping 13K to replace a 50 year old box!  While we want the lady’s shed to be replaced a little better than it was, we do not want to provide her with a state of the art solarium.  What pains us most is that it mainly houses old cleaning supplies and the like.  

Nevertheless, the crew started the excavation for the extension in the back.  At the end of last week we  attended a status meeting at the site with our architect, structural engineer and foreman.  As we have mentioned before, if you are planning on major structural work to your home you will need to hire a structural engineer.  His or her price tag will be high and you will think, oh man.  Well last week our engineer (along with our architect) earned his paycheck.

During the meeting we all took a close look at the shed wall abutting our property and determined that instead of demolishing her entire shed we could simply incorporate the wall into our extension. The plan was for our extension to use CMU blocks (concrete masonry unit) with an EIFS (external finishing insulation system) with a stucco coating. Under this new plan we’ll continue to use CMU blocks and EIFS but in the areas of the wall abutting her wall (top photo, right side) we’ll leave out the stucco and apply a metal flashing over the top of her wall to water proof it.

We will have to give up about 2 inches of space in our bedroom (sadly from our closet) but we will have saved the cost of the new shed and when it’s complete we won’t be able to tell the difference.  Like most things with renovation–it is a wait and see game.  They will go forward with this new plan until or unless some unknown factor prevents it.  In the renovation game, it’s the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men.