The extension takes shape

Partially due to weather and partially due to working through structural details we’ve had a number of starts and stops with our extension over the past 2 months. In November, I posted about the pouring of the extension’s concrete foundation walls. These were completed in December and we have built up CMU block walls for the 1st floor and poured the cement slab for the floor of our future master bedroom.

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While most of this was complete in December we ran into unexpected delays with the structural work that was only resolved this week. Our extension requires the removal of the rear brick wall on the first and second floors of the building. This is a lot of brick, one large container full, and some civil engineering was required to safely support the remaining 12,000 lbs of brick in the 3rd floor wall.

The original plan was to use 16 foot steel channels anchored to the rear wall and supported by the brick in the party walls shared with our neighbors. Unfortunately, after opening up the walls in December we discovered they are only 2 bricks wide instead of the assumed 6. Two bricks are not enough to support the wall so back to the drawing board we went and after a few rounds with our civil engineer we have a new solution.

The solution involves 2 long steel channels anchored into the brick of both party walls and 2 channels running the width of our building on either side of the 3rd floor brick wall with large bolts running through the wall to anchor it. It was quite an install process involving welders, epoxy pins and large drills but it’s done and we have happily moved forward with framing out the extension and installing the subfloors for our kitchen extension and terraces.

channels and rear wall

Here is the right party wall channel and the 2 rear wall channels. Note the metal plate welded to the underside of the channels to provide additional support for the brick wall.

before channel install

Here is the kitchen before the final channels were installed. In the background you can see the framing of our kitchen’s future door and window openings. In the foreground there are jacks and temporary beams in place to support the brick wall while the channels are installed.

back parlor floor

Here is what the room looked like when we first purchased the house. Seems like that was over a year ago. Oh wait… it was over a year ago.


Thanks to iOS 6 and the panoramic photo feature here is the left and right channels as well as the ones attached to the 3rd floor rear wall. We were able to keep most of the ceiling shown in the before photo.

This was by far the most exhausting and challenging part of our project and has held up the progress for about 6 weeks. If you’re ever planning a similar project be sure to double check the party wall size. Had we done this last summer when planning the project we would probably be moving in now.

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.