Ranch Redux: A Ranch Done Wright

Baby, It’s cold Outside | December 6, 2010

It is unseasonably cold in San Diego this year.  So very cold.  Joey came into the bedroom on Thanksgiving morning holding his iTouch up for me to see the temperature.  “Momma it’s 31 degrees outside!  It’s colder here than in Davis!  It’s even colder here than in New York City!”   I was still in bed, unwilling to face the day.  We haven’t had any central heating for a month.  At first this was fine, fun even.  “It is like camping indoors” I said smugly. It really was quite pleasant, an adventure, until the weather turned frigid.  As the weather cooled so did my enthusiasm for roughing it.  Ah well, we are past the point of no return and must soldier on.

The project at hand is the foundation.  At first the progress was amazing.  In one afternoon Tim and his guys jack hammered up the back patio.

The next week Tim marked the lines for the load bearing walls and got the Jobe brothers in to cut the slab.  The next weekend Tim, singlehandly, broke up all of the concrete, making neat piles of the debris.

He and Fernando dug trenches, fifteen feet long and two feet deep, necessary for the footings for the bearing walls.

I thought that at this lightening fast speed we would have the foundations poured by Christmas!   Then we had a series of issues that slowed the project down.

The first setback was when we found out that the structural steel poles that we had ordered were not the correct size.  We took our plans to Del Mar Fabricating, a company recommended to us by our framer.  They initially told us the four structural steel poles would be about $2800.00 and would weigh about 200 pounds apiece.  They called a few days later and said that they had misread the plans and that the three outside poles were actually double strong XX poles and that they be $2000.00 more and weigh 600 pounds each.  Apparently the codes had recently changed requiring the new, stronger steel poles.  They were very apologetic and offered to help Tim place the poles.  Not a huge setback, just something for me to fret about.

Setting the structural steel poles is quite a feat.  Tim and Fernando will dig the footings which are three feet square and two feet deep.  They then suspend the templates in place among the rebar and pour concrete.  The template has long hooks on one side that anchor into the concrete.  On the other side they have bolts that hold the steel pole in place.

Each pole will be welded to a steel plate that will exactly fit the template.  Because these poles are six hundred pounds, it will take six guys to place, level, and dry pack them.  Then they pour a second round of concrete covering up the steel plate and bolts.  It will be super strong and really cool looking when it is all done.

The second setback was deciding whether to replace our corroded cast iron waste pipe with a new plastic pipe.  The common practice in the 1960’s was to bury a cast iron waste pipe and pour a 4-6 inch concrete slab over it.

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Unfortunately cast iron rusts and rust never sleeps so now, forty years later, the pipe is about a quarter of the diameter it was when it was new.  The main issue is that the pipe cannot go under the new footings where the bearing walls would be.  We agonized over the decision to replace the thing.  We basically had two choices: we could ignore it and hope that the pipe lasted another 20 years and became the next owners’ problem, or we could cut a new trench and replace it.  Tim did a lot of research on the subject and talked to plumbers, contractors, and random strangers.  Pretty much everyone that Tim talked to said he would be insane not to take care of it now, so he decided to bite the bullet and replace the pipe.  We have a plumber coming in on Tuesday to mark the proper line.  More cutting and trenching…argh.

The last setback turned out to be the easiest fix thus far.  Tim was in the attic looking at the heating duct work and determined that it was made with asbestos.  He did not want to mess around with taking out the ducts so he called an asbestos mitigation service.  They came out and took care of the problem in four hours. Amazing!  I thought that it would have been a huge Haz Mat operation with the men wearing suits similar to the ones they depicted in Monster Inc., instead it was a pretty simple operation. The men came in, taped everything off, sprayed  the ducts with water, bagged them, and that was that.  They wore masks and had the positive airflow going, but it was no big deal.  I also thought that it was going to be hugely expensive, but it turned out to be a little over $700.

I guess it is common for these projects to go in fits and starts. Tim assures me that each of these steps gets us closer to our second floor retreat. I realize now that I was a little bit in denial about the level of discomfort we would be experiencing in the next year.  We have regrouped and moved Joey’s bed into the living room and are using it as a place to hang out in front of the fireplace as well as his bedroom.

We are trying to use all the livable space in the house and stay as warm as possible.  Luckily winter is short in San Diego.

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We are embarking on an adventure turning a boring little ranch house into a modern style remodel.

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