Not much happening at the moment

With the snow all the work has stopped and we are just waiting for things to warm up a little so we can continue.

In the mean time, have some pictures from the surrounding area.

Park at the end of the road

Looking towards Denman Island

Some of the neighbours

The local wharf

More neighbours


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Day 105 – Still working on the foundation

So we have concrete walls poured!

After we had our footings poured we expected the rest of the foundation to move along quickly. However the contractor we had hired decided to disappear. We attempted communication for a week, but he did not even return our phone calls.
At that point we decided to find someone else. After calling around for recommendations we talked to a new contractor who could get to work right after Christmas.

The new contractor started work on Dec 28th, worked until the 30th and resumed on January 2nd. I have to give him credit for working through the pounding rain. I was miserable just receiving a truck for a couple of hours in it. He poured the concrete on Friday Jan 6th.
I wanted to be there to take some pictures but he forgot to call me.
27 yards of concrete and 3 hours on a pumptruck later we finally have our foundation walls.

He left the forms in over the weekend and started to strip the the next Monday which took a couple of days.

Then we started to prepare all the work that happens before the floor slab goes in, interior perimeter drain, sewer runs and service ducts.
The plan was to lay out our pipes and ducts, then call for an inspection.
After that we fill with 3/4″ drainrock to the top of the footings, cover with fabric and then 2″ of compacted sand, lay down vapor barrier and finally 2″ of extruded polystyrene insulation.

Then it’s time to call another contractor who will place and finish the 4″ floor slab.

In the mean time we have a pile of precut joists and beams and prefabbed interior walls waiting to be assembled.

Starting on the formwork

The contractor working on his forms

Building up the wall forms, piece by piece

Poured foundation walls

Bracing the forms and working platforms

A view on the inside. Lots of bracing to hold the 10+ foot walls.

Prefabbed interior walls and floor joists. Wrapped up for protection from the elements.

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Day 81 – Meter Pole Installation

Early in the process we decided to use underground services for two reasons. Practical and esthetical. The practical reason is we avoid having to hang overhead wires through dense foliage, in the inevitable winter storm we minmize the chance of branches falling on the wires. It will still happen, but we cut down on the chance of it happening. The esthetic part is we get to keep a nice and clean roof line without an unsightly weatherhead hanging on the house.

To have the meter pole installed we called a local contractor called Addy Power pretty early on and got a quote. They seem to be the only game in town but the price was good. It took many phone calls to get their attention but once they gave me a date for the work it was done right away.

This is what I was met with when I arrived in the morning, a big red truck with a big auger on the end of a boom. The guys had already started to drill the hole for the pole.

Augering out hole for the meter poleAfter the hole was dug they cleaned off the auger, retracted it onto the boom and hoisted up the 25 foot meter pole.

25' pole with meter baseA very large part of the pole sits underground, compare the two photos.

Placed in holeThe view from the road. This was the last I saw of the work as I had to make my way into the office.

View from road

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Day 69 – Footings are poured

After several delays the concrete contractor finally got our footings poured.  The contractor delayed the inspection more than once and on one occasion I went to meet the building inspector at the lot and nothing at all had happened.
When I arrived the day of the pour was already a concrete- and a pump-truck waiting,  Graeme from Mayco gave us a good price on the concrete. The guys got to work quickly to pour the concrete.
The pour itself went very quickly, and before we knew it it was done and everyone had left. The whole thing didn’t take longer than a couple of hours.

Cutting rebar

Pump truck standing by

Pouring footings

Wet placing of rebar into footings

Some left over concrete being turned into stairs

We've got footings!

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Day 31 – More digging and cutting of some trees

Today the arborist came out and took care of the trees for us.
We decided to take out the Maple tree as it would be too close to the construction. Hopefully it can be processed and reused for something around the interior of the house

In the rear corner of the backyard sat a fairly large, dead cedar tree. Instead of cutting it down we decided to turn it into a “wildlife” tree. It entails cutting the top of to remove any danger it might pose and more of less just leaving it for birds and insects to move it.

This will be the backyard. You just need to imagine it with grass instead of mud.

On top of this we also topped and limbed a leaning Douglas Fir to remove any hazard it might post in the next storm.

After all this was done we got back to digging!
About 3 feet or so down into the ground we hit some fairly hard shale. The machine can break it apart easily depending on the angle you can get at it. It just takes a bit longer to get to the preferred depth.
We have marked the level we want to be on with green spray paint.

We also have a new construction driveway. We used the excavator to strip of the top 12″ of the soil and then proceeded to spread about 40 tons of pit run to prepare a driveway for the large delivery trucks which will be arriving within a few weeks.

Gratuitous excavator shot.

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Day 21 – Excavation

We finally got a chance to start the excavation today. We were originally slated to start a couple of days previous but delivery problems kept the machine from the lot until today. We missed a few beautiful sunny days and the rain was pouring the whole morning.

First thing we did was to tackle the old foundation. We dug around the walls and then just grabbed the concrete and pulled straight up. At first it seemed like it would fail again, but after some groaning the concrete let go in a thinner spot and snapped. After that it was much easier to get some leverage and break it apart piece by piece. Later on we will have to break it down further and dispose of in some way.

Demolishing the old foundation

Breaking it up into smaller pieces

All piled up.

With the old foundation out we were able to start the layout of the excavation. Before today I created an excavation plan, this was a version of the site plan with only the contours of the excavation showing. The plan also featured a few reference points and distances to all the corners from these points. This made the layout work relatively fast and easy.

Excavation layout

One problem with excavation is figuring out what do you with the surplus dirt. I put out an ad on craigslist advertising “free fill”. I found a property owner just five minutes away who wanted it and arranged to have it trucked away. This solved our problem and saved us some on trucking. To make sure we do not dig too deep we have rented a laser level. The level works in conjunction with a pole-mounted transponder. You calculate the depth you need from the head of the laser and place the transponded at the appropriate height. With this you can very simply place the pole at the bottom of the hole and know if you need to go down further. It is very important not to dig down further than you need.
With everything prepared we were able to put a shovel to the ground.

Breaking ground

Piling the dirt between the truck loads

Laser level

Digging deeper

A house-shaped hole

Dumptruck arriving for another load

End of day 21

And that is the end of todays work. We will be continuing next week.

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Day 1 – Clearing the land

Day 1

The plan for the day was to get most of the clearing done. We have rented a small Bobcat excavator and when we arrived in the morning it was waiting for us at the bottom of the lot. My brother-in-law will be operating the machine today. He’ll be much more efficient than I could hope to be.

The excavator makes quick work of the shrub, small firs and alders

About where the excavator is shown is where our rear deck will be.

The tools of the trade.

The old foundation proved tougher than expected. We’ll deal with it on the first day of excavation with a much larger machine. The small Bobcat couldn’t even budge it.

Old Hemlock log too heavy for the machine to move in one go. A couple of bucks with the chain saw makes it easier to move. Still a bit heavy though.

Not bad for a days work.

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The lot, untouched

This is what the lot looks like now, before we have taken various pieces of heavy machinery to it. It won’t stay this way much longer.

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Site Plan

We knew from the start that we did not want to bulldoze the lot and place the house wherever convenient. There are quite a few mature Cedar and Fir trees and we want to keep whatever we can. The placement of the house and accessory structures is decided mostly by the location of these larger trees.

Early in the process we decided to go for a “storey-and-a-half” design. Essentially a main floor half embedded in the ground as a walkout-basement and an upper floor. This will allow us to double our square footage without doubling our price. With the slope very well suited for this it was an easy decision to make.

The lower floor will contain the bedrooms and has a dedicated patio area serving the two main bedrooms.

The upper floor will have a nice sized deck as well as an enclosed porch. The main floor backs onto a lawn area which will be flattened and retained to make it level.

The house will have  a detached 2-car carport. We do not want an enclosed garage but have opted for a nice carport instead. There will be a small workspace and storage in an enclosed area in the rear of it.

Our zoning allows for a secondary suite, so we have a location planned for the future. We do not know when we will build it, but we are planning and providing early for it.  For this purpose we also had to allow enough room behind the house to allow equipment to move in the future.

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Finding a lot.

In mid July we started looking for a building lot.
Our criteria were:

  • Affordable price.
  • Enough space to have decent yard.
  • Nice and quiet neighbourhood.
  • Removed from, but easy access to the highway.
  • No Strata titles or Home Owners Associations.
  • Between mine and my wifes places of work, to make commuting shorter.

There were not many lots in our price range. Most were either in restrictive strata titles, too small, buildability issues such as creeks running through, too close to the highway or too far from our places of work.

The lot we finally chose to make an offer on we initially wrote off, but we kept coming back to it.
It is located in a mature subdivision, on a small peninsula in a rural unincorporated community called Fanny Bay.

The price was right, it had almost half an acre and nice neighbourhood which seems to be in a state of transition from older to newer, larger houses.
A freehold title, located mid-point between workplaces, beach-access 5 minutes away and the feeling of being on an island without the inconvenience sealed it for us.

We contacted the Realtor and made an offer in early August and to our surpise and delight the seller accepted our first offer. The real estate agent told us the sellers were an older couple who had owned the lot since the 1980′s and wanted to sell to someone who would build a house on it.

On Sep 30′th we close and the lot will be ours!

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