grumpy about the construction project (let the big dig begin)

GAAAAAAAAAAHHH!! It’s time to panic because we really, really, really, really started this whack-a-doodle renovation thing today!

See that dark space between the garage on the left and the unattractive brick and clapboard structure on the right? That’s what we call our breezeway, and that’s what we’re filling with house (i.e., more unattractive structure).


Here’s a from-the-front-yard view of the breezeway:


A breezeway can be a nice thing, but you can see why we don’t care too much about losing this one. Somehow we just fill it with rubbish.

Here’s what it looks like cleared:


There was a steep flagstone stepway coming down the hill from the breezeway to the back yard. We knew the foundation and demolition crews would be a rough horde with much heavy work to do and powerful equipment, so we decided to pull those flagstones out ourselves in an unshattered form.

Here’s what they looked like before we pulled them up:

IMG_9222 IMG_9224 IMG_9223

And what it looked like after two or three hours of labor:


A bunch of dirt waiting to erode.

By the way, when I say “we,” I actually mean “me.” For the past two weeks Anthony has been saying we should put this particular bit of manual labor off until the last day or two before the foundation guys come. Then two days before the foundation guys came, Anthony had a massive gout attack in a knee. It was so bad he couldn’t even drive himself to work. He’s walking like an injured zombie.

Nice timing, mate.

I had to move the flagstones by myself yesterday. The bigger ones weigh anywhere between 30 and 100 pounds. I could lift and carry them up to about 60 pounds, depending on their shape — down the hill to the edge of the woods, about 30 or 40 paces, where I pieced together a rough little edge wall along a bit of shade garden we maintain there. But there were about a dozen enormous pieces that I simply couldn’t lift without doing some damage to myself. I levered them up with a shovel, and then depending on their shape I would roll them on an edge, or plop them end over end, or duck walk them zig-zag style, pausing frequently to catch my breath from the enormous effort. Each of these huge pieces took about 5 minutes to move to their new homes.

Based on estimated average weights, I calculate (conservatively) that I moved about 1600 pounds of flagstones. It was a great work out. Sort of like a prison boot camp. Or maybe some paleo thing. A good reminder that I never, ever want to be a caveman again. Forward, humans! Embrace the evolutionary path forward.

Right. This morning, the foundation crew showed up. With equipment.



Power tools are the answer to paleo.

The guy in charge of the foundation crew is named John. I think. All these contractor guys have monosyllabic names that blend together in my mind. John is a gruff, friendly fellow with a lot of facial hair and a can-do attitude. Perfect.

His crew jackhammered the concrete that I had cleared of junk, and somebody with stronger muscles than me carried those chunks of concrete to the big truck.


I wanted to give some of this equipment a go soooo bad. But I only got to watch. Here are a couple quick snaps I took from my kitchen window, which abuts the breezeway:



I was just a few envious feet from that digger as it scooped inexorably at the dirt, wreaking a small and precise devastation.

These guys were meticulous, clean, and fast, plus they had the right equipment. In the time it took me to carry 1600 pounds of flagstones away, this crew jackhammered and removed the concrete slab, dug down for the new foundation, and leveled the crawl space floor:


The photo doesn’t convey it well — that’s a level dirt slab about 5 feet below the level of the concrete that used to be there. They didn’t do any damage to the existing structures. Very cool.

My kids were a bit freaked out by the show. They stayed on the other side of the house watching a SpongeBob movie in our haven bedroom (because I’m that sort of classy mom). We could still hear the men screaming at each other over the roar of the generator and tractors, but it didn’t sound like the house was breaking. Nick and Jesse crawled up onto the kitchen counters and stared out the windows for a bit. Nick banged on the windows trying to distract the guy with the jackhammer, and Jesse got an instant little-girl crush on one of the crew guys, a youngish fellow with Australian beach bum curls:


I don’t know what happens tomorrow, but I know that Jesse hopes blondie comes back.

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