Friday, February 27, 2009

Footer Fetish

A good bit has happened this week. And today, if all goes as planned, it may actually start to look like a house is being constructed! On Monday, Bartley Corporation had to re-do some mud excavating work they did not properly do in the area way. They admitted their mistake and corrected that, at their expense, and finished placing the #57 crushed stone. The good folks at CIS had caught Bartley's mistakes and after they were fixed, CIS signed off on the soil stabilization. That cleared Bartley to set the forms and pour the footers for the foundation. On Thursday, Huntley Nyce Associates came to do the brick pointing. Today Bartley is scheduled to set the foundation forms and pour the foundation. See the progress:

This is the area way that clearly had not been properly cared for per the engineer's instructions; mother earth eventually would have won this water battle if this hadn't been fixed before the footers were poured:
Brick points:

Brick point close-up:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

No River Too Deep

On Thursday, Bartley's team was back on the lot to start scraping the 6" of mud. They finished the mud scraping and removal on Friday then laid the geotextile material. Truck after truck backed into our driveway to dump the first deliveries of #57 crushed stone from the Loudoun Quarry of Chantilly Crushed Stone. Using a Bobcat, they moved the stone from the construction entrance into the excavated pit, covering the entire area with approximately 4" of stone. On Monday, the crew will return, and more trucks will deliver much more stone, and they'll sling the stone from the trucks into the excavated pit for a total of 18" of stone to mitigate mother nature's high water table in this area.

When looking at the pictures, you can see the grey markings around the side of the excavated area. I stopped at the lot today on my way to the gym, to check on Bartley's progress, and Tim Gary - the Vice President of CIS Engineering - our soils consultant, happened to stop by at the same time I was there. He explained to me that the grey markings show there was a river that went through our lot and that's the sediment that was deposited at the bottom of the river. He was a super nice guy and extremely knowledgeable. You don't think about how water moves underground, but it clearly does. It's not confined to streams, rivers, lakes and the ocean, but Mother Earth is moving water all the time, right under our feet.

There's still a little bit of water showing in some areas, but there's no stone in those areas yet either. I'm guessing that Bartley noticed water seeping from the side walls of the excavated area and they decided to let it collect in spots order to pump the water out on Monday, scrape some more mud, then add the stone to ensure stability. The good news is that water level was below the 4" of stone that surrounded it and when there's another 14" of stone, we're confident that the water will remain well below the footers and foundation of the house. That's the goal!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Yes, Virginia, There is Such a Thing as Green Power in Virginia

Today I received an email from Dominion Power telling me that my latest power bill was on-line for viewing (I switched from paper statements a long time ago). The first sentences of the email said, "Your Dominion online statement is now available. You have the power to choose renewable energy! Click here to sign up or learn about your Green Power options." Very cool - I had to check it out.

This is a voluntary program from Dominion Virginia Power that allows customers to support renewable energy. While it the power provided to my condo won't necessarily be renewable energy, it does mean that the 1.5 cent per kilowatt-hour extra charge allows the power company to purchase renewable energy certificates.

I did some calculations and it would cost just over $5 per month more for this green option -- it's a no-brainer! I'm signing up.

According to the charts on their website, this is what my choosing renewable energy translates to, based on our 4,368 kWh usage in the past 12 months:
  • 82,241 Pounds of Carbon Dioxide Emissions Avoided
  • 37.35 Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide Emissions Avoided
  • 6.88 is the Equivalent Number of Automobiles Removed from the Road (In terms of greenhouse gas emissions avoided)
  • 81,565 Equivalent Miles of Automobile Emissions Avoided (In terms of greenhouse gas emissions avoided)
Does your state have a similar program? If you're in Virginia, check out these links for more details:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Swamped, Scraped, Crushed, Ouch


In the past week, we watched that little bit of ground water that you saw in last week's pictures start to rise throughout the entire excavated lot. See for yourself:

The ground along the sides of the lot have settled into the excavated area in some areas, which will require re-pouring of some deck pier footers. We were frustrated by this since Bartley - the excavator and concrete company - plans to charge us again to re-do this work. But they were the ones who took the risk of digging the deck piers before excavating for the house. We're not the excavation experts, they are. So when there was a problem based on their decision, why should we have to pay the cost for it?


As reported last week, we had to hire a soils consultant to look at the lot and make a recommendation that will allow us to proceed with the construction. The best option was to pump the ground water out, scape 6" of mud out, haul that mud away, and then put down a geotextile matting and then 18" of stone on top. 12" for water avoidance & stability + the 6" of depth for the scraped-away mud = 18" of stone.


18" of #57 crushed stone across the size of our excavated area translates to 205 tons. That's more than the empty weight of a Boeing 747 aircraft. The stone will go into our scraped, excavated pit. It then will be compacted. As I understand it, this stone serves two purposes: 1) along with the geotextile, it will create the necessary stability for the footers of the house; 2) it will provide a drain plane for the ground water, allowing the water to stay away from our foundation. That's a great thing.


We expected to run into some challenges and additional expenses while constructing this house, and this sure is an expensive one. We're trying to find ways to save money on this, but the extra $12,000 hit on our budget is not very welcome. Maybe we can do without a roof on the house to cover this extra cost?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I've Always Wanted Waterfront Property

We can't say we weren't warned. Our neighbors had warned us that the City of Falls Church has a high water table, so we planned accordingly with our home design - no expense spared on waterproofing, sump pumps, etc. The one major concern we still had with construction was the fear of the unknown when they start digging - the high water table being at the forefront of our minds. As you can see from these photos, and as determined by the city inspector, there is too much ground water on our lot to simply pour the footers for the house. Also, the soil was too soft in that area. Bartley's crew already had set up the forms for the footers, so that all had to be undone. The good folks at Bartley had a soils engineer on our lot within an hour and he recommended two possible solutions, with one being a far superior one. Needless to say, that's the option we're going with. A geotextile will be installed to provide stability to the soil, then 12 inches of stone will be poured on top of that. This will provide a strong enough base to pour the footers and provide an excellent drainage field for water underneath our entire basement. Yes, it's adding several thousand dollars to the budget, but it raises our confidence that the house will be nice and dry in the basement, which is worth the investment. Hopefully they'll be able to continue work in the next day or so, so the footers can be poured and inspected, then on to the foundation!

The Big Dig

Bartley Corporation, who is doing a lot of the early work for us including excavation and pouring the footers and foundation, started the Big Dig this week! The construction project finally is starting to seem real! See for yourself:

A special thanks to Mrs. Brown who owns the house & lot on the north side of our property (the old house that's for sale) since she gave us permission to use her backyard to store the dirt that's excavated. We'll repay that favor by removing the branches/debris from the trees that have accumulated at the back of her lot over the years, which will improve the appearance of her property.

We're just hopeful that our Big Dig isn't as expensive or fraught with problems like the city of Boston's Big Dig!!!

A Sign of the Times

The professionals who have helped us through this project so far have been absolutely wonderful, amazing, patient, and helpful. This is definitely a team project - we couldn't do it without them. Several have marketing signs in our front yard, which we're proud to display:

Earthcraft - the green program our house will be certified under
Mike Terpak with Access National Bank - our lender.
Aaron Holmes with Cornerstone Building Services - our general contractor.

If you are building, we recommend EarthCraft and Cornerstone. If you need financing, we recommend that you call Mike.