Feb 7, 2011

If you think politicians are dirty, you should meet our sewer line.

Having a concrete slab for a floor and no basement is a great thing. No floods when it rains, no damp or musty smell. We knew the house had been vacant for at least 6 months which can always cause problems with the plumbing. Not to mention the house had the same pipes for the last 50+ years. To be on the safe side we decided to have a plumber come by and run a camera down the sewage pipe to check for any problems. We discovered the cast iron pipe (which is no longer used on newer homes) had not only corroded but had broken and collapsed in several spots. Sewage from the house was leaking into the ground in our front yard. Fabulous! Instead of digging up the pipes and repairing them we decided it was a better idea to bypass the whole system altogether and lay brand new pipes from the inside of the house all the way to the city hook up at the street. This way we knew they were done correctly with all new material and they would last longer. The only problem was we had to open up the concrete floor. That would be the downside of buying a house on a 4.5" thick concrete slab! With a huge concrete saw, some shovels and a sledge hammer we busted it all up.

This was the section of floor that was between the bathroom and the kitchen. You can see the pipes that were used for the bathtub, the bathroom sink and the kitchen sink.

The large brown pipe on the right is part of the sewer connection coming from the upstairs 1/2 bathroom. The small brown pipe sticking up out of the ground next to the orange bucket was is the sewer pipe from the downstairs bathroom. This is about to become a very messy job!

Under the concrete slab was a series of terracotta blocks (stacked in upper right corner of this picture). These were installed by the builder as a way to somehow distribute heat from the forced air furnace. It failed miserably. In fact after to speaking to some of our neighbors, we found out the builder was successfully sued over their faulty design. Anyway we had to go through the terracotta blocks to get the ground underneath. As you can see in the picture, when it rains it makes a nice muddy pool of water under the house.

After experimenting with the little section by the sewer pipe we moved on to what will be our master bathroom. In order to put in all new pipes we had to break more floor!

And more floor…

And dig deeper (here’s another shot of the original pipes)…

Finally, we hit ground and removed all the pieces of concrete and terracotta. This excavation will house the master bathroom drain lines.

In order to direct the new pipes out of the house and down into the city sewer line we had to cut s channel through to the front of the house. So...we busted up the floor in the master bedroom!

All the way to the front wall of the house.

We dug deeper and deeper to make sure we had the correct down slope on the pipe from the house to the street.

We hired a couple guys to come out with some shovels and equipment and dig up the front yard since this was a pretty massive excavation.

First they had to get below the foundation to meet the giant hole we made inside the house.

There it is!

They then had to dig a trench from the front of the house all the way down to the city hook up. Here’s Kevin standing in the trench; we were laying pipe inside while the guys finished the trench outside. In the background, you can see the new PVC sewer line protruding out the bottom of the trench.

Once they got to where the original pipes meet the city hook up they had to dig WAY down until we found where the pipes connected.

They maxed out the arm of the backhoe at around 9 ft. This is where the pipe was supposed to be. It was nowhere in sight...darkness was closing in.

So they lowered one of the workers down the hole, and he continued to dig by hand, searching for the water and sewer line. To give you an idea of how deep the hole actually is…the black sneakers on the right of the picture are at yard level. The grey sneakers at the top of the picture are 4 feet below that, in the trench. The guy in the white t-shirt is almost 6.5 feet below that.

Finally – after a whole afternoon of digging up our front yard, we found it! Yeah...there's poop in there. Eww!

Here is shot of the mess we made of the yard from across street.

Next we dug out the soil in the shape of the new bathroom pipes and filled the bottom with gravel. The gravel will help us make sure we have the right amount of slope on each pipe so that the "water" will run smoothly out of the house.

Here are the new pipes. The shower is on the left and the toilet is on the right. The pipe headed toward the lower left is the bathroom sink and the pipe headed toward the lower right is going to the kitchen and what will be the junction of pipes to the upstairs. The pipe that disappears under the concrete heads out of the house in our new trench.

Here’s another angle. The bathroom sink pipe is on the right and the pipe on the left is headed to the kitchen where the old nasty pipes in the first few pictures came up.

Here’s the new sewer pipe running through the master bedroom and out the front of the house.

Back at the giant hole in our front yard Kevin and his dad attached a new PVC pipe to the existing city pipe.

Here you can see the new sewer pipe (the large white one on the right) and the new water line (thin black pipe on the left). The shut off valve from the city connection to the house is located where the pipe is sticking out of the ground at the bottom of the picture.

Here’s the new pipe running through our trench, now connecting the house pipes to the city pipes. Yay!

Here is the new sewer pipe leading to where the upstairs bathroom will be. Next to it is the new water pipe and hose bib. Both of these pipes will be inside the wall separating the kitchen from the mud room.

With the hard part out of the way we filled in the trenches in the concrete slab with all the busted terracotta and concrete.

On top of the broken concrete and dirt we placed a layer of plastic sheeting as a vapor barrier to keep moisture away from the concrete. We placed wire mesh on top of the vapor barrier then drilled and pinned rebar into the old slab around the perimeter. The rebar is used to tie the new concrete in with the old and ensures a strong hold.

We did the same things for the trench in the master bedroom.

We also filled in the trench and the giant hole in the front yard.

Time to call the concrete people! Kevin knocked off some of the sheeting and they pulled the truck right up to the house and in through the front wall. This saved us about 98743957 trips with a wheelbarrow!

We filled the trenches with concrete…and Carson (Dad's Golden Retriever) helped tremendously by supervising the job.

Using 2x4’s and trowels we smoothed out the wet concrete to make sure it was perfectly level with the original concrete.


After smoothing and leveling it out it was time to let it dry. Within 24 hours it’s usually dry enough to walk on. The inside layers of the concrete cure over time and within 30 days it’s strong enough to park a truck on it. We didn’t test that theory though.

All dry! In fact it looks like we never busted it up in the first place. Go team!

The sewer and water line replacement took a lot of hard work and was a very time consuming project we didn’t anticipate. It was a great experience though! One that we never want to do again. Ok, let's be honest...I think it was a great experience because KEVIN and his Dad busted the majority of the concrete and dug 95% of the indoor trenches! Next, we'll show you some major progress with the roof and rear dormer!

Feb 3, 2011

Working from the inside out and the outside in.

Throughout the last 8 months we’ve been working on the exterior of the house simultaneously with other projects. Parts of the foundation, bottom plate, and exterior walls were in pretty bad shape due to weather, ground erosion, termites and various other things over the past 50+ years. Here are a group of pictures showing some of the work we did last summer and into the fall. There are a slew of more recent pictures of the exterior but I can’t post them yet because we completed a couple major projects while we worked on the outside. I don’t want to ruin the excitement! Therefore the posts dedicated to the two largest and most time consuming parts of our home transformation… are coming soon!

Here you can see the damage to the bottom of the rear wall. It looks like our siding was eaten away.

This is the front corner of the house under the living room windows. After removing a few bushes from the side of the house we discovered this entire section of wall was actually missing! You can also see where some of the neighborhood termites had previously stopped in for a bite to eat.

We dug a small trench around the perimeter of the house to keep the dirt away from the foundation. We then cut off the bottom 2 feet of wall, exposing the bottom plate and the brick. The bottom plate is a 2x4 that’s anchored to the brick by a series of long bolts. The vertical studs of the exterior walls are then nailed to the bottom plate.

We removed the bottom plate and pulled the bricks out in order to repair the damage and re-secure the exterior walls to the foundation. Here you can see the bolts that are used to secure the bottom plate. Kevin took this opportunity to show off his brick laying skills J

Here you can see where we placed aluminum flashing on top of the bricks. The bottom plate was then laid on top of the flashing and secured with the bolts. The flashing helps keep water from entering our house.


This is a front corner of the house where we also did some repairs. Here you can also see the edge of the concrete slab that the house sits on.


The bottom 2 feet of wall was removed from the front of the house as well. This took place in the beginning when we really thought we could salvage some of the walls. Not too long after this did we decide it was better to just replace everything.


This rear corner is where the master bathroom will be. At this point we had removed the windows in this room and we’re replacing the outside corner with plywood.


Here’s a better picture of the same corner. The left side still has the original siding and windows.


Here’s the back of the house. The dark brown you see here was the original sheeting. It was more like old crumbly cardboard then anything solid. We re-sheeted the house with plywood (shown on the left corner here).


Since we were altering and replacing the exterior walls we had to put up temporary walls inside to hold up the weight of the house.


The driveway side of the house is pictured here and shows both old and new things.


We removed all the windows in the house and built new walls in their place. Here is the corner of the kitchen.



We removed the living room windows and replaced those walls as well.


My comments are going to become repetitive with all these old and new walls so here are just a few more pictures.


Enough of the old walls – here are some NEW walls! Yay! This is the back corner of the master bathroom.


Here’s the new rear wall in the kitchen.


Here are the new walls in the master bedroom.


One more picture of the back of the house.

The next few posts will be more exciting because now we move on to the new water and sewer line – and – the rear roof dormer! Woohoo!