Monday, March 28, 2011

Foundation, part I

So if digging a giant hole in our backyard didn't make this project feel serious, building the foundation with our very own hands sure did.

I guess that I should note that pretty much all of us on Sunset Hill are developing our handy (wo)man skills on-the-job. The extent of my own natural abilities in this department were probably best expressed through my job of moving concrete blocks from point A (the backyard) to point B (inside the foundation). Others, however, tackled head-on the challenge of building our foundation DIY-style, and with much success.

Here was our crew for the day:

Dave (blue sweatshirt and glasses), aka "Angel Sent From God Above" is a mason and father of 3 kids, two of whom are in Will's after school program at the Banneker Community Center. When he heard what we were doing, he offered to come and show us the way. He said he did it for "God points", of which I am happy to be a recipient. Other willing laborers (from left to right) included Huck, Guff, Carrie, Angel David and his 3 kids, Nate, and Will. Not pictured are Tim, Kristen, and myself.

So, on with the show...

Dave got us started with the first corner of the foundation:

Tim and Guff engaged in some problem solving:

Will took on the job of cutting blocks:

Nate and Tim mixed the mortar:

Hold on. Let's just pause for a second here.

This is Nate.

He likes to tell people that he's from Greene County. What you can't see in this picture is that his navel was showing for most of the day, which was pretty much only in the 40s. Nate is a friend via Young Life. Despite his shirt, he's been a big help in the project. He also works at Lowe's and must have sensed that someone was aimlessly wandering the aisles during a recent solo trip I took there. In my moment of despair Nate appeared from the sky (w/ a short sleeve shirt on) and saved the day. Before I knew it my car was loaded (not by me, by Nate) and I was on my way.

Our friend Huck was probably MVP of the day. He was really into this gig as a first-time mason and by the end everyone was looking to him for advice. He pretty much completed the first wall all on his own:

Carrie wasn't about to let the boys have all the fun and fame, so she jumped in to take over the detail work. By the end, she was laying block better than the rest of em' (sorry guys):

Kevin, inspired by Carrie's can-do spirit, picked up a power tool for the first time EVER in his life:

He loved it so much that he even picked up another one!

Will and Dave were doing their thang...

And by the end of the 1st day of the foundation project, we ended up with this:

Actually, the group worked way past sundown that first day and ended up almost finishing the first 3 walls. Smells of yummy food lead our weary bodies across the yard to the Blue House where a scrumptious meal made by Josh, Sam and Kristen awaited us.

Next up, Foundation, part II...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Excavation, Part I

Second project: Excavation, Part I

Well, I think we can say we're officially initiated into the full-of-surprises World of Home Remodeling.

Our first major project was excavation. Jeffro/Jethro (haven't quite figured out which one it is) and his boss Ollie (don't know his name either, but Jeffro/Jethro calls everyone, including his boss, by this name) dug a giant hole on the backside of our home over spring break. Here he is tearing up our back porch. Upon finishing he said "ur back purch's run!" (translation: your back porch is ruined!):

Although there were several surprises along the way, most of which are probably only interesting to us, the most notable was the discovery of an old, abandoned septic tank:

For any fans of Lost out there, you can only imagine our excitement during the first few seconds before realizing what this actually was.

We quickly determined that it wasn't our fate to go down the hatch, however, so Will called the folks we were pretty sure were meant to:

At the end of the week, we had a nice, big hole on which will eventually stand a mudroom and attic bedroom:

Between tearing down the back porch and digging a giant hole, I'd say it was a pretty productive spring break week.

Next up: Excavation, Part II

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Well, we're expanding. Our house, that is.

Our house maybe wasn't made to accommodate all the life it now sustains: 3 humans, 2 dogs, 1 cat, bi-weekly community dinners, and a gardening/beer-brewing/food preservation and creation operation. The local lore is that our odd gravel street of identical bungalows (circa 1930) once housed workers who labored in the quarry that is now a 1/2 mile long medical complex. When we first bought it, it seemed giant compared to the 3-bedroom shotgun we were living in. I think we'll miss our home-as-is. But we also love Sunset Hill and want this to be the place we call home indefinitely.

Thankfully we only have to add a small addition and will expand the rest of our new space into the original footprint of the house...the unused attic. We're aiming to do most of it ourselves with the generous help of friends and Sunset Hillbillies. The same approach was taken with the blue Feltigan home and it worked out perfectly.

First project: Back Porch removal

This is our back porch. We saved the original, rusted thermostat nailed to the inside of the middle post.

James, Josh and Will were the three willing laborers.

Josh is a happy worker.

I thought it would be funny to take a picture of James while he was taking a picture because this is something he would typically do to me.

Will/Wario taking down the last piece of plywood ceiling.

Down she goes.

A job well done.

Next up: Excavation....