Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Camp Status

It has been some time since I've done an update on the status of our camp/cottage/cabin in Kirby, VT. Though it is the fall and we have been entrenched in CX season, progress has not halted. In the late summer Cathy and I though it might be neat to price out a little upgrade to the place and give it a full concrete foundation underneath. As you may have noticed, the camp was previously on concrete piers that may or may not have been all that sound. The reality is that the place is about 40 years old and was still standing, so the footings were probably OK.

That said, the support beams were sagging and the span between piers was way too wide. I'd done some initial work and then scrubbed the project, realizing instead the right fix would be to dig and pour all new footings, by hand, in the 2-4' of crawl space under the camp. If you have ever done that kind of work you will quickly understand that the thought of it would absolutely stink.

As mentioned, I turned my attention inside for the summer instead and gutted and re-did it all, or at least all most all. The results were pretty dramatic IMHO and we were blown away by what we were left with. So much so, that we started wondering what it would cost to jack the place up, excavate and then put a walkout basement under it. We came up with a number that we were comfortable spending and then started talking to friends and family, who thought that the number may not be that crazy. May not be that crazy because I happen to have a good friend from high-school, Bruce Cushman (who is also my sister in law's brother) who is a mason and does foundations as well as this exact type of work. I gave Bruce a call and he stopped by to take a look.

To our delight, the number he came in with was pretty darn close to what we'd come up with and so after not much discussion, we agreed and work began. The camp and deck were braced up on three very large (12") and very long beams. The beams were actually just logs that had been faced off with a chainsaw on site. Level footing was dug in multiple points under each beam and large scale hydraulic jacks were placed under the beams on cribbing. Then the jacks were raced in synchronization while cribbing was placed under the beams as you went through the jack's stoke. When the jack reached it's limit your simply crib right up to the beam then back the jack off, place more cribbing under it and start over again. It's actually quite simple and is the process my dad and I used when we replaced one of the support beams this past spring.

Once the camp was raised high enough, which was about 3' higher than it had been sitting, Bruce went in and excavated underneath with his Kubota tractor. We decided to do a complete walkout basement with a concrete slab and frost-walls and then a concrete block wall. This was easier and cheaper and should still be completely fine and water tight if drained correctly. We also decided to pour a full floating reinforced concrete pad under the deck so we could have that as usable space. The plan is to put roofing sloped toward the front to pitch rain that comes through the deck and keep the space under the deck dry. We also thought about framing the space in as a screen porch. Will see as that is a project for next summer, after a couple of other projects.

Through the course of the early fall the excavation was completed, the forms went in, the frost-walls were poured, the walls were laid and the slabs were poured. In NEVT, it was a fairly wet fall. Our place is off a gravel road, up a steep hill with a narrow, long and twisty driveway. Getting cement up in there meant getting a mixer up in there. Cement mixers are big and really, really heavy when especially when loaded with 20,000 pounds of cement. Needless to say, on the trip up to deliver cement for the pad under the deck, the six wheel drive, eight wheel truck had some issues and got stuck near the top. It also slid sideways and pretty much wedged itself. Cement has a shelf life and needed to be unloaded. Fortunately the tractor and bucket were there to transport to the actual site. I've never seen a tractor move back and forth so quickly but it did, and Bruce got the cement to the pad while his crew leveled it out.

Once all of the cement work was complete and the camp was set back down on the PT sills of it's new foundation, it was time for me to do my part. That was to frame in the walkout and install a door and a couple of big windows for lots of light. I decided to frame it with 2x6" wall and just went with PT for the whole thing rather than only using PT where it contacted the cement. This all worked really well with the help of my brother Chad and we knocked most of the framing off in a few hours on his day off from the barber shop, then the door and windows went in the next evening. I'd finished the framing and sheathing by myself earlier that day. The place was really starting to look good.

A couple of weeks back I spend some time up there and got the septic plumbing squared away as well. Nothing too complex but the main stack, which was now all new in the basement, had never had a vent. Actually, the old system did have a vent on the sink drain tee, right into the camp. I'd capped that thinking I'd take a chance with a hard flush siphoning my p-traps and venting gas (methane from the septic system which like all natural gas is highly flammable, and smelly) into the camp over knowing I was venting gas into the camp.

With a little research I found these neat one way plumbing valves which although not to code, should do the trick. They allow air into a system while not letting back gasses escape out into the area. I replaced the 1.5" cap on the existing vent with one of the one way caps and then plumbed a 2" vent into the main stack itself. The right fix of course is to run the 3" main stack right up through the roof and vent it outside. I'm too lazy to cut a big home in the roof right now though. Anyhow, it is fixed and has clean-outs and p-traps galore. The wonders of PVC and PVC cement.

So that's it. I've done a number of other small projects including putting a new wood stove to replace the old, oversized Jotul system. This stove is a nice, air-tight glass front with catalytic converter and re-circulation that is relatively efficient. It was also on sale at Lowes for $389 from $599 so was a HUGE score. I still have a bunch of work to do in order to finish and trim the casement windows and button the foundation up but given that had nothing underneath it for the previous years of it's life, it is way better off than it was. It is also way more stable. Turns out the footing it was on before were only down a couple of feet. That means the frost had it's way with the place. Amazing that the doors and windows ever opened and that it didn't fall over. This was certainly the right call.

I've still got my work cut out for me and the list is huge for next year. I plan to re-side it as it really needs to be done. Much of the trim on the outside needs help as well. I also have to move all of the plumbing fixtures, the pump, water heater and storage tank into the basement. While I'm at it I plan to get rid of the water heater in favor of an on demand propane system. I also plan to install a direct vent heating system in the basement so we can keep the place active for winter use. Right now we have to drain the pipes for the winter and throw antifreeze in the p-traps, which we did last week. The other thing that I need to do is throw in an electrical sub-panel in the basement, that way I can wire the basement as well.

It never ends but progress is being made. Hopefully next year will yield huge changes. The best thing is that to date, we are as far as we are concerned still ahead of the game in terms of this property versus some other properties we have seen, even with what we spent on the interior renovations and the foundation. Will see where we end up when it is all said and done but the bottom line is that we love the place and it is ours.


Paulba said...

Nice work Mike. Very impressive stuff with the foundation. I can't imagine working up the nerve to do something like that!!

Regarding the neat vent things, aka "Air Admittance Valves", which I have used myself at least 3 times now, the better kind (~$20, usually white) are code, provided they're used correctly--it's the cheap ($5, usually black) ones that are not code and are really only for RVs. That said, I've used both. Regardless of which type you get, the most important thing is that they not be buried in the wall. For one thing, they do fail after 5+ years and need to be easily accessible. The other thing is there isn't much available air in a closed stud bay! So if you put them in the wall there should be a louvered access panel.
That reminds me of the big difference btwn. the two types: the cheap ones fail OPEN, potentially leaking the poisonous gases into living space, whilst the better ones fail closed, just causing slow draining.

Lastly, I don't blame you one bit for not wanting to do the 3" stack vent thru the roof yet. These projects wear on you and you can't do everything at once. I'd do the same thing as you, and maybe fix it right some time down the road -- maybe when they start failing in 10 years or whatever.

Good work as usual, I love to see these posts!

mkr said...

Thanks for the info. Excellent and good to know. I used the $20 valves, from Home Depot which works with 1.5" or 2".

I may look at a correct vent next summer, depending how far I get on the other projects. Little by little!

Paulba said...

Good deal. I have no idea why, but I <3 plumbing.

I'm sure all will work fine for years to come even if it isn't installed next summer. Whenever it is, I'll look forward to seeing the post!

All the Best,