Monday, July 06, 2015

Summer Camp Projects Part I

20 ton of crushed stone isn't as much as you think
Thus far, the summer and late spring for that matter, have been consumed by projects on the camp. I've got a busy schedule and long list of things that I need to get completed before the end of the summer. A very long list indeed.

If we look back at where the overall project left off last year, I'd basically gutted and rebuilt the inside of the camp, an 18 x 24' one room dwelling with a small bathroom. The camp had sat on nine cement posts which were sunk anywhere from two to three feet into the ground and then cross braced back to the camp and each other with steel. This was by no means ideal and although it had kept the camp intact for over 30 years, it didn't look very study or appealing. We knew that going in. I'd planned to just redo the footing but after talking to a friend about a full foundation, we decided to go that route.

Applying the foundation sealer
So, last September he started on the job of lifting the camp and excavating under it, then pouring footings and pad and blocking up walls. The front would be walkout and we would pour a pad under the deck so we'd have dry, clean area for entry. The though was that the project would only take a few weeks but like all contractors everywhere, schedules don't always reflect reality when trying to balance jobs, the weather and everything else. The result was that the foundation didn't get finished until November and a number of tasks didn't get completed before the snow set in.

Backfill form for stone
The first of those tasks was the waterproofing of the foundation via a thick tar seal on the outside, below grade. Then a proper backfill with crushed rock and sloping perimeter drainage and final backfill, compaction and landscape to grade with topsoil. Because we hadn't gotten everything done last year, we agreed with the contractor that I would finish off the remaining projects, which meant a little cost savings for us, so to speak.

Luckily we had a crazy dry spring season and I was able to get started outside early on. I borrowed my brother's John Deere tractor with bucket and back-hoe and started excavating. I planned to use lots of crushed rock around the foundation and in the drainage system as the camp sits on the side of a mountain with springs right behind it.When it rains, it pours so to speak and I wanted to get the foundation dry, which it mostly was, before we hit the inevitable rainy part of the season. I also wanted to see how well the basement did with moisture given that the plan was, and still is, to build it out into a master bedroom and bath. We never had water even in the wettest times but we did have moisture and condensation from humidity. Face it, basements are damp by nature due to the fact that they are underground, made of porous concrete and are generally below air temperature.

That should drain now
The excavation went well once I gained better confidence with the back-hoe. I also excavated around the cement pad sides and put in perimeter drainage across the front, tying into the side drainage trenches which ran sloping down from the back of the base of the foundation at the back of the camp out the front and across the lawn. In the base I laid some crushed rock and then perforated drainage pipe with a soil sock around it to keep dirt from plugging it back up. Along the foundation I back filled with crushed rock all but the final six inches. The same around the pad and four the drainage ditched I put one to two feet of crush with soil over the top. All told, I went through 20 tons of 1.5" crushed rock, roughly 17 yards or a full 10 wheel dump truck load and truth be told, I could have used a bunch more. I plan on at least one, possibly two more loads for additional drainage and the road. Thank goodness for the John Deere my brother graciously let me borrow.

Two of the three sides of the foundation sealed up very well. Putting the tar foundation sealer on is a pretty miserable job. It is thick and application with an acid scrub brush is tedious. Still, if the tar is warm it flows well. The sides in the sun worked great and dried well from the preparatory cleanup of dirt from them with the hose. The third side however was less a treat. It was the north side and got no sun. It was also a colder day out so the sealer was thicker and the moisture on the wall from cleaning did not want to dry. With the help of a fan blowing on it I finally got the wall dry enough to seal, though it was miserably difficult in comparison to the other sides. The schedule at that point was for some wet weather setting in so I wanted to finish up and back fill before that weather arrived, which luckily I did.

Clean and ready for sealer if it would dry
Then the weather started in earnest with regular rain showers and lots of them. Feast or famine and we were, and still are, definitely in feast mode. The back lawn if a swamp with the secondary spring to the north of the lot open and leaching water downhill. When time allowed though, I was able to go back and compact and re-grade, then seed and mulch everything. Fun job resulting in many blisters.

Another project a tackled was a small retaining wall built from PT 6x6". This was at the front north corner of the foundation, where the upcoming deck stair project would be going on. I used seven courses for the wall set on a bed of crushed rock and anchored back into the bank with dead man ties. Nothing fancy but it should be functional. All in all the project went fairly quickly and was pretty inexpensive and certainly cleans the area up a bunch.

Mid flight landing for the staircase
Before starting the new staircase from the pad, which will be the entry level, up to the deck and the front door, I wanted to secure the deck itself a bit. When they put the foundation in, they chopped the 4x4" uprights off and then simply toe-screwed them back in after the cement was done and the camp was set back down. I wanted more structural integrity so I pulled the deck rail uprights out as well as the posts and ran new PT 4x4" the entire length. Those three main upright posts were secured with lag bolts, screws and A braces to the main carrier beam across the front. They were also attached to the concrete. Additionally, for the side support of the staircase landing I added one more full length post to the side of the deck. I plan to add two more posts as well, on the house side, such that the posts are supporting the full load of the deck.

Finished for now
Once that was complete and I was satisfied that the deck was not going to fall down, I started my stair case. The design was to have a a 3x6' landing four feet off the ground with a flight of five stairs going up to it from the edge of the pad nearest the camp, at the retaining wall. I'd then run another flight of five stairs up to the existing deck's 4x6' addition that picks the staircase up from the top side of the lawn. Some simple geometry and a framing square a stair buttons made layout of the stair stringers easy and cutting them out with the circular saw was no problem. I have a super nice Makita circular saw that a buddy of mine got me. One of the most thoughtful gifts ever and much much appreciated. I cheaped out and reused the concrete footings from the camp supports we'd dug out when the foundation went in, for the footings on the two outer sides of the stair landing. It actually worked well, though wrangling the bulky chunks of cement into place by hand was a bit of a chore. Though the mental design process took many, many iterations, the staircase went quickly taking a couple of easy days to complete. I added top railings to match the existing deck but still plan to add a middle 2x4" on the railing uprights about 16" off the deck to dress it a bit. All in all though, the staircase makes a huge difference. I'm going to put landscape cloth then crushed rock around the base to help keep the area clean and dry as it is exposed to the elements. May throw some lattice around it as well but that is much lower on the list at the this point.

Steel roofing on the underside of the deck
Another project I'd thought about was a way to keep the cement pad under the deck dry. The easiest solution was to use metal roofing screwed to strapping on the bottom side of the deck joist. The deck already sloped away from the camp but I wanted a bit more pitch so I used strapping in various widths from back to front across the width of the underside of the deck. This gave me another 1.25" of pitch to the 10' run. With the help of brother the two of us were able to get the 10' x 38" wide sheets up, squared, tucked under the drip edge and screwed into place, barely. There were some sore arms after that day I'll tell you. The end result looked awesome and is more than functional, keeping the pad and my working area nice and dry despite the constant rain we've had.

Window cased and trimmed in PT
Most recently, I've turned my attention back to the foundation and sealing. Last week I sprayed the outside above grade down with a penetrating, clear, concrete water proofing liquid. The stuff is great, goes on quick and easy and penetrates well into the porous concrete, protecting and sealing it. A gallon did the entire outside of the foundation. I used a cheap, garden sprayer to apply it. I'm going to do the entire inside of the basement including the floor as well. It is still a bit damp so I need to wait until we get a good week of warm, dry weather to apply it there. I also patched and leveled a couple of imperfections in the corners of the floor caused by a dead power trowel. The contractor left the patch as well as the adhesive primer so the job was quick and easy. Once the concrete is sealed I plan to paint the walls to add some color and stain the floor with a concrete stain. Have not decided exactly what I'll do on the floors but am leaning toward raised under layment panels with a moisture resistant flooring over the top of that. Either than or I will just put ceramic tile down and an area rug over it. I'm going to leave the outside walls painted concrete as mentioned but will do PT divider walls with sealed V-groove pine likely.

Window cased and trimmed in PT
The other thing I finally finished up was to case the bulk of the basement windows in. I'd sealed and insulated them before and put jambs in all the casement, but had not trimmed them or the larger window. Because they are against concrete I used 1" finish grade PT for the trim. Finish grade meant I sorted through the pile at the Depot trying to find the best pieces I could. It actually came out fine and with some light whitewash stain they look pretty good. While I was at it last week I also patched in some cedar shingles around the front door, added new door casing to replace the old, ugly, chipped, painted stuff. I then stained it all to sort of match, sort of. This should buy me some time on the exterior trim and siding, which is also on the list to redo, just not yet.

As it currently sits
So that is where I am at the moment. A little down time spent back in MA for a couple of the final races of the season then back to it for the big push to get the plumbing moved, new full size water heater in and a permanent heat source in place. Also need an electrical sub-panel and then wire the entire basement, which I am going to do on the surface in conduit. That and the basement build out of course. Oh, and a few hundred feet of ditching, draining and backfill, not to mention the work on the driveway. It's going to be a busy second half for sure.