My experiences in building a breathtaking home for as little money as possible.
Friday, January 28, 2011
3. Breaking Ground
With the plans approved, it was time to start building. Now, I had not exactly been idle while waiting for the approval process. I had hired a road grader to cut in a looped driveway through the property and compact a deep layer of gravel onto it. Eventually the driveway will be concrete, but in the meantime a couple of years worth of construction vehicles rolling over it should compress the roadbed nicely. The driveway crosses a full-time creek, so I built a bridge over it. For this, I used an aluminum box-culvert kit from Contech Construction Products, which took me about a week to install, working alone.
All this was pre-recession, and I was still in pretty good shape financially. My Marine Aquarium program was the most popular screensaver in the world at that time, and it was providing a steady income. The point is that I was not as frugal as I could have been when we started construction (as my wife is always eager to remind me). I hired a General Contractor who was known for extremely high-quality homes. If I had it to do over again, I might have acted as my own General Contractor, but being new to the state I was unsure how things are done in Oregon, which sub-contractors to trust, etc. I'd heard some horror-stories, and was more comfortable with someone else riding herd on all the subs. (I ended up with a horror-story of my own, but more about that later.)
It was exciting to finally break ground. Giant earth-moving machines were digging out for the basement, and it was DEEP! The theater has 3 levels of stadium seating, and the lowest one is 5 feet deeper than the rest of the basement. Then we had to dig even deeper for foundations and drainage pipes. The primary excavation contractor was an amazing fellow who had lost the use of his legs in a accident a few years before. Undaunted, he rigged hand controls in all his machines. He would park his truck beside an excavator, use his well-developed arms to make the long climb up into the cab, and for the rest of the day he would move mountains.
Also during this time I was having an electric line installed from the street to the building site. This consisted of a large junction box at the street, a cable which was plowed 4 feet into the ground, a meter and huge transformer near the house. I'm glad I went underground, as there won't be any visible wires.
Now we were ready to start work on the foundations.
Here's the model on the freshly excavated house pad.
Wouldn't it be nice if I could just sprinkle some water on it and have it grow to full-size? :)