Starting to fill

Starting to fill

Following our back porch and garage demo, Sarah cleared a path in the back yard and last Friday the dumpster was delivered for all the debris. Unfortunately, even with careful loading and help from Dean we couldn’t fit everything in. Tuesday they swapped the full 30 yard dumpster for an empty 15 yard so we could get the rest of the debris cleared out.

Filled to the top

Filled to the top and getting picked up

Before loading the second dumpster, I harvested some of the materials to build a ramp. Our previous experience with heavy debris dumpsters has made it clear that we need a better way to dump full wheelbarrows of concrete and dirt. For the first half of loading, the door of the dumpster is open and it’s pretty straightforward, but after the dumpster starts to fill and the door is closed, it’s not so simple. Previously we wound up using buckets or in the case of concrete, unloading by hand. But building a ramp makes the whole process much easier, and since we’re going to have at least three full dumpsters of heavy clay, it’s worth doing.

Ramp design

Ramp design

After a bit of brainstorming the simplest way to make a ramp that would stand up to load after load of heavy wheelbarrows, I settled on a design and drew it in Sketchup, using the measurements of all the pieces from my drawing to make a part list. I picked out 2x6s of the appropriate size from the garage pile and cut them per plan and then assembled the thing. It actually worked out really well and I got the whole thing done in a couple hours.

Completed Ramp (also Derek)

Completed Ramp (also Derek)

The second half of the ramp is a level platform to make it easier to turn the wheel barrow and dump it in. I didn’t bother with Sketchup because it was all right angles. I just cut a stack of boards and then screwed it together. The tops of the ramp and platform are sections of roof from the garage. The idea is that the shingles will make it easier to get traction with the wheel barrow, especially since it will probably get pretty muddy. We also kept a couple of roof sections for the dirt ramp we’ll have into the basement once I remove the back steps.

Ramp and platform

Ramp and platform

We got the second dumpster filled and even had enough room left for Dean and Siobhan to bring over a couple of carloads of junk that’s been accumulating in their garage. I didn’t get a picture of it full, but imagine a full dumpster and there you go.

First dirt dumpster

The new dirt dumpster was just dropped off and we’ve got some work ahead of us. You can see how the ramp will help with the loading once the door is closed. Things are about to get busy!

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The garage

The garage (doors removed)

Our whirlwind of demo continues with the destruction of our terrible, terrible garage. The garage is a tragic story, really. A perfectly good, new, professionally built garage was put up a few years before we bought the house. Apparently it wasn’t big enough, though, so the previous owners poured a two foot concrete pad extension on one side, cut one wall off, and moved it over. Then they just added boards to bridge the gap and shingled over it. The main door was replaced with a larger one and at the back (yard side) they put a smaller door, which may or may not have been the original front garage door. In any case, the structure was badly compromised, and by the time we bought it, water, rats, roaches, and plants were getting inside. We’ve used it as-is for the last few years, with big plans for a flat-roofed masonry garage and a yard-side fireplace waiting in the wings.

Roof removal

Roof removal

With our basement dig out pending and a giant pile of debris from the porch in the back yard, we needed to tear down the garage to make way for dumpsters. Sarah’s parents came down to lend a hand on Saturday. There was some doubt as to how long the process was going to take, but we had the whole thing down by mid afternoon.

We wanted to get the yard closed off before calling it a day. We started work on the gate, but we only got one side up before it started getting late. By then dinner had arrived, so we propped up the other fence panels and called it a day. Sunday I broke down the garage pieces, we got the pad swept up, and I put together the rest of the fence and gate across the back.

Fence installation

Fence installation (also Derek)

The gate doesn’t work all that well at the moment. Because the new fence on the right doesn’t have very good footings and because I put in the posts with spikes instead of footings, the gate needs some center support to stay rigid. That in turn make it difficult to open and close. I may put a wheel on at least the left panel to make it easier to get the car in and out. When you open the right side gate, the fence leans enough that the neighbors side gate opens by itself. In any case, the garage is down and the first dumpster is on order for Friday, so now we need to get a path cleared in the yard!

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We want to dig out the basement, and the only door is at the back. To be able to get a dumpster into the back yard and haul loads of dirt straight out, we need to tear down the back porch and the garage. We’re planning to replace both anyway, so doing it now makes sense. The back porch is a fully enclosed, two-story, vinyl-siding-clad beast. We took out the stairs from the first floor to the second a while back so we could put in the back sliding door, so it just has steps down to the back door and to the basement.

The first step was to move all of our accumulated stuff off the porch, including the old radiators. Fortunately I found a used radiator company to come and take them and even pay me a bit for the trouble. I disconnected and removed all the old electrical and moved the phone line box from the outside of the porch to the outside of the house.

Windows and doors removed

Windows and doors removed

Saturday morning I started work removing the doors and windows and was soon joined most of by Sarah’s family. We discovered that because the porch was enclosed after it was built, the walls weren’t integral to the structure. The walls consisted of some horizontal 2x4s attached to vertical beadboard, some of which was twenty feet long, and vinyl siding on top of that. While not very strong it held together remarkably well. The big challenge was the right side, where there was no landing or stairs to work from, just a big open space.

Walls coming down

Walls coming down (with Mike and Matt L)

We managed to rip down the right side of the wall in one giant piece. You can see from this photo how the floor only extends to the door in the middle of the house. With that piece down, the rest of the back wall was pretty straightforward.  The right side wall was a bit interesting. We wound up pulling the pieces of beadboard off individually and then the vinyl siding, which at that point was just hanging from itself.

Walls removed

Walls removed (with David and Matt L)

By that point is was evening and we wrapped up for the day. The next day we had a bunch of friends over to start working on the structure. The roof was an open question, since there wasn’t a great way to reach most of it. In hindsight, it may have been better to tear the porch down back when we took out the stairs, since having the landing would have made this process easier, plus we wouldn’t have had to worry about breaking the new sliding door with a piece of falling debris.

Roof removal

Roof removal

We used the ladders and a piece of fencing we bought to fill in the gap to shield the sliding door from the chunks of falling roof. We used a rope on the right column to pull it down after cutting it near the base with a chain saw. At first we tried the pictured system of pulleys to pull it down, but the angle was wrong so we wound up not using them. Unfortunately the porch beams were pocketed into the sheathing, so I have to go back and patch the holes in the outside wall before birds start nesting in the walls. I ordered an extension ladder as well, something that probably would have come in handy for this project, since the folding Werner ladders aren’t quite long enough.

Roof removed

Removing the last section of roof (with Dean, Matt B, and Drew)

We had a bit of a scare pulling down the last section of roof because the left column started to lean out, not only getting close to our power line, but pulling away from the beam that held up the second floor of the porch! After we got the roof section off things went quickly and we got the second floor structure removed. I also screwed the second floor door shut so we won’t have any accidents.

Finishing up

Finishing up (Dean and Matt B)

The first floor went pretty quickly too. We left the section by the stairs so we can still get in and out. We moved all of the drywall out of the garage and the freezer out of the basement and into the first floor, and then Dean and Matt built a new railing while I put up some house wrap over the sheathing and patched the lower two holes in the wall.

All done!

All done! (With Dean, Drew, and Hector)

We now have a massive pile of debris in the back yard (scroll back through the pictures to watch it grow). We’ll need to live with it until we get the garage torn down and a dumpster into the yard, but that should just be a few weeks. I plan to salvage some scrap material to build a ramp that we can use to get wheelbarrows of dirt into the dumpsters when we dig out the basement. This was a big two-day project and we couldn’t have done it without tons of help from family and friends.

A huge thanks go out to the Saturday crew: Mike, Lee, Matt L, Amy, Rob, Nicole, David, Collin, Dylan, and Dustin, as well as the Sunday crew: Dean, Hector, Drew, Anna, and Matt B. Thanks everyone!

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Clearing out debris

Rob clearing out debris

We kept up work on the basement floor, but the more I used the concrete saw, the more I used the sledgehammer and rotary hammer. The saw was simply too slow and produced too much dust, even using water. I worked out a technique with the sledge where I could get a single crack running the length of the concrete, maybe a foot from the edge, then use the rotary hammer to split off chunks. It wasn’t perfect, but it made shorter work of the floor than the saw.

Quality floor

Quality floor

The concerns I had with using the sledge, namely the ceramic tiles and the clay sewer line, were misplaced. With some safety goggles and a few thwacks, the sledge makes quick work of the tile. The sewer line is buried deep enough that I’m not worried about cracking it, especially since a fair portion of the floor wound up being suspended a few inches over the dirt, leaving cavities beneath it (including an old rat nest and a whole section of bricks).

Breaking up the floor

Collin breaking up the floor

We got the dumpster delivered last Thursday morning, and Sunday Sarah’s parents, sister and brother-in-law, as well as her nephew Collin and two of his friends came out to help load all of the concrete into the dumpster. It was a long day and at one point we started getting concerned it wasn’t all going to fit in the dumpster, but ultimately we got everything we had broken up loaded. There’s just a section at the front left to finish that we’ve been working on this week and hope to wrap up this weekend.

Back of basement

Back of basement (also bricks from under the concrete floor)

We left a small section of floor at the back of the basement that has the washer, dryer, chest freezer, and hot water heater for the time being. We’ll have to remove that later, when we temporarily move out and the sewer and water main are replaced. In the mean time we’ll start excavating the plumbing and get some quotes on that work, and I can finish the masonry and lintels around the front bay windows and start installing the new windows.

A big thanks to Mike, Lee, Nicole, Rob, Collin, Dylan, and Dustin for all their help!

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LED lights

LED lights

We’ve been hard at work in the basement. Since getting the new electrical installed and putting in the LED bulbs, we’ve pulled up all of the linoleum tile to make way for concrete floor removal. I bought an electric concrete saw from Amazon, but it uses a 20-amp plug. As it happens, we now have two 20-amp outlets, thanks to the new electrical, but we don’t have a 20-amp extension cord. Home Depot didn’t even carry one, aside from a 9-foot “appliance cord” that wasn’t going to reach very far in the basement. I ordered the extension cord from Amazon as well, but I didn’t want to sit idle over the weekend. That meant it was time to break out the sledge hammer and do things the old fashioned way.

 

Using a combination of sledge, pry bar, and my rotary hammer in chisel mode, Sarah and I managed to break up all the concrete on the North side of the basement. We spent a fair number of hours on it Saturday, Sunday, and last night. The other half of the basement (technically sixty percent) we’ll use the saw, since it’s covered in ceramic tile and we don’t want to crack the sewer pipes running somewhere underneath it by swinging the sledgehammer too much. My hands are pretty sore from the sledging we did so far, so switching to the saw sounds like a big improvement. The problem with the saw is dust. For that I’m hoping the shop vac attachment will make a difference, since we can’t use water with the electric saw.

Sarah ordered a dumpster for Thursday, and we’ll have it for two weeks. We need to have the whole thing broken up and hauled out by then, aside from the back corner where the water heater and laundry are. Those can wait a little while longer.

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