The excitement is building, literally


By Marla Boone

Contributing columnist

In what constitutes a cliff hanger for anyone who has been in construction hell (CH, remember?), when we left off two weeks ago, we were waiting for the concrete guy. Specifically, we were waiting for the concrete footer guy. After a four week delay due to a failure to call the OUPS people, the happy day arrived when a very large backhoe appeared in my backyard and commenced moving dirt from somewhere we didn’t want it to someplace only slightly more desirable.

We had flags and day-glo paint indicating places where the nice man should not dig, and he didn’t get near them. And he found a live wire anyway. We called OUPS back. We called the utility company back. We called the internet company back. All these people stood around and agreed, yup…there was a live wire there.

After about three hours, the live wire was dealt with in the best possible way, and by that, I mean no sparks flew out of the excavation. The footer passed inspection, and very soon we had honest to goodness concrete. I nearly wept.

Next it was time for the concrete floor guy to come. He brought with him approximately all the gravel in Miami County and promptly covered it with yet more concrete. The trusses showed up on a trailer too short for them and dumped them in my yard. (Well, mostly in my yard. Sorry, neighbors.)

In very short order, this project began to resemble a building. Walls were framed and stood up on the concrete after impeccably measured holes were drilled to attach the walls to that concrete. Since the wind hasn’t quit howling since March, this seemed like an important step. Once the concrete was poured, the walls framed and then sheeted, it became obvious to me I had made the addition way too small. Here is some free advice…when you are in CH and are a full month behind schedule, do not express that thought out loud, especially to the general contractor. Just accept you have made a gigantic error and live with it.

On one memorable day, there were three semis parked on the road in front of my house. One carried the Bobcat we needed, one had the crane to hoist up the trusses, and the other was hauling the absolutely huge steel beam with two supporting end beams the engineer had stipulated. All this incredibly expensive stuff made its way to the building, and it was wonderful. I had a roof line, and then I had a roof. The steel beam welding specialist (I am not making this up) was due in two days. In the meantime, the crew had to build a temporary support wall because we had to remove a load-bearing wall. The beam’s part in all this was to sit on two other beams and support the whole thing. I have since learned no sane person removes a load-bearing wall.

Along with that ceaseless wind, the rain hadn’t stopped. The other constant in all this was that my yard was constantly filled with very, very heavy equipment. The ground was a quagmire punctuated with gouges made by tire tracks and Bobcat treads. The Bobcat was, by far, the most fun thing. I could drive it around the place, churning up yet more mud. A friend used it to artfully place dug-up boulders in my flower beds. Its main job, though, was to lift that steel beam onto the two steel legs so the welder could finish up.

Thinking because I was writing the checks I had the right to know what was going on, I asked the GC (general contractor for those of us in CH) how he was going to get the beam 11 feet in the air and then tucked on top of the side legs. The answer was that the Bobcat “we” had rented was a super-duper Bobcat with amazing lifting power, and it was going to put its tiny little skid forks under the hugely big beam and levitate it gently and accurately. Oh.

Well, it was amazing. There were exactly four inches of wiggle room above the beam, and the CG threaded that thing right in there. I have a little trouble balancing when doing The Tree in yoga class and this guy was juggling a ton of beam on ten inches of fork.

Once the beam was in place and welded, the guys put up the interior walls and ran the wiring and built lots of shelves. My project, which started life as a sketch on graft paper in April, turned into a sturdy functional building. Due to a lack of foresight on my part, every single thing in the building is coated with a clinging layer of concrete dust. I keep telling myself that when I clean every single thing, I will see if I need to keep every single thing. The worst thing about having lots of shelves is the impulse to fill them.

In retro-Thanksgiving, I’m grateful I could do it, I’m grateful it’s done well, but mostly I’m grateful it’s done.

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