Sunday, December 29, 2013

In which there is a mystery

What the heck is it?
I noticed this block of wood notched into the framing of the building yesterday.  I had seen it before, but never noticed it, so I investigated and then started pondering what it once was.  The wall where it is placed was, I think, at one time the main entrance to the grain barn that was added by the Farmer's Co-op.  This contraption is located on the side of the old entrance.  I wonder whether it was a grain scale or some other measurement device.  The block of wood is notched into one of the main supports for the building frame and one of the wall studs.  Whoever put the block and metal rod there certainly didn't want the device to go anywhere!  

 At one time, there was a large door here, and then a smaller door framed out later.  I think the rod was bent later when the new framing went in.  Still, not much evidence remains as to why this rod and the notched block are there.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

In which we approach our first year anniversary of owning Slum and Blight

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of our wedding and Tuesday marks the first anniversary of owning our wedding present to each other...namely Slum and Blight!  Happy days all around!
Of course, we have hardly gotten the project off the ground in our minds, but the changes over the year have been significant.  Gone is the barn, gone are over 25 tons of debris from the building, gone is the old basement space and the hilariously dangerous original building supports and foundation walls.  Hopefully the next month will bring significant changes to the building....more fodder for this blog, which lately has become boring even to the writer.

I have been working on the interior of the first floor, taking down walls and removing more debris.

 Won't 3 x 8' windows look great here!!  The view from these windows is out over the harbor and to the bridge....gorgeous.

 Oops. gotta replace that sill!

The Christmas Ice Storm of 2013 left us without power for four days. Everything is encased in ice, including the debris dumpster at the building....which should weigh several extra tons by now with all the snow and ice in there!  We spent the days surrounding Christmas trying to keep our house warm and the pipes from freezing.  When the temperature inside got down to 44 degrees, it was time to decamp to the Bayside cottage for Christmas morning.

After having a pinched nerve in my neck, all this friggin' snow and ice, parties, and the ice storm, it has felt like weeks since I worked at Slum and Blight.  Yesterday I was back at it and took down the inside walls where the old barn used to attach to the building.  What I found behind the walls was disheartening and kind of gross at the same time.
 The boards sometimes just break into dust or are so dry that they crack the moment one moves them.  This was my first look at what was behind the boards....ugghh...100 year old grain left over from when the building was the farmer's cooperative grainery beginning in 1917 or so.

 The grain is tightly compacted here in the walls.  I took some of the grain out with our trusty shop-vac.  A lot of it is frozen.  It took me three hours to get all the grain out...the bags must weigh 50 lbs a piece.

The grain is all along the base behind this board.

So far the amount of grain I removed below filled up two shop vac barrels.

The old boards ready to be hauled out the door to the dumpster

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In which I am back inside Slum and Blight

I have given up pick axing down below the building and have moved inside again.  I haven't worked inside the building in what seems like months.  I have been engaged in pulling down the wooden walls on the first floor.  I have taken down 5 sections of wall only to find that behind all of them is the last layer...plaster and lathe insulation!!  That makes four total layers for the walls.  Of course there is no heat.  Today is -2 so far at 6:30 am, so this means four layers of socks to match the wall layers!!  Actually, it isn't so bad inside, or it wasn't yesterday, save for that time when one of the windows fell out of its case and, thankfully, fell intact to the floor.  The wind was a bit wicked at that point.  

Enjoy the day!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

In which I watch it snow and don't go to work

I am sitting here watching the first significant snow fall of the season come down in buckets.  It has been pretty cold lately and working at the building is a pain because of the wind and exposure.  I have taken the last several days off because I have "pick-axe" wrists.  Essentially, I have been working the pick axe so much that my wrists and hands are tired.  I cannot make a fist without my fingers hurting.  It is getting better though.  Someone asked "what do you do for that?" and my answer was "hire someone to do the pick axing and move onto something else!"  I have gotten as far as I can in digging out the basement and for two days last week, I left the hard work up to our contractor's guys, who were able to get through about 4-6 inches of very hard rock with their drills and saws.  It looks like we will get full height throughout the basement space!  With the added square footage from the addition, we may well have over 1500 square feet of useable space down there, almost double what we originally thought!

The crew starts closing in the basement space this coming week.  The new windows are ready and waiting to be installed!

Monday, December 9, 2013

In which we decorate

Merry Merry!

In which we have much progress, but I feel a touch like Fred Flintstone at the quarry. Yabba Dabba Do!

I took off almost two weeks from working on the building, most from this stupid infection in my leg, which is all healed and gone now...and then from a few days with my mom for Thanksgiving.  It was good to get away and have a quiet holiday and we had a ton of fun too.  
We got back on Saturday and I started back to work digging out the basement since the jackers put the building down and removed the I-beams and supports.  I had two areas where we still had to dig down about 15 inches to get to grade.  

Enough of digging though...that story got old and stale weeks ago!  The big news of the week is that that building was lowered onto the foundation, the insulation around the foundation went up, and the trenches were backfilled with sand!  Instant gratification is everything right now and I am pleased to see us going forward.  I am worried about the roof and want to get something going up there soon.  
But for now, here are some update shots for the week.

Ok, I lied and will show you my digging shots.  This is the last corner that we can hand-dig.  There is a window right above here, so I want to be able to get through the ledge to have a full height space here.  I hope we can do it.  That is about 15 inches of dirt and rock there.

I have been faced with these huge slices of ledge.  Greg and I decided to save some to use for pathways and things.  See how the ledge just slices.  This was the first big section to come out of the ground.  We are on our way!

So, while I am otherwise engaged underneath the building, the boys and their toys are working around the outside.  The building was set down on the foundation, insulated, and then truckloads of sand were dumped around the building for drainage purposes.  The piles of dirt and the orange snow fencing are gone.  

You might remember the foundation for the barn was here, with a four foot drop down to the old barn floor.  We filled in and graded to the level of the street.  It is right here that I want seasonal artisan tents and food vendors to rent space.  It will be a lovely courtyard for the building.

Or a future building site, once we are rezoned downtown commercial.

There is a lot of space here!  

 Meanwhile I keep to my digging.  I feel like Fred Flintstone at the quarry.

These are just a few of my new granite pavers, plucked from the depths 10 feet below grade.  

Some gorgeous colored stones.  The guy who came to finish the block wall told me that I missed my calling as a quarry guy.  

 Mission accomplished!  I dug far lower than I should have and a lot of this will have to be filled in with sand, but I got full height to the corner!  What I couldn't get out, we can cut out with the saw.  To answer a friend's question, yes, we did dig down below the footing, however the footing is 14 " thick and the wall on top of it is 12" thick made with over 6000 lbs of steel reinforced concrete pinned to and poured over the granite ledge.  We are pouring a 5" thick floor and then tying into the footing with more concrete.

Look at all the space

We just got approval from the fire marshall today to change the plan somewhat.  Since we are not going to put in an elevator, we are taking the elevator core and making addition space for the basement level adding an extra 225 square feet to the overall square footage. We are keeping the doors as planned, so if needed, this space, which will be rented as one large unit, could be broken down into two or three spaces if needed or wanted.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

In which I have a forced "vacation" from working on the ole' girl

Sometimes life just gets in the way.  Last week was not a great one for us at Slum and Blight.  Through some miscommunications, the masons who were supposed to come and build up to top of the foundation wall with two courses of cement block were not contacted by anybody on the job (we all thought somebody else had done it) so they went onto another project.  Greg was able to find someone quick, but since they were unfamiliar with the job site, it has taken quite a bit longer than we thought to get the job done and it is still not finished, a week after it was supposed to start.  (As of now, it is half-way done)

I traveled down to Boston last week and came back on Wednesday and Thursday found me down at my usual place under the building.  I started to feel sluggish and chilled.  So chilled that I was constantly going to my car, putting the heat on 80 and blasting it...but I couldn't get warm.  I went to the CoOp for a nice bowl of chicken soup and sat in the dining area, with all my coats on, shivering.  When I got back to the building, the masons had gone, having had some initial start up problems.  I waited for them for awhile and then found that they were not coming back that day.  So, I decided it was too cold to work and I went home.  <-----wimp!

When I got home, I was still shivering, so decided that I needed to get under the covers...four comforters and two blankets later and I was finally warm!  I took my temperature and lo and behold 101.7 degrees. I noticed that my muscles, which have been sore for weeks, had begun to ache.  I had no energy.  After and hour or so of this and feeling miserable, I texted my doctor and explained what was going on and that it came on seemingly, in a matter of minutes.  He told me to come down to the office, where 15 minutes later, I sat shivering in his exam room.  He ruled out a few things and tested me for the flu, gave me a script and sent me on my way.  
My fever wobbled between 101.1 and 102.  At one point, I got out of bed and my teeth were chattering so hard that I couldn't function.  I was miserable. I had a hell of a time sleeping that night because of the aches and pains.  I awoke to find my left shin had become inflamed with a bright red rash and had swelled out a lot.  It was painful to the touch.  My mind raced through possibilities:  I got bitten by a tick and had lyme; I had shingles; the osteomyelitis I had as a kid had come back; etc.  
I texted my doc a photo, but he was in meetings all morning.  When he was able, he called to say that I had contracted cellulitus, a skin infection from bacteria getting under my he said "you've been working under that building and who knows what lives under there!"  He gave me some antibiotics and after the second one kicked in, I was on the mend.  My fever broke Saturday afternoon, and as suddenly as the symptoms came on, they left, though not the swollen and blistered skin on my leg.  It is now Monday and the swelling and redness is still there, but not as bad.  I and trying to stay off it so it can heal, but we are leaving tomorrow to fly to Florida for Thanksgiving, so I want to try and get the swelling down as much as possible.

Yuck! Not what I need right now!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

In which we are still digging, but now we have photos!

Still diggin'!  I feel like we are digging for buried treasure, but so far have not found any.  Today is a long awaited photo montage of our work underneath the building and the new walls that surround the basement space.  We have to try and dig the floor down to the concrete pills that will support the new posts in the center of the space.  These pills are 9 feet below the floor boards above.  In places, like where the cardboard box is in the photo below, there is solid granite, but just five feet away from that the granite is soft and comes right out of the ground with a bit of whacking from my trusty sledge hammer.

What we have here is all the cement and granite rock that I have pick axed and shoveled out from underneath the building.  It is quite a lot...I've been doing this for about 2 weeks now and Greg has helped for the last week or so between making coats and dresses for the holidays.  There is a much better photo of one of the piles at the end of this entry.  You can see where the short walls come up on the North side of the building, the rest of the wall will be framed out in wood and two large windows added under the windows above them.  

Since it was impossibly expensive for us to raise the building higher, the last two feet or so of the walls will be concrete block filled with rebar and cement.  The walls are filled with interlocking rebar rods, it was quite the matrix of steel...our foundation guy said it took two solid hours of vibrating the cement as it poured to get the mixture solidly down in the forms.  He told us we could try and drive a Mack Truck through the wall and wouldn't succeed.

I think the building will be around for a long time now!

This is where we started to dig yesterday.  Four hours of back breaking work to get about 5' of space.  That area of dirt under the crib is 15" of granite.  

The pile of granite on the right in this photo all came out of the area in which we were working.  The stones sliced nicely and we will try to use them in a path or walkway or something.  After yesterday, we have about 20 good pieces.  More in the pile outside.  

after digging, we comb through the dirt and pitch all the big rocks, then shovel and cart the dirt to the other end of the basement where we will fill in around the corners, etc.  

 My first big pile of old concrete floor.  In some places, this flooring was 5-6" thick.  
This pile is about 5 feet tall now!

Our contractors and the foundation guys are amazed that we dug down as far as we did!  Which is a good thing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

In which we have walls, but we are still sore!

Forgive the absence of photos today, but I am dog tired.  I have been under the building for the last 10 days, cleaning up while the foundation folks do their work.  We now have poured walls all the way around the building, which is exciting!   Because we couldn't raise the building too much higher...It is 8 feet off the ground, after all, there was no space to pour walls to full height, so the front wall and the right side wall will finish with two courses of cement filled concrete block. (or is that concrete filled cement block?).  We have full head room in almost the entire basement, save for two spots where we are going to have to do some serious rock breaking!

Greg and I worked ourselves to the breaking point on Tuesday.  I started in the morning, breaking up the last of the cement floor...some places it was five inches thick....and throwing it outside the building for the excavator to pick up.  Greg came down after he finished his masterpiece wedding dress for a client (she was thrilled!) and helped dig and redistribute fill.  We now have the back half of the basement space dug down to 9 feet or so.  Once the building gets lowered down and we put in the 6-8 inches above the floor, we will have a minimum of 7'6" of headroom in most of the space.

It is now Sunday.  Greg and I worked tirelessly on Friday to dig some more of the floor out.  I am working on an area (about 1/4 of the basement space) that needs 15 inches or so dug out.  It is lousy with soft granite ledge.  My process is digging around the ledge and then whacking it with the sledge hammer or taking the pick axe to it.  Most of the time, the ledge flakes off in 30 to 50 pound pieces.  Greg got me to start further splitting the granite so that it splits into flat pieces that we can use for a walkway or something.  We have about 15 flat stones so far.  We worked from about 8 until 3 and then came home to hot showers and bathrobes.  I have been in my bathrobe ever since!  We took yesterday off and will be back under the building today to try and finish scraping down the floor to grade.  We are almost the new front wall, but will have to wait for the cribbing to be removed by the building jackers before we can really finish all the work that needs doing.  Our foundation man is taking off for Florida for the winter, so he told us that we needed to get the floor prepared to pour in the next two weeks!  I think we can do it.  He was very complimentary of the basement space and told us so, which we need to hear every once in a while.  We have had several visitors over the last few days whose eyes glaze over when they step under the building.  They all have that tell-tale look on their faces that seem to say "You crazy people!"  Greg admitted that we are a little crazy...which I deny.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In which we get $$ from the city of Belfast!

Greg's great grant proposal netted us an amount not to exceed $15,000 from the city of Belfast through their Community Development Block Grant Building Facade program.  We identified several areas on the exterior of the building that were in need of renovation (new windows, doors, siding, roof, trim, etc. and Greg wrote a compelling grant proposal that was accepted by the town.  It is a one to one matching grant, so I think it should just about cover the cost and install of the 39 windows we just ordered for the building.  It could go to the cost of putting back the porch, or for the siding, know, since ALL of the building needs renovation, pretty much any project you might consider.  

Anyway, a hearty thank you to the city of Belfast, Maine for helping us out!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

In which there is video....again

Every boy's dream, to stand around and watch earth moving equipment in full action all day long.....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

In which I am sore and work continues

From the five of you who read this blog, I bet at least two saw the concrete debris flying from underneath the building over the last several days.  That was me.....  I moved the pile of concrete bits that you see below so that the HUGE excavator that is coming on Monday to finish digging around the building can more easily gobble those pieces up and cart them away.  I think there is at least 2000 lbs of concrete there, and I moved every damn piece, by placing or throwing them from underneath the building.  OK, there were several pieces I had to flip, end over end, in order to get them to move.  After moving all that concrete, guess what I found underneath??  More f**$%ing concrete that hadn't been broken up.  I can't wait for this phase to be over and the ditches around the building back filled.

If you saw the debris flying, you may have noticed the holes in the front of the building.  The whole darn building was lowered down onto the foundation at the rear and picked up in the front.  Come Monday, there will be a 9 foot deep trench around the front of the building and we will continue to dig until we strike oil, or have a deep enough hole for the drainage line.  No wet basement space here!  After being down under for several days chucking rocks and bits and clearing out debris, I have a feeling that our basement space may be larger than we anticipated, which is fantastic news.  The ledge seems to be fairly fractious so far, so I am hopeful that the two large areas of ledge will come out with a jack hammer. Where the door comes into the space, the ceiling height is about 7'6" which doesn't bother me at all.  

We found three huge granite pieces buried under the front stoop.  We now have four for the retaining wall.

The ole' girl is now completely off her old foundation. The interior floors have never been so straight!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

In which there are doors and windows and windows and doors

This week has been one of choosing things.  We have had to make a decision on windows and doors.  The door decision was one of "Oh look, a great deal on doors, should we get them now?" as the Marden's lady sang in my ear..."you should have bought it when you saw it at Marden's"  As many of you know, Marden's has always been a great source for us for building materials. We have purchased tiles, cork flooring, rugs, beds, appliances, etc there.  We happened to be in the Marden's in Brewer when we came upon some really nice doors, solid core with Douglass Fir veneer.  
They are beautiful, heavy, and well made.  The only problem is that they do not have every door we need for the building.  After obsessing over them in the store for over an hour, we gave up and came home.  I then found the same doors on-line, in all the sizes we needed, for about 60% more than they were at Marden's.  We went through the door schedule on the architect's plans and made a list of doors that we could find at Marden's and cross checked to see if we could order the rest. We were able to get most of the bedroom and bathroom doors, the washer/dryer closet doors, and one closet door.  The master bath has pocket doors, which we can order online and which I think will be so gorgeous when installed.  I have this vision of the second floor of the apartment looking like a ship interior, and I think these doors help that vision along.

We made the decision to go with some less expensive pine 6 panel doors for the commercial spaces.  They are not cheap pine doors, but rather, highly figured solid doors that are quite heavy.  We found most of the ones we needed at Marden's.  So we came home in the truck, hauling 10 doors in the truck bed.  I cannot believe all those doors fit in one truck load!  We didn't bring enough padding, so had to strip off some clothes to wrap around the doors.  That would be my sweater and Greg's coat acting as padding!
Anyway, they are all stored nice and neat at Little Bohemia, which has been closed down for the winter.  We have three fire rated doors to buy, and those run about $1200 a piece, so any savings we get is very important!

We also had to make some decisions on the windows.  We need to order 39 windows off the bat, and that ignores the first floor facade of the building.  We decided to go with Marvin windows that are fiberglass on the exterior with matching exterior trim.  We have to custom make the three large windows on the basement level, which is fine, since they are important for the retailer who eventually goes into that space.  I have just gotten the final quote, which is reasonable, but daunting.  I think we will go ahead and order them on Friday the 1st of November thus completing our week of door and window hell.

Monday, October 28, 2013

In which the shape of the shop space down below appears

The shop space is being framed in

You can make out the door frame that opens out onto Federal street.  Very cool!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

In which we got nailed

Lest you think that the only thing going on at Slum and Blight is happening on the outside, I have prepared some photos for you, dear readers, showing our nail escapades.  Having had three to four coverings recently removed from the ceilings, each joist from the floor above had lots of protruding, leftover nails embedded in the surface.  Needless to say, we were not looking forward to removing these, as it had to be done by hand.  Some of the nails were longer finish nails for the beadboard ceiling (remember that?) and some were shorter nails from the original plaster and lathe ceilings.  We thought it would take reality it only took two of us about a day and a half for the first floor.

Oy! may the gods help us!  At least I gave my calves a workout today climbing up and down the ladders!  My shoulders kill, but it is done.  Greg admitted that he kind of liked it...there are two more floors to go, my sweet!  

Pretty ceilings!  Now comes sanding...sometime later down the road.

We are currently in the throws of fenestration frustration.  We are about to order 43 new windows and since we have a choice, have a centrally located business that we think MUST look good from the outside, we are a bit overwhelmed.  We don't want to go the cheap windows are just that...nor can we afford to have the gorgeous windows I would like to put in, each with individual panes of glass and nice wooden mullions...We think we have decided to go with Marvin windows, but are still tweaking some of the details.  We think we got a really nice deal from Al over at EBS, so we are putting in some detailing that will upcharge the quote given.  By Tuesday we shall have made the decision and be happy about it.  

Since we are so focused on windows, we've decided to take a Sunday drive to Marden's in Brewer.  We were there last month and they had some really nice solid wood interior doors that Greg and I both agreed that we loved (will wonders never cease??).  I think they are about half what we would spend in town.  I haven't counted the doors we need yet, but if we need 43 windows, we probably need 25 doors, so any savings there would help.  Photos of the doors to come soon!
Happy Sunday! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In which we have some concrete walls!

A beautiful day reveals beautiful cement walls that have to cure for at least 10 days without the building weight on them.  So, we have walls now, or at least partial walls.  There is a story here, so bear with me.  The jacking firm didn't want to risk any damage by raising this big old heavy building any more than they had to do.  So, the foundation building firm said that was fine, but they couldn't fully pour the walls and would instead, have to hire a mason to come in and finish the walls with cement block.  Unfortunately, the jacking firm had one of their I-beams in the way of the wall at the back of the building, so that also has to be built up with concrete block.  I dunno how they are going to get the I-Beam out of the way there, but after all, tomorrow is another day.

 Unfortunately, the jacking firm had one of their I-beams in the way of the wall at the back of the building, so that also has to be built up with concrete block.  I dunno how they are going to get the I-Beam out of the way there, but after all, tomorrow is another day.

I love this photo of Greg standing in the soon-to-be-doorway of the lower level retail space.  For those of you who have been trespassing when no one is around and crawling around under the building (you know who you are, and so do we) This is the side of the basement that will have wooden walls, windows, and a door for the newly minted retail space.  

Look at how beautiful the footings are!  And for those of you, my dear readers, who think "I can't believe he just wrote about beautiful footings, whooda thought?" You are right!

And just so you understand the method of our madness, the rear of the building was raised first so that new foundation walls would be able to support the building perfectly before the front of the building gets raised.  These walls you see below are next.  

In which I love me some Slum and Blight

This will forever be my favorite photo of the ole' girl.  

In which the forms are built and cement is poured

While I was away, all of this happened. The forms went up, the drains went in, and the workmanship of Joe Thornley and his crew is magnificent.  

These are the forms for the foundation walls of the addition going up.  It was supposed to be our elevator shaft, but we have since abandoned that idea.  Now the top two floors will become more space for the apartment, which works well too.  

 This wall was so tall that we had to add a support column to it. When I say "we," I mean everyone but me.
 Hopefully this drain system will keep the basement space nice and dry, a feat considering we are at the very bottom of a very long hill. While I was driving my mom to Florida, Greg spent days here hand digging for the drainage system....its ok though, he left me quite a project underneath the building!!

 This is the inside view of the addition.  I got back just in time to see them pour the walls 

A good shot of the big dig...Its about 8 feet down from grade.  Most of this channel was hand dug.  The drainage system is under the stone.  Once the walls have cured, this will all be back filled and graded.

Getting ready to pour!  This area has to be done in sections because the wall is so tall.  The corner in the lower left of the photo will get an initial pour of cement, then rebarred while still wet, and then more forms will be built on top tomorrow and the rest of the wall will be poured. 

I stood inside the building, watching them pour cement into the forms for the foundation walls through the hole in the floor where the chimney used to be.