Monday, February 9, 2009

The Big Dig


As some of you already know, we have been watching our home warp and crumble around us for the past 4-5 years. It all started 3 minutes after we finished painting the final room.

A shifting, bending foundation is the problem. The causes of this problem are manifold:
* High clay-content (often misidentified as "caliche") soil which expands and contracts greatly - depending on how much moisture is present
* Poor, no, make that horrible site prep by the builder
* Inadequate use of stabilizing, imported fill
* Penny-wise pound-foolish cut-and-fill hillside technique
* Grossly inadequate residential house-building codes and lame inspection practices
* An epic ten-year drought punctuated by two Biblical rain events.
* A non-sober and possibly delusional original construction crew.

These factors combined and conspired to cause our foundation to drop over 6 inches in some areas. A time bomb built in to our home in the early 80's slowly and finally detonates. And our neighborhood has a 80-90% affliction rate. (Ca-ching!) The original builder carries no legal liability. D'oh!

We've hired two different consulting engineers, collected proposals from seven different foundation outfits, and consulted with three arboriculturists. All these experts and zero consensus about the best cure.

Get rid of all your trees!
Your trees are not the problem!
You have a leak!
You don't have a leak!
Insurance will cover i!
Insurance won't touch it!
Gotta tunnel!
Gotta punch holes!
Steel piers!
Concrete piers!
Injected-foam columns!
Lego piers!
Ten Grand!
Twenty Grand!
Thirty Grand!
Forty Grand!
Just water the foundation!
Watering is a waste!
Offer a Voodoo Sacrifice!

It's official: I detest expert opinions.

We went thru the five stages of grief:

1) Denial: "Not our house?!!?"
2) Anger: "I'm gonna find the builder and kill him"
3) Bargaining: "Maybe if we water 80,000 gallons per day...."
4) Depression: "It's gonna cost how much?!!?"
5) Acceptance: "We're screwed!"

So we finally decided to follow our gut, hire a proven contractor (the cheap guy who did not pressure us and has worked on a number of neighbors' homes) and ten days ago digging began. We now have 75 feet of tunnels (to access pier points and plumbing leaks) and over the next two weeks 30 concrete piers will be installed. Some will go as far as twenty feet deep. The result will be an almost perfectly level slab and a very stable base.

Then, after waiting a few months for the house to resettle itself, we'll bring in a sheetrock crew to patch, tape, and float. Then the Spalding crew will begin repainting.

And perhaps a little re-landscaping!

Pix attached. I'll send more later as things progress. Also, making portraits later this week of this remarkably hard-working crew.

Please send us your excess cash. And painters.

So now you know.

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