A Puzzle With A Solution

To begin with. this shouldn’t be working.  How could it?  I mean, just stop and think for a moment.  A house on a bum foundation out in Wackersville that no one seemed to care about (except the two of us), and now the idea is to pick it up and waltz it across a field, plopping down on a brand new foundation with an honest cellar.  Me?  Do that?  Yep.  Here I am in the month of June, staring at the brand new footers of the foundation while across the field men are arriving with machines and jacks to begin the task of raising an 1837 schoolhouse with its two additions.   Yes, but let’s be clear about something.  I’m not doing the work, I’m coordinating it – and that’s probably the biggest reason it’s working.

As I’ve discovered, moving a house is almost like building one brand new.  The same questions must be answered, beginning with the foundation, and extending to the electrical contractor, heating and plumbing specialist, even the local governing board to get driveway, building and septic permits.  Each requires choices that in the end must dovetail with all other choices, much like a jigsaw puzzle.   Where should the driveway go?  Which way should the house face?  Should the septic be placed here, or there?  A new heating system?  How many drains in the cellar?  How deep?  Any utility sinks?  Do we need a water purification system?  Can we use the existing well or is it too far to pump the water?  The answer to the last two questions was yes and no.  Yes, we needed to remove the heavy amount of iron in the water, and no, we didn’t have to drill a new well.   Getting the right people for each job solves much of the potential for confusion.  Professional people know how to answer questions as well as what questions to ask.  You’d be surprised at what they think of that you haven’t.

Concrete Man:  “Do you want eight inch or ten inch walls?”

“Well, I, ah, haven’t thought about that yet  . . .”

Heating Man:  “Do you plan on a high efficiency boiler or a standard?”

“Ummm . . .”

Excavator:  “Did you get the permit for a new driveway?”

“We need a driveway permit?”

What seems like the smallest detail has the potential to bring a dream crashing to the ground.  Septic systems, for instance, have come a long way from the days of the outhouse with a crescent moon carved on the door.  Soil must be tested for it ability to percolate water through it.  If it doesn’t “perk” then a very elaborate and equally expensive systems must be put it.  That or the house doesn’t get the built.  No permit, no house.  Party over.  In hardpan soil this can cost upwards of ten thousand dollars.  The hillock we chose as our new site turned out to be river gravel, a real break for us considering that much of the farmland around us is hardpan.  Water drained a a rate of one gallon every 140 seconds.  Nice.  The gravelly hill passed the perk test so our system cost will be minimal (think happy face).

The perk test.  Timing float decline with one gallon of water. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

The perk test. Timing float decline with one gallon of water.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

While a septic system is important, a solid foundation is the single most important factor in any house.  If a structure fails the foundation test, as any contractors will tell you, then woe unto the homeowner.  In our case, the field stone and cinder block combination had failed miserably under “Old 1837.”  In building a foundation, the  contractor and house rigger must both have a complete understanding of what the other is doing and share the needs each other will have.

Men at work.  Measuring to the inch. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

Men at work. Measuring to the inch.
Copyright James V. Michalec 2015

Measurements must be exact, the approach of the house to the new foundation spot-on,  the footers ready when the house is ready to roll.  In our case, we found a respected contractor who had worked successfully with the rigger on previous jobs.  Perfect.  Once the house is laid over the footers, the foundation walls will be poured.  It sounds counter-intuitive (why not pour the walls first and then place the house?) but it is done this way all the time.

Footers for the new foundation ready.  Copyright James V. Michalec 2015.

Footers for the new foundation ready. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015.

Across the field and up on a hillock the new concrete foundation footers are done and wait for the riggers.  The riggers have just begun and will need five days to raise the house.  The assault on our dacha is underway.  Old 1837 is about to lose its support in a bid for the best strength underfoot it has had since Martin Van Buren was president.