A Solid Foundation

Posted by in Renovations, The House

It’s finally done! Here’s what happened:

  1. Everything was torn out. Old apartment in the basement, being one built without permits, had to go completely.Old insulation, drywall, pipes, electrical – everything.
  2. The chimney had to be demolished as well, as it was structurally unsound, and took up a lot of space. Venting of the stove and someday, the fireplace, can happen in the cavity where the chimney used to be, just with a skinny metal pipe instead of leaky bricks. I will be reusing the bricks outside as materials for a walkway.
  3. Then they demo’d out the old concrete and the old brick and capped brick foundations.






Then they dug it all out.

It was fascinating to learn, that the soil here is really all just beach sand. Like a kid’s sandbox. Dig deep enough, and you hit water.







During the course of the project, we learned which beverages each crew member liked. Many brought their own lunch, some went out to eat.




The whole house was up in the air!


The center foundation was done first. We also redid some of the center support posts, that had been munched by termites. The center beam was upgraded to a more load-bearing LVL (laminated veneer something or other) beam, to hold the weight of the house and give it a bit more support with the upstairs center walls getting opened up later on.


Then the exterior foundation. It was very pretty and smooth.


It was a big hole.


I thought it looked like a WW2 trench.












That’s the old sewer. I knew it was clay pipe. I didn’t think it’d be so many pieces. They go aaaalll the way to the street like this. The new one is plastic. Had I thought of it sooner, these could have been reused as planters. Some pieces were broken. The enormous tree in front had roots as thick as my thighs going right next to, and into, the sewer lines.

There’s a law in real estate, that the sewer lateral repair needs to get done before close of escrow. Paid by the seller. So it took quite a bit of wrangling to get that exempted and done later. The way these are most often done, is the pipe burst method. There they just slide in a new pipe inside the old one. But that wouldn’t have worked, since our house would end up at a different height after the foundation, so the pitch of the sewer line would be all wrong.

So in the end, we got the ok from the utility district EBMUD, the city of Alameda, the lender, HUD and the seller’s bank, that this is okay, if we do it later, and got our agent to do the paperwork and negotiate a price drop on the house price to cover the sewer cost. We had to get it done within 90 days of close of escrow, and had a check for the city that would cover the cost of them coming to do it, if we failed to get it done.



It’s beautiful.


Huge mess taking all of the forms out. We got Simpson’s everywhere in the basement  – they’re ties that hold up everything in place and are strong enough for earthquakes. I think the stuff in the picture was just stuff that held the foundation molds in place.












The huge dirt pile was a great place to place our “burglars, scram, we don’t want you here” warning signs.



Then came the rebar.


And gravel. And plastic. And more gravel.



And then the sand. We also upgraded the outside to include french drains and an exterior waterproofing membrane. Since it was already opened up, might as well do it right. We’re also getting a sump pump.


Then came the cement truck! It was loud, and really early. But we were happy to see it.


They pumped it in first though what looked to me like a big sieve, and then into the basement with that big hose. I thought it was cute that they had Ikea’s kids stools. I didn’t see if they were used for sitting on, or for something else.


I forgot to snap a picture of the guys in action. They were very quick. The way they smooth it out is that they have “skis” on their knees, and they glide across, and have these tools in their hands that they use to screed the excess, and make it all smooth. It looks like a very skilled task.



So purdy.