Saturday, July 3, 2010

Preconstruction April/2010

 We applied for our building permit March 1st and it is supposedly within a day or two of being issued. Yahoo!  But even while waiting for the building permit, the site has been a beehive of activity.

While permit review has been underway, we've been getting the preconstruction work done.We started with asbestos abatement and hired a company that specializes in this kind of thing. They did an amazing job--finishing the work within one day. Unfortunately the crew included a couple of light-fingered fellas who hauled away several personal items along with the asbestos debris; most notably the angel statue I gave MTH one year for our anniversary. We contacted the company owner and he managed to round up the culprits, but not before they had already sold a few of the items. Nonetheless they did return the angel, a couple of light fixtures, and our handtruck. In their defense, I guess they figured anything at the site was fair game since the house was being demolished. But still...!

After asbestos removal, the ReStore jumped in and started house deconstruction. I didn't think there was that much to salvage but they managed to pick out quite a few large timbers, a lot of pea gravel, some old panel doors, and a couple hundred SF of clear fir tongue-and-groove flooring. Imagine--that flooring may have been cut from Ballard trees and milled at one of the many mills that used to exist along the waterfront before the Ship Canal was built. The house was built in 1910 so it could be some nice old-growth fir. I bet it will be beautiful again once reinstalled and resanded. We might even buy some back ourselves to use in the upstairs hall.

While hauling stuff out of the crawl space, the guys found some old papers including a studio photograph of two little boys in sailor suits. It looks to have been taken around 1915-25. I have no idea who these little boys are, but I'm going to "adopt" them and keep the photo with the new house. We also found records showing that the previous owners--Floyd and Violet--purchased the Sunset Hill Beverage Co. in 1959 which was located in what is now one of the Picolino spaces on 32nd. Floyd had very precise printing and kept meticulous handwritten records in several ledger books, showing how much of each beverage was sold on each day. We were told that they lived in the house 47 years and raised their two daughters there. We also found notebooks full of the girls' homework from the late 1950s when they attended high school--chemistry notebooks, geography, and spelling tests--even a few "My Weekly Readers" that I remember from MY school days!

The ReStore guys made quick work of the house, finishing the job in about 4 days. They also hired a local dozer to help out and he was amazing with his machine; picking up small bits of pipe and setting them down carefully onto the metal recycling pile, and in the next move grinding up the old concrete sidewalk into gravel. One day the house was there; the next day it was still there but looking vandalized; and the following day the site was clean as a whistle! The day before I couldn't imagine how I would ever get all the broken glass, sticks, and other debris out of the soil, but the next day it was all gone and raked clean.

The last touch to the site was a little "hoodoo" made by the dozer guy--a huge rock they found under the foundation, topped with another, slightly smaller rock; and crowned with a little teeny rock. It sat there like a little beacon to greet me when I arrived that evening. The deconstruction cost about $2500 more than a straight demolition would have, but I felt it was important to recycle and build responsibly. (MTH felt it was more important to save money, but he gave in anyway!)

We visit the site every day, both to pick up mail and to see what is happening. Although I feel badly about tearing it down, the old farmhouse was truly well past its prime. We burned up in the summer and froze in the winter. At least the house reached its 100th birthday--1910 to 2010. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Now it is time for a house for the next 100 years.
After deconstruction, another crew arrived to remove the oil tank and clean up the contaminated soil. Yup, we a have big-time oil spill. They did the first chunk of soil removal, then stopped to send the soil to the lab. It came back with something like 10 times the amount of pollutants allowable, so the company manager sent a change order to PLIA (state agency) for permission to remove up to another 80 TONS of soil! They will be digging to China. The bill comes to about $17,000 but thankfully paid for from the insurance fund administered by PLIA for exactly this purpose. Oil companies and their consumers pay into the fund with a surcharge on oil by the gallon. It nice to know that we'll be starting with a clean site. The tank removal guy said also that our soil is great--seismically very stable. Also good to know.

Tomorrow I meet with a woman to talk about installing awater cistern underground, probably under the courtyard. We would collect rainwater and just use it to water the garden with it, but hey, saving some water is better than none, right? Especially when we have those dry summers. Assuming we get the building permit in the next few days, we'll be starting the foundation work within a week. (Postscript: Final cost of oil tank soil remediation--$47,000!)

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