Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How do you hold up a house?

Once the interior excavation had been completed, I wanted to bring the house completely to level, and I wanted to do so in a way that was pretty secure. So I purchased 2.5" schedule 80 pipe and then built these stands on which the house would sit. The whole process was relatively easy. First I built the platforms and used the jacks to lift the house and load the platforms. Then I used a rotating laser level to figure out how tall each of the posts would need to be, to bring the house to level. Then I simply welded the posts in. That's it. Now the house is level and pretty secure (each of the platforms is 2x2).

This is a closeup of the platform, showing the pipes being completely welded and the skip welds along the channel -> plate connection.
I finished up the welding late at night, but wanted to document it. Here you can see, eight platforms, two for each beam. The nearest post on the left is slightly off plumb and it drives me nuts. But not enough for me to cut it off and fix it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Interior Excavation

So, you've got this house, up on cribbing, and you need to excavate underneath it. How do you do it?

1) Crawl underneath the house and kill yourself (because you don't want to shovel dirt with only 18" of clearance)
2) Pay someone shitty wages to crawl underneath the house and shovel the dirt
3) Pay someone over $12k to come and lift the house up 4+ feet so you can get earth moving equipment under the house
4) Pay $200 in materials and build a dredge, and then proceed to run the dredge for hours at a time

 Seeing that I am cheap and can build things, I went with option 4. And here it is, here is the initial incarnation of the dredge. The dredge will be pulled with a Harbor Freight A/C powered winch, so really all I need to do is sit there, push a button, wait, push another button, wait and the house will be magically excavated!

The dredge was wildly successful. This was the very first run of the dredge and it pulled out this chunk of concrete with no problems.
Here is a picture of the dredge / winch setup. I rigged up a pulley system anchored to the back of the house, so I could pull the winch both to and fro. This meant I just had to sit there and watch my dirt pile grow.

Here I am, in "Seattle Camouflage" (meaning jeans, boots and a flannel shirt). I would dredge the dirt from under the house and pull it to the front of the house. From there, I would need to haul the dirt away using the "Dingo" (walk behind front-loader). This step was repeated ad nausea.
Here, you can see that I put the dredged earth to good use, namely leveling the yard. Eventually I'll have enough to level all of the front yards, so my neighbors' yards and mine will all be level.

And here is the end result, the ground underneath the house has been lowered by a foot or so, and is now nearly level. This was something I had not been anticipating, a usable crawl space!