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Main House Progress

So - it's been awhile! We’ve been busy and lazy, but this will get you somewhat up-to-speed with where the construction is at on the main house. We've been holding out on you - we excavated for the main house way back at the end of July. As you can see in the photos, we didn't begin working on the excavation until the rental suite was clad to weather (sort-of, it didn't have the windows in yet). For some reason, we chose to wait until after the building excavation was complete before bringing power to the electrical meters. Since all the dirt from the excavation ended up being temporarily placed between the power pole and the houses, we couldn't trench for wires until after we had completed backfill. We used a PWF foundation which also meant that we couldn't backfill until we had the main floor in place, and the crawlspace slab poured. Also, we hit bedrock, a lot of bedrock. These logistics of getting out of the ground were difficult to say the least. Since all of this took closer to 4 months than the 1 we had anticipated, Burgess Built was working off a generator until October. Woops. If we had life to do over again, we would have trenched the services THEN excavated for the house.

Oh hey bedrock

starting to get nice and flat

If you remember the house is stepped, the B+B suites are about 2 feet lower than our house, to work with the existing grade and to add some architectural je ne sais quoi. But across our site (north to south) the bedrock slopes from 9 feet below grade to about 18 inches, with some surface outcrops. Where we put the house, the bedrock is about 6 feet below grade to 18 inches. So needless to say we ended up with stepped footings. A lot of stepped footings. A ton of stepped footings. We attempted to rock hammer out the rock, but after a day of hammering the granite, we just gave up. Realistically, you do not need to form a footing on bedrock, if you were pouring concrete foundation walls. But since we were being cheap and using PWF (permanent wood foundations), we need the footings to properly anchor the walls and spread the loads. To make life more interesting, the rock needs to be cleaned to ensure a proper bond between concrete and rock.

my 70-something year old dad brushing dirt off rock... as you do

you can see some of the footing formwork scribed around the bedrock. and a small child

Do this without water or proper power for a shop vac. Also, you do not want the footing to simply sit on the rock, so you need to drill into the rock at 24” centers and socket a 20M rebar at least 12”. The rebar needs to be anchored into the rock with epoxy. The reason for this is with any lateral loading (seismic event or wind storm, you do not want the footing to slide off the rock. The formwork all needs to be scribed to the rock. The anchors holding the rebar in place need to be drilled into the rock as well. Gaps need to be filled. This is all very labour intensive! You also need a ton of rebar where the bedrock transitions to the native soils, as the rock wont move but the soils might and you want the foundation to move together with the soil (or not at all).

real life building blocks

epoxy-ing the rebar holes in the summer heat

note the fireweed in the foreground

lots of stepped footings

We poured a mud slab for the crawlspace floor on 4” of EPS rigid foam and vapour barrier. In the locations with exposed rock, we spray foamed the rock and poured concrete overtop as a thermal barrier. In the building code, foams are to be protected by a thermal barrier because the smoke that develops in a fire is nasty stuff. It excludes crawlspaces, but the code is not a standard of excellence, only a minimum and so we covered the foam. Its ultimately too bad, because it would have been awesome to have exposed bedrock in the crawlspace. The crawlspace is heated and the rock would have been a massive thermal bridge bringing cold into the house in the winter, so we insulated it.

concrete day

crawlspace walls coming along

The crawlspace is about 2ft high in the bedrock areas to a little over 4 feet under the main house. It is 5’-10” under the B+B suites……This was Chris’ idea to save money. Jackie figured we should have jacked the B+B up 18” and had a future basement under the suites.

The exciting bit of news is because of the stepped footing and the location of a step in the floor assembly we found a surprise room in the crawlspace. It is 9 feet wide and 17 feet long, with over 8 foot ceilings. Chris is calling this his Speakeasy. It has been confirmed, the foosball table will fit in there with ample room to play. Also, a poker table or Nintendo setup. But here’s the issue – there is no way to get there without going down the crawlspace hatch, crawling through the 4 foot crawlspace, jumping through an opening in the wall and down into the room. This suits Chris just fine, one of the line items on his Architectural Bucket List is a secret passageway, and this will cross that off. Poster of dogs playing poker, here we come.

the spray foam over bedrock is below that super sophisticated rain mitigation structure

crawlspace eps insulation

Then comes framing, as you will see every stud in the wall is a different length, but once that top plate is done for the foundation wall, we have a flat platform to put a house!

concrete going in on top of the spray foamed bedrock

main floor starting to go on

phew. starting to resemble house construction

living room relationship with bedrock outcrop

Chris' speakeasy

there were some super wet periods this summer

resisto going up

site visits

rough grade. final grades and swales will be done in the spring

Exterior crawlspace walls were insulated with 4” of EPS rigid foam insulation (same as our current house) and then the backfill was completed. Then came the trenching and well drilling – but that is info for another post. Main floor walls went up, and then the steel for the overhanging elements and the glulam beams. Interesting fact about the glulam. It was ordered gridline to gridline, that is to say outside of OSB sheathing to outside of sheathing. There is 4” of foam outside on either side, as well as siding, strapping, so the glulam is about 5” short on either side. We should say that this is an aesthetic issue and not a structural one, so we will need to order a 6” offcut of glulam for either side. With the beam saddle the joint will not be visible and it will look continuous. Measure twice and cut once.

finn's bedroom overhang + too short glulam

Second floors went up, and our neighbour was able to see the height we were building to. Hi neighbour!

Entrance canopies went up next, again more steel columns, but also some NLT. Nail laminated timber is a fancy way of saying wood nailed together - a lot. It needs a bit of sanding to remove some of the wane and a clear coat, but it looks good.

Then trusses happened. There was an issue with the trusses as well, miscommunication on the shop drawings and they came 3” to short. We resolved this with some gusset plate and ledger magic. Similar to our current house, we did a sbs roofing membrane on the roof since we are super low slope at 0.5/12. We were finally preventing the weather from snowing inside the house, but the sides were still wide open. Because it was now winter! How'd that happen?

hello snow

various stages of wall assembly

It was a good day when the exterior rigid insulation started going up - we could see the light that one day soon we could start heating that beast. The rigid and the windows went in simultaneously so that the crew didn't need to move the pump-jacks more than necessary. We ordered the windows the the large panes un-glazed, since they are big heavy units.

den/family room on the left, living room/master bedroom on the right

wintery site

Chris spent some time over the past few weekends shoving batts into the exterior walls. Wanted to be useful and progress the construction while the guys worked on cladding the house from the outside. As helpful as possible without doing anything too skilled.

second floor with insulation happening. On the far left is the master bedroom window

all bundled up for working 'outside' at minus 20

Brrr. Frosty

And that's where we're at to-date. Not quite closed in. And we're heading in to a minus 30 week. Fun! Currently taking bets on whether we will be able to move in before little baby Chevalier joins the family in the spring.

small note - we've moved from wordpress to this new snazzy site. It's a work in progress, and we're in the process of moving over a few of the blog posts, but you can still find them on wordpress at if you're inclined.

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