At long last, we were done digging a hole in the ground and we started making vertical progress. Once the pad was prepared and (finally, finally) dry, the next step was to start getting footers in the ground. The house had been staked out on the lot, but this was when we finally saw the outer outline of the structure take shape.
As you may remember, we went back and forth between footers and piers for a bit, but bedrock was so deep that piers just weren’t cost-effective. So footers it was.
First the crew laid everything out, and then we got to see the footers take shape.
Once the footers cured – a pretty quick process – the crew got the concrete forms in place. The house will be slightly inset into the hill, with a walk-out first floor and garage. But, since we’re building at 9,000 feet in elevation and it freezes in the winter, our structure needs to reach below the frost line so that the house doesn’t shift every time it freezes. That means that our first floor will be over a crawl space. The concrete walls will reach down past the first floor and form the crawl space as well.
This was the first significant vertical progress we saw. The big opening in the foreground wall is the double garage door.
We were lucky enough to be onsite when they poured the concrete into the wall forms. When we were driving through town, we pulled up to a stoplight behind a full cement truck, and then we followed it all the way to the property! The crew used a pump truck to lift the concrete up from the trucks and into the forms. It was pretty exciting to watch.
Removing Concrete Forms
A little less than a week later, it was time for the forms to come off. Finally, we had a structure to look at, though walking through it didn’t give a great sense of the house itself, since “ground” level was still down in the crawlspace. It at least gave us a sense of how big the space would be, and our parking lot experiment felt pretty accurate.
Waterproofing and Backfill
Next, we applied waterproofing to the concrete and lined the concrete structure with insulation. Compared to the vertical walls rising from the earth, this felt pretty slow.
Backfill went fairly slow as well. Thanks to our lousy clay soil, we needed more inspections from the geotech and more gravel to help control subsurface runoff coming through the site. All of that meant that we couldn’t just dump the dirt that came out of the hole back into the hole. Ultimately, we ended up only backfilling about half of the hole around the house. The plan was that we could see how water runoff looked in the spring, and that would give us more information that would guide how we finalized the runoff plans and the overall slope for the site.
Next, it was time to see some of the framing take shape.