It’s been crazy! On Monday I was all set to choose a concrete contractor and move on to other tasks on my week’s list when I happened to read a line in a foundation estimate that I didn’t understand. One person suggested it was just a cut-and-paste and I should ignore it. Instead I called the concrete contractor to inquire.
Well! The contractor explained that the west foundation wall of my mudroom would someday be the east wall of my house’s full basement, and thus needed to be 7’10” high. Yoiks! No one had noticed this. Not me. Not the building company. Not any of the other three estimators. “You can’t dig under a footing, later, to tie into it; you’d undermine and crack your mudroom floor,” he explained.
I felt my hair turning white. This is the peril of doing a project in stages. It’s so easy to forget the big picture. I was a wreck. The foundation digging had to be fixed.
I spent all Monday on the telephone, trying to keep the excavator on the property, trying to find Allen, trying to keep the expenses from becoming ruinous (the excavator alone is $475/day), trying to nail down exactly what changes had to be made, trying to explain those changes to Allen, and trying to refrain from hysteria.
Allen is a true genius with an excavator but he’s a man of few words. He met me at the farm after work, his brows knit. He did not like the idea that he’d made a mistake — though I assured him it was not his mistake, but mine (or even a cosmic one). I could see he was not happy. I even got the sense he might have preferred I change concrete contractors rather than deal with anyone telling him what to do.
Meanwhile the contractor (whom obviously I was going to hire now) was on the phone to me multiple times a day. “Where is your zero point? How do you know your man adjusted properly for grade?” And, “You know, if you’re a coupl’a inches off, the end of your building is gonna be so high in the air you’ll have to put a light on top!”
I tried to explain but with every call I was getting more and more muddled, and more and more anxious. Finally I said, with a tiny spurt of asperity, “For this much money, couldn’t someone come out to take a look?”
Somehow this seemed impossible. My heart raced.
The contractor tried to be soothing. “Don’t let none of this shit worry you.”
I gulped weakly. “Thanks.”
Yesterday was another day spent trying to manage the crisis. The contractor was finally able to reach Allen by telephone. Allen is only slightly more adept with a cell phone than I am. He couldn’t hear much over the roar of his machinery and he tends to communicate in smiles. The contractor called me and said dolefully, “I have my doubts.”
Now, I know Allen understands issues of grade — he’s been managing big machines and digging foundations all his life — but he’s a man of action, not words.
“Please could someone come out and look at the project with Allen and show him what you want?”
In the end, the contractor, Allen, and I met during a downpour yesterday afternoon when Allen got off work. Just to make my life more exciting, moments before, the whipping wind had lifted and smashed my half-built chicken house, ruining it and taking down the electric fence. All the animals could have run free. Evidently they were more afraid of flying hen coops, however, and merely by opening the gate I was able to call them all into the barn out of the storm.
By the time I reached the men the rain was drumming sideways. We were all soaked. But we got the laser going and jumped down into the mud to measure.
It turns out that most of our trenches were only a half inch off — easily fixed with a rake. The west trench that needs to be 2’8″ deeper, Allen will dig tonight after work. I’ll manage the laser and raking.
In between phone calls yesterday I’d signed and faxed the concrete contract and then driven into town to pick up the necessary permit. I showed it to the family at dinner. “What is wrong with this permit?”
The kids got it right away. “It is made out in Dad’s name!”
Yes, though the land was purchased with a bequest from my mother, and though DH has had nothing to do with the project and was never mentioned on my application, his name comes first on the town tax rolls, so he is officially in charge. Good thing I’m crazy about him.
DH smiled apologetically. “That’s the North Country!”