Building Project Archive: April-June 2021
June 29, 2021
Balcony Work Continues in Heatwave
I arrived at the church at about 11am, so the work had a good head start. The temperature had climbed over 110, so it was good they were able to work inside. I missed seeing the heavy balcony beams lifted into place. The south beam looks a bit odd because it sits atop the header for the door into the sanctuary. In addition to the heavy beam, this header supports the weight of the old steeple (the smaller of the two towers) overhead, so Roger increased the size of the header and the posts on each end.
By being late I missed seeing the beam jacks in use. They had at leas 5 of them. They run along a standard 2×4, and with a pipe handle, inch their way up, lifting the beam.
Once up, the beams rest atop 6×6 posts – posts that will be hidden within the finished walls.
The south beam, both longer and heavier must have been trickier to lift. Its west end had to go over the header for the new door. I’m guessing this picture shows a track to stabilize the east end as it was lifted. Once it reached the top it nestled on top of the 6×6 post embedded in the wall.
Next, the beams will be supported by four 6×6 wood posts that match the position of the four new steel posts in the basement below. This means opening the floor to position the posts.
The post is secured into custom made steel brackets both top and bottom. It fits perfectly, with only a little persuasion from a hammer. The floor will be patched with matching old fir, joining all the older patches in the sanctuary floor – a map of the history of our building.
The first post is in place. I expect the other three will be completed this afternoon, but it is really too hot to go look. I’ll go look tomorrow morning. For now, I will contemplate this picture taken from about where the piano will sit. I imagine the balcony complete, and the chairs and audience in place, it is a pleasant thought.
This picture also fits a contemplative mood. It was a bit of trim that was removed with a window. I think it says “Swed Luth Ch, Moscow, Id”. I wonder if it dates from the original construction 115 years ago, or a later remodel. It is being saved in case it is needed when the window is reinstalled in the addition. Otherwise, it goes in the artifact pile.
UPDATE: Roger’s Pictures of Lifting the Beams
I discovered that Roger sent me pictures of the north beam being lifted into place – the pictures I didn’t take because I arrived too late. See how the 2×4 sandwiches the beam against the 6×6 post, holding it upright as they work the levers on the jacks.
The same thing is happening on the other end. The beam must be just about high enough to shove it sideways and let it down on the post. Heavy screws will be used to secure the beam to the wall framing.
June 28, 2021
Installing the Avista Electrical Connection
We need a heavy duty 3-phase electrical connection to serve our new elevator. This means a connection up the power pole across the street beside the conduits serving the 1912 Center. Our wires will be in underground conduit. This machine bores the hole and will pull the conduit.
This hand-held device detects the tip of the boring head – it is now almost to the hole but a little to the east. The operator 160 feet away will turn the head a bit so it hits the hole.
The tip entered the hole dead center.
They removed the boring head and replaced it with a pulling head. The mud is lubricant supplied by the machine to ease the path through the Palouse clay.
The three conduits are 160 feet long and flexible. The joints use a special glue so they don’t come apart in the pulling. The machine is capable of applying 6000 pounds of force pushing or pulling.
The loops glued on the ends of each conduit are linked by heavy cable to the pulling head. The pulling head rotates to ream enough room for the conduits as it pulls.
The three conduits slide very slowly into the hole.
The tips finally emerge 160 feet away.
At this stage the conduits are empty. Eventually, this end will run wires up the poles connecting to the power line. The other end will be extended a bit more to serve the transformer behind the addition.
We are in the middle of an unprecedented heat wave. This is our third day above 100 degrees (presently 107 at 3pm) and several more days coming. The workers have moved inside where it is slightly cooler to get started on the new sanctuary door and balcony. I may brave the heat in late afternoon to see how they are progressing.
June 24, 2021
A Window for the South Peak of the New Addition
The architect’s plans for our new addition to the church make it clear that the UUCP will provide the window that will go into the south roof peak of the addition. The contractor will build a 48 inch round opening in the south peak, but it is up to us to come up with something to fill it. The building committee has discussed the design of this window at several meetings. There are several alternatives.
The window in the south façade of the addition is intended to reference the rose windows presently in the south and east peaks of our 115-year-old church building. There was once a third rose window in the west peak, although that one deteriorated (probably leaking rainwater) and was removed during the west wall re-siding project – and the opening was sided over. The remnants of that window are still propped against beams in the church attic. This suggests the possibility of fixing the window and using it in the addition. Unfortunately, the old window is in very poor shape. Dan Schmidt has some of the parts, I have some others, and there are probably other parts still missing. The wood that’s still there is very weathered and brittle. The dowels and screws that hold it together are mostly loose and sometimes gone. The window would probably have to be mostly rebuilt with new wood.
Because of the poor condition of the third rose window, the discussion has ranged more broadly, looking at alternatives. First, this is a new addition that we are adding to our 115 year old church building. Despite plans that reference the style of the church, no one is going to mistake the addition for a historic building. A major reason we chose to proceed with the building project was to accommodate our burgeoning RE program and our ideas for outreach. Our facility is no longer a Swedish Lutheran church. These are reasons why the addition should acknowledge the physical heritage of our old building but also note that we have a separate identity in the community.
So where does this lead? We could commission a leaded glass window, but that might be expensive with a long time lag. There are several UUCP members who have dabbled in leaded glass (including Mary Jo and myself) but a 48 inch round window would be a daunting prospect. However, we do have a UUCP member who is an actual glass artist, regularly selling her work, including weekly appearances at the Moscow Farmer’s Market. Pam Arborgreen’s art is based on found materials – often fragments of glass bottles epoxied to the glass in old window frames. Her themes are quite varied, but often botanical. I approached Pam about the project, and she expressed an interest.
I also talked with Roger (the contractor’s site manager at our project). He, of course, was very interested in the window itself, and was concerned with my initial idea of using a single 48-inch glass panel. He argued for a double pane 48-inch round window from the same series as the rest of the windows in the addition to address concerns about insulation and rain penetration. Pam agreed that a double window should work with her art style, so long as it is backlit, which is the plan.
What should be the theme of the window? Any internet search on “Unitarian images” will show many and varied images of chalices. This seems to be the undeclared icon of the Unitarian churches. The internet hits range from jewelry to coffee mugs, to t shirts, to church stained glass windows. The other theme that is common is a rainbow, symbolizing our professed support for diversity. Many combine the chalice with the rainbow, often as a border around a chalice.
Pam is thinking about the materials, design and assembly of a window. The Building and Aesthetics Committees are currently working with Pam to finalize a design for the window. Pam has access to the stash of colored glass that Mary Jo and I collected nearly 50 years ago when we last did leaded glass. There are lots of colors, although we’re short of orange and indigo/violet shades. Pam has found some black glass for the body of the chalice.
The time schedule remains uncertain. The 48 inch round double pane glass window has been ordered. It will probably come along with the other windows. Delivery dates for everything are uncertain because of the building boom and material shortages. If you have unused colored glass you want to donate to the project, or if you want to offer financial support, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the south elevation drawing from the building plans you can see the placement of the old rose window and the new window to be made. We will keep you posted.
June 22, 2021
Pathways, Framing and Pumping
The interesting stuff today was happening behind the addition. The excavator was backfilling against the foundation and reshaping the area. The ultimate goal is a walkway from the parking area, along the back of the addition and connecting to the rear exits from all three floors (the second and third floors via a steel stairs). The path will also access the raised area on the right which we hope will become a play area. The grading is made more complex by the big Avista transformer (and all its connections) that will be placed just north of the path, by the heat pump units that will sit on a pad back near the church, and by the need to protect the roots of our neighbor’s trees to the north.
I liked the way the trees frame this view of the project. The carpenters have now rough framed most of the second floor walls. They still have things to do before they go on to the third floor. They need to construct a firewall in the space between the church and the addition. The exterior sheathing is needed to provide rigidity before they go higher. With that, and a few more things, they will begin to add roof trusses, which will nestle the third floor meeting room under the roof.
Roger Shattuck took this picture of the concrete pour I missed last Thursday. The concrete pump truck is an amazing machine. It delivered concrete to forms near the back door of the addition, and then reached the length of the addition to fill the wheelbarrows used to fill forms in the kitchen and office areas. Thanks, Roger, for sending me the picture.
June 21, 2021
Backfilling, Framing and the NE Exit
Today they began backfilling the foundation trenches with crushed rock. They start with a perforated drainpipe at the bottom, with a fabric sleeve to keep rocks from clogging the pipe holes. They paused this afternoon to let the electrician install some conduit to the Avista transformer. When they finish they will compact all the backfill.
Remember those 43-foot beams that were sitting at the curb? This morning they were lifted to the second floor deck with a forklift, and set on several 4-wheel dollies. (See one upside down on top, one under the far end, another in the middle, and probably another out of sight to the right.) They just cut a small hole in the wall and wheeled in the heavy beams. The hole and nearby window will soon be opened to become the double door between the foyer and the sanctuary. The beams will form the under frame for the new balcony.
Here is another surprise that our 115 year old building presented us with. This is the NE exit door from the sanctuary. The door is scheduled for replacement and will lead out to a new landing and steps. What we didn’t know was how rotten the sill is underneath. Roger thinks a beam salvaged from the Yellow House can probably be slipped in as a replacement.
The walls of the second floor are taking shape. Most of the perimeter walls are in place and they are starting on the elevator walls. Note on the far end where they left a gap so they can use a fork lift to slide in stacks of materials.
June 18, 2021
Some Concrete, Some Walls and Some Big Beams
A delivery of concrete mix arrived early Thursday morning. The pumper truck with the long boom pumped concrete over the addition to forms near the back door. Then they reached even further to pump concrete to waiting wheelbarrows through the church south basement door. This was then wheeled to forms to make berms to separate the (yet to be poured) concrete kitchen and office area floors from the floor that was renovated over a decade ago. Mary Jo and I are not morning people, so I missed concrete pumping, but Roger promised to send me a picture.
Thursday, after the concrete pour, they also made progress framing walls. The complex south wall looks mostly complete, but is still flat on the deck. I guess they didn’t want to stand it up (and vulnerable to wind) before their 3-day weekend.
The site was quiet when I visited late morning Friday. What I noticed immediately was the package sitting at the curb. There was a label on the west end that said 5 1/8 by 13 inches and 43 feet long. This must be the beams that will become the understructure of the new balcony. Roger has mentioned that he was anxious to have the sanctuary-level floor in place so he can cut the new door into the sanctuary so they can bring in the long beams and start work on the balcony. These are those beams. The new double doors will replace the right-most window (the one that once opened into the stairwell). That also explains why they stopped with only the south wall flat on the deck. They need a clean deck so they can lift the heavy beams and move them through the opening into the church.
The exposed end of the beam reveals its structure. The 5 1/8 inches is a bit less than the width of a 2×6. You can count the nine 2x6s that have been laminated with glue and pressure. The slight reduction from 5 ½ to 5 1/8 inches suggests the edges have been planed to give the beams a smooth surface.
June 16, 2021
Sanctuary Level Subfloor Finished
Yesterday’s rainstorm stopped work on the flooring at about 3pm. After drying things out a bit this morning they completed the laying the sanctuary level subfloor. This afternoon they completed the safety rail around the perimeter and around the elevator pit, and then got organized to frame more walls. In the photo below, black shirt is marking out the locations of interior walls. Grey shirt is kneeling beside the 2x4s that will become the top and bottom plates of the south wall. He’s marking the locations of the second floor windows, so they will align with the windows below and the gothic window above.
First thing tomorrow will be a concrete delivery to some formed spaces by the rear door of the addition, and to some small areas in the church basement – still getting the kitchen and office spaces ready for the big concrete floor pours. Then, I expect they will get a good start on the sanctuary level wall framing.
June 15, 2021
Laying the Subfloor for the Sanctuary Level
Yesterday they completed the blocking to reinforce the joists where more walls will stand. Then they got a start on laying the 4 x 8 sheets that will become the subfloor of the sanctuary level of the addition. Since the stack of OSB sheets and the table saw are on the ground, any cutting is done down below, and the sheets are handed up. Here a heavy, whole 4 x 8 sheet is lifted up. Roger keeps a close watch that the arrangement of sheets matches the spacing pattern of the joists. Note the safety rails on the perimeter.
The sheets are fastened with both glue and nails. This should prevent squeaks and add to the strength of the floor.
The subflooring is 4 x 8 sheets of tongue and groove OSB wood. It takes a bit of encouragement to engage the tongues with the grooves. This is provided with a scrap board to protect the panel edge and a big sledgehammer. It rained hard just after I took this picture – perhaps ending the workday. At least it sent me home.
June 10, 2021
Still More Joists
Our architect Laurence Rose was in town on Tuesday and that morning he took the following picture from the third floor of the 1912 Center. His picture shows the rim joists and on the far side the first of the 40-foot long I-joists.
Now it is Thursday evening, and the I-joists are all in place, some running east/west, and some north/south. On the north edge you can see the blocking to reinforce where the second floor wall will stand. Similar blocking is just started on the south edge. The Golis carpenters work 10/4 – 10 hours a day and 4 days a week, so not much will happen on Friday. At the right edge of the picture, the green is one of 3 new stacks of subflooring and sheathing. Next week they will make a floor and frame some second floor walls.
June 9, 2021
By mid-morning they had added the short joists that cantilever over the west entry and were measuring for more 40-foot-long ones. Can you see the long yellow tape?
The I-Joists are quite limber in this direction, but stiff when stood on edge.
This laminated plank will help support the outer end of the joists above the west door. It will be joined by another plank running the full width.
June 7, 2021
The First Floor Joists Installed
The process started this morning with rim joists around the perimeter of the building. This joist sticks out almost 2 feet, since the second floor will be cantilevered 2 feet over the sidewalk along the parking strip (giving us a bit more classroom space). The joists around the perimeter are 2×12 planks, while those that will go in the interior are 2×12 I-beams – both types made of engineered wood.
Most of the perimeter joists were in place by evening. The pattern of interior joists will be quite complex. They must span wide spaces such as the central hall, offices, and entry foyer, and they must extend out to support a cantilever. Depending on the space, some joists are spaced 16 inches apart (1/6 the length of a 4×8 sheet of plywood). Other times the spacing is 19.2 inches (1/5 the sheet length). The complexity of the pattern should be visible tomorrow.
June 3, 2021
A Bit of Concrete and More Walls
Several yards of concrete were delivered late Wednesday for the piers under the four new steel posts. Note that the posts are still a few inches above the pier surfaces, locked in place by 4 J-bolts down into the piers. Roger explained that the gap will be filled by a special hand-mixed non shrinking concrete. Ordinary concrete shrinks a bit as it cures – and would leave a small gap under each post and some oddly stressed concrete piers. When the slab is poured, it will cover about 4 inches of each post, locking everything in place.
Some of the concrete mix delivery went behind the addition to make footings for the emergency exit stairway. By tonight more forms had been added to make the foundation for a landing and some steps, and for piers to support the steel stairway above. On Monday more concrete will come for these foundation walls, and some more bits for the basement. It is also getting close to time to backfill against the north foundation and reconfigure the earth bank behind the addition.
The carpenters are also making good progress with wall framing despite temperatures as high as 94. At midday they were working on the wall around the elevator shaft.
By late afternoon the wall framing for the first floor is almost complete. To the left of the hall is the RE Director’s office, then two bathrooms and a mechanical room where the electrical panel will be, then a hallway to the rear door, followed by the elevator shaft and behind it a big storage room, and finally the stairs up to the sanctuary. Next week, expect to see the joists set in place for the second floor.
June 2, 2021
Its Hot, The Basement is Cooler
Its even hotter than yesterday, 99.3 degrees at 2:00 pm. I was in the cool basement for a meeting with the contractor people, so I took a few pictures. The four new steel posts are now suspended from the ceiling beams, ready for the concrete piers to anchor their bases. The floor above is now supported by the two temporary wood posts.
The rusted cast iron posts are still in place nestled in the kitchen wall – but they will be replaced very soon with steel.
The plumbers have made a start on kitchen piping. Apparently commercial dishwashers always discharge into little basins like this – perhaps as an air break? They worked hard to route the pipe around one concrete pier, so the basin would not end up embedded in concrete when they pour the kitchen slab.
This conduit has been here since they poured the slab outside some time ago. It will bring electricity from the utility room in the addition, under that slab, under the door to the basement, under the wood basement floor, now under the kitchen slab, and finally up to power the breaker box in the east sanctuary closet. I find it ironic that this conduit sits in exactly the same spot where I took the picture of the century old knob and tube wiring they found under the rotting kitchen floor.
Despite the heat, work did progress outside. They are getting ready to pour the footings that will support the metal fire stairway on the back of the addition. It might be cooler here than in the addition framing walls.
Roger showed me the first bit of building plan confusion I have seen. The picture below shows the secretary’s office windows, looking out to the foyer. The big pass-through window will have sliding glass doors. The two windows on the side are the problem. An earlier version of the plans showed the windows but a later version eliminated them. So, they ended up framed in. I don’t see any reason for these two windows, and the one on the right doesn’t exactly fit, so they will probably end up covered up with drywall.
June 1, 2021
More Interior Walls
When I dropped by just before noon the carpenters had erected two segments of the east wall. This wall was placed just a couple of inches from the church, leaving room for the required fire-retardant panels, making it a 2-hour firewall. This separation and the thickness of the foundation will make the door to Friendship Hall a 3-foot long tunnel.
By afternoon they were working on the north wall. I had been wondering how they would frame along the elevated parts of the foundation. Look closely and you can see that they are building a second frame wall of 2x4s just inside the concrete wall. This will make the first-floor north wall about 10 inches thick. Should be good insulation.
Looking down into the addition, there are offices on the right – the minister’s office closest, then the music director’s office, and last the secretary’s office. There are many walls yet to build on the left. The RE Director’s office is first, followed by a warren of small rooms – bathrooms, utility rooms and the elevator shaft.
At the far end are the entry and foyer. Look through the wide front entry doors to the spacious foyer. On your left is the window to the secretary’s office. A turn to the left brings you to the elevator door, and straight ahead are the steps to the sanctuary.
The temperature today peaked at 94 degrees, perhaps a record for this early in June. The carpenters kept working in the heat, but they didn’t object to a turn in the still cool basement. Several things were happening there – sorting out the sewer plumbing for the kitchen and installing the new steel columns. The columns were the more interesting. The top end of the steel pipe was fabricated as a yoke to cradle the beam. The bottom will be held by a concrete pier poured around it. Before the concrete pour the bottom hangs in space. Without bottom support it took two strong straps to pull the heavy pipe with the top yoke tight up against the beam so lag screws could hold it in place.
May 28, 2021
Memorial Day Break
I went down to the church not expecting to see much activity since this is the first of a four-day Memorial Day break. Roger was there, so I decided I wanted a picture of the new steel posts that will hold up the sanctuary floor. The two posts on the right will go to either side of the pass-through window into the kitchen and will replace the rusting cast iron posts that have supported the right-front sanctuary floor. Of the other four posts, two will replace the rusted cast iron ones that have supported the rear sanctuary floor, and the other two are new and will support the new balcony.
I also wanted a picture of the old cast iron post that was embedded in the wall near the door to the minister’s office. The bottom was about half rusted away. One of the old posts by the kitchen pass-thorough is about as badly rusted.
As I walked out into the addition with Roger, I noticed the anchors that fasten the wall bottom plate to the slab. These are powder driven nails – nails driven into place by a tool that uses the explosion of the powder in a 22 shell (minus the lead). Roger noted that he called the police to explain he was using this tool so if they got reports of gunshots they would know what was going on. These nails are only to initially hold the bottom plate in place. They will be augmented later by bolts epoxied into drilled holes.
I was considering going home to mow my lawn when a truck arrived with a load of lumber and I-joists. The bundles were unloaded with a boom, a tricky operation with the biggest bundle – 40 feet long, 4 feet wide and very heavy. The I-joists will become the floor of the sanctuary level of the addition.
May 27, 2021
Building the Interior Walls
Sometimes when a slab is poured the heavy slurry of concrete manages to move some of the plumbing that they worked so hard to get into the right place. If the dislocated pipe is one that must go inside a wall, then this is a problem. A 3-inch pvc pipe is about 3 ½ inches wide and a wall built out of 2x4s has about 3 ½ inches of space inside. The pipe in the picture below should go through walls up to the 3rd floor bathroom. However, the concrete shoved it about ¾ of an inch to the north. Bill is working with an impact drill to open a space on its south side so it can be moved a bit.
Remember the long 5/8 inch bolts that went 18 inches down into the foundation to tie to the rebar? These are required by code to protect against earthquake or wind damage. There is one earthquake bolt beside each window. A nut ties the metal bracket down to the bolt and four 3-inch lag screws fasten it to the triple studding beside each window. I like the little angle impact driver he uses to drive the lag screws in the tight space.
The north walls and doorways of the minister’s office and music director’s offices are being assembled on the slab. Note the large closets that will separate these two offices.
Note the differences between the interior and exterior walls. The exterior walls have a treated 2×6 in contact with the concrete and then an untreated 2×6 as a bottom plate. The interior walls have only the treated 2×4 as a bottom plate in contact with the concrete. Thus, the interior studs must be 1 ½ inches longer than the exterior ones.
I am realizing that in a few days I won’t be able to look down into the building from my aerial perch. When they are building the second floor, the view will be straight across the top – not down in. When they build the third floor, I’ll be looking up.
May 26, 2021
Framing the Pillars beside the Front Door
Much of Wednesday was devoted to framing the pillars on each side of the new front entrance. The one on the right is where Roger and I think there should be a small compartment for a time capsule. The idea is to document this moment in the history of UUCP. We will seal it up – to be opened in a decade or so. My contribution will be a volume of all these blog entries. What would you put in? Anybody willing to chair a committee?
The pillars are taking a considerable amount of work. As usual, the segments are assembled on the flat, and then lifted into place and fastened.
Wednesday they also completed the north wall framing. I am trying to imagine the math that has to run through their heads as they think about the different stud lengths as the wall progresses across the different foundation heights on the north wall. (The different heights result from the up-slope of the path behind the addition.) The cluster of plumbing marks the location of the bathrooms and utility room near the north door. In the corner to the right, imagine the landing half way up the stairs to the sanctuary level. Further right, the foundation of the church will probably be covered on Thursday as they frame the east wall a few inches away.
May 25, 2021
The First Wall Framing is Erected
I was late to the construction site, so when I arrived at 9:30 the first wall was already vertical. The frame for the south wall was assembled flat on the slab in four sections. What I didn’t see was the process of lifting the sections and bracing them in place. The sections sit on the sill, where nails and some of the longer bolts hold then in place. A 2×4 is nailed along the top to tie the sections together. Braces hold the wall vertical. Notice the gaps in the top 2×4 where the top 2x4s of the interior walls will fit to tie things together. Something I find intriguing are the massive 6×6 beams used as headers over the windows and doors. This addition is being built to last for a century like our old church.
Even as one worker was finishing up the framing of the south wall, another was assembling the pieces to build the next wall segment. This segment will run from the southwest corner to near the center door in the west wall.
I went to a meeting and when I returned at 2:00, two segments of the west wall were in place, leaving a gap where the door will enter. It had been drizzling lightly and there were puddles on the slab but the carpenters had continued their work.
When I returned at 4:30 the first segment of the north wall was standing in place. The carpenters were truing everything to vertical with a 6-foot level and adding braces at the corners to hold things in place, probably worrying that the recent high winds will pick up again. They will probably complete the exterior wall framing tomorrow. Which comes next – interior wall framing or exterior sheathing?
Meanwhile there are flowers in the wild plant bed – beside a pile of old subflooring and plumbing waiting to be hauled away. The growth is vigorous despite the dry spring.
May 24, 2021
The Wood Framing Starts
The framing started at the southeast corner. The sill is what attaches the walls to the foundation. Treated lumber is used for this, since there is possibility of moisture at the interface between concrete and wood. This is the footprint of the eastern of two pillars that form an arch to frame the main entrance door and the Gothic window above. Remember this vertical bit of foundation? It serves to buttress the corner of the church foundation.
This is the footprint of the other pillar. I think I have convinced Roger that the base of one of these pillars would be a good place to put a time capsule. The sill of treated wood follows all the turns of the foundation. A thin layer of foam plastic blocks drafts from sneaking between concrete and sill. Holes are drilled so the wood can fit over the bolts that were embedded in the concrete. With the addition of a big metal washer and a tightened nut the sill is tightly secured.
Once the sill was completed all the way around the addition, they started building walls this afternoon. It is easier to build walls on the flat and then tip them vertical. This will be the south wall of the first floor, complete with openings for windows and the main entry door. A nail gun is a great time saver. Hammers are mostly used to persuade things into alignment.
The south wall is taking shape. It is too long to tip up into place all at once. I think it is being made in at least four sections. I expect the plywood sheathing will be nailed in place to provide rigidity before the sections are tipped up .
It will be a profound change in the view as the walls are put in place. I am curious whether they erect the walls as they are finished or whether they assemble several walls before they erect any. I’m also contemplating the puzzle of the optimal order to construct the walls so there is floor space to build them in.
May 21, 2021
The Slab is Poured and Lumber Arrives
When I arrived this morning they had almost finished pouring 3 mixer truckloads of concrete. I was told that the pumper truck had arrived at 6:30 am. After yesterday’s half inch of rain, today was overcast and not much above freezing, but there was no more rain. The big crew waded in the concrete as they pushed it around and screeded it level.
Concrete slab poured. Some lumber coming in a few minutes.
There’s lots of hand work with a trowel, sometimes nearly on the level and sometimes draped over the stem wall.
Of course, most of the slab can’t be reached from the edge. I didn’t get a picture of the long-handled trowel – a 6 foot wide blade with a 20 foot long handle. I admired his skill with that thing. As the concrete started to set they ventured onto the slab cushioned by a pad to trowel around all the plumbing extending above the slab.
A smooth finished slab requires an aggressive working of the surface bringing up the cement-water slurry and pushing down the aggregate. As the slab gets firm enough to walk on the machines take over.
Remember the worrisome church foundation and the shotcrete they used to stabilize it? The next part of the plan to stabilize the connection between the church and the addition was the slab. Where the new slab butts against the foundation it is 12 inches thick across the width of the addition.
Our first delivery of lumber was brought to the site today. The lumber was purchased some months ago when prices had not yet jumped to present outrageous levels and was stored in a warehouse. Today’s delivery was for the first floor only.
With the slab now completed, framing the first floor should start next week. Work has also been proceeding out of sight in the basement. All four of the precarious cast iron posts have been removed – including a second one with a rusted hole. It will be good to have them out of there. The forms for the piers under the replacement posts may be ready for concrete next week. The replacement steel posts are being fabricated. The concrete floors for the kitchen and office spaces should be coming soon.
May 19, 2021
Almost Ready to Pour the Slab
Yesterday they dug some trenches in the compacted crushed rock. The trenches mark where interior walls will be built on top of the slab. With the trenches, the slab will be thicker under these bearing walls to support the weight of the stories above. Hand digging in the compacted crushed rock is a challenge, requiring both grub hoe, shovel, and a wheelbarrow to haul the gravel back out of the foundation area. Note the two different compactor machines – the plate compactor to use on the flat areas and the one they call the “jumping jack” used to firm up the trenches.
The next step is the vapor barrier. Here Roger and Bill unroll the 15 mill sheet plastic which will cover the entire surface. Given the trenches, the surface is uneven, so there is a lot of cutting, piecing and taping of joints. The workers are getting wet since there is a very light drizzle.
Then comes the rebar. There are ladders of rebar in each of the trenches and a grid of rebar across the entire surface. Everything is tied together with short lengths of twisted wire. The final touch is the little 2 inch cubes of cement that are placed here and there and wired in place to hold up the rebar so it stays in the middle of the slab when they pour the concrete on top of everything.
Another picture from my favorite perspective – this time with threatening storm clouds. The site is nearly ready for the concrete, but the weather forecast for tomorrow is a likelihood of rain, so Roger has requested that the concrete come on Friday. I heard a discussion about lumber delivery, so I suspect we may see some sills and walls begin to appear as soon as next week.
May 13, 2021
Support Posts and Plumbing
Work was proceeding both inside and outside today. The inside work focused on preparation for the concrete floors in the kitchen and office spaces. These areas include the support posts that hold up the floor above, and soon will hold up the balcony. Two posts were embedded in the kitchen wall, two inside the office wall and two new ones will be in what was office space. The four embedded posts are century-old cast iron ones.
The picture below is a close-up of the base of the nearest (dark) post in the picture above. It’s hard to see the rusted hole in the base of this post – big enough I could stick 3 fingers into the hole. I could feel the rust-thinned metal well beyond the actual hole. Old cast iron pipe is not only subject to rust, but also brittle. The contractor intends to replace the two posts in the kitchen and two embedded ones from the office wall with steel posts. The temporary wood posts in the first picture were installed to support the floor above while the cast iron posts are removed, and steel ones fabricated and installed.
The workers outside installed under slab plumbing. The water and sanitary sewer lines go in trenches dug with a shovel and grub hoe into the compacted crushed rock – it looks like a nasty job. The array of vertical pipes must be precisely placed since each of them will be embedded in walls or attached to fixtures. Correcting pipe location is near impossible once concrete is poured around them. The subcontractor has just uncoiled 1” black tubing that runs the length of the addition, through the door and then fished under the basement floor. Both the church and addition will be served by a single water meter instead of the two that served the Yellow House and the church.
May 11, 2021
A Crushed Rock Bed in the Foundation
Much of today’s activity was spreading truckloads of crushed rock inside the new foundation walls. This will be the bed on which the slab will be poured – probably early next week. The layer of rock has been compacted and tested for compactness. Parts of the rock bed will now be disturbed again to add some plumbing, and to make some hollows along the paths of the interior walls so the poured slab will be thicker under the walls – then compacted again.
The slab will be about a foot thick where it butts against the bottom of the church wall to help stabilize the foundation. This thick slab edge will also be the base for the east wall of the addition, which will be built close to but not touching the church wall – separated by fire retardant panels.
I like these elevated views, especially with nice clouds. You will note that the area west of the foundation has not been backfilled. There will be more digging here in the next few days to run new water lines, electricity service and internet lines to and under the street.
May 10, 2021
Some Progress Both Inside and Outside
Work is progressing on the things that must be completed before the slab for the first floor can be poured. An asphalt coating has been applied to the exterior of the stem walls and panels of Styrofoam insulation are being positioned on the inside below the level of the slab. When this is completed the trenches, both inside and outside the stem wall will be backfilled with crushed rock – a process that has just started in this picture.
Eventually a layer of crushed rock will be spread from wall to wall, but first some under-slab plumbing must be completed. This will include water lines and the sanitary sewer line. This picture shows the beginnings of a trench for the sanitary sewer line. You can also see bits of wood forms that will block the slab concrete pour from flowing out the front door gap, the rear door opening, or into the elevator shaft.
In the church basement, the dirt in the kitchen area has been removed down to a firm clay base. This is hard work and slow, with a shovel and wheelbarrow since there is no way to get machinery into the basement. It remains to be determined whether the I-beam and cast-iron posts that span the pass-through opening will be judged adequate by the engineer. If not, they will also need to be replaced along with their cement piers.
The basement bathrooms have both been gutted. The space from the east one will be added to the kitchen, providing a second kitchen entry. The west bathroom will be rebuilt as a bathroom, but with the door returned to the west side where it was years ago, rather than opening directly into Friendship Hall.
Shovel, pick and wheelbarrow work has also excavated the level of the south end of Friendship Hall down to solid clay. The south wall dangles in the air after it was detached from the decayed floor joists. Just beyond the wheelbarrow, a partly dug hole will become a pier for the post to support the new balcony up in the sanctuary.
We had hoped to save the nice cabinet that was in the corner. Unfortunately, the decayed floor extended into the corner, so the cabinet had to come out. We may want to build a new cabinet in this corner, and perhaps library shelves on the wall to the left.
May 4, 2021
Concrete for the Elevator Base
I wandered down to the building site just in time to see another concrete pour – this time for the foundation under the new elevator. The concrete pump with the long boom is expensive, and this pour was quite small, so they decided to use gravity. The delivery truck backed up as close as they dared to the trench and extended its long spout. They positioned another 20 feet of trough on a temporary stand and let the mix flow.
A plasticizer had been added to the mix to make it flow more easily, but the troughs were flat enough that it was necessary to help it along with a push.
The plasticizer also helped the mix flow more readily in the forms, but a vibrator was still needed encourage the flow and avoid air pockets.
The kitchen is still being cleared of floor debris. These bricks and rocks were the supports for the floor of the kitchen. These are not real rocks – they are the concrete piers that helped hold up the floor. They apparently dug a hole about a foot wide and a few inches deep and mixed concrete by hand to fill it. The bricks generally failed to keep the joists from resting on the soil.
I couldn’t resist the flowers blooming in the bed west of the big front stairway – yellow lupine, tulips and native gooseberries. This bed will be preserved in the remodeling and will be expanded across most of the church front to protect the less than solid foundation.
May 3, 2021
The Realities of our Century-Old Church Building
Peeling back the coverings reveals all sorts of interesting issues in the church basement. This is what was under the office floors. The floor joists sit sometimes on beams and sometimes on dirt. The beams sit sometimes om concrete piers, sometimes on rocks, and sometimes are embedded in dirt. Up through the 1920s when the floor was added to the basement to make usable space, the roundish pier in the center held a post that helped support the sanctuary floor. Some of the floor joists seem to have missed the beams to either side, sitting on rocks instead.
Decay was inevitable where the beams or joists rested on dirt.
The area under the kitchen had similar problems – too much wood resting on dirt. Here, however, is another issue. These almost buried cement tiles probably once ran from a drain at the bottom of the stairs outside the door near the kitchen. The drain must have been closed many years ago since the tiles are in no condition to carry rainwater. The question is, do the cement tiles contain asbestos?
The northwest corner of the kitchen is also a mess. The original electric wiring was “knob and tube” wiring under the floor – typical of the 1920s. It is a wonder that it didn’t set the church on fire. The contractor is still considering the alternatives, but it seems likely that both the office area and the kitchen will end up with concrete floors.
The stairs to the basement were removed from this space. We had thought this space would be added to Fellowship Hall, but the wall is a bearing wall and cannot be removed. Add a floor and it will become a 12 foot by 30 inch closet – a perfect place to store chairs on wheeled carts.
April 30, 2021
The Forms are Stripped from the Stem Walls
This morning the forms were removed from the foundation walls, as shown in this photo by Al Poplawsky.
Looking across the site, you can see the gap in the foundation where the north exit from the ground floor will go. Once the north wall is backfilled, the door will open out onto a platform and then go up a few steps to reach the pathway behind the addition. The workers are building the forms for the foundation walls in the elevator pit.
This gives a better view of the elevator pit. There are several spots that will get concrete in the next pour.
We met this morning to discuss the configuration of the stage in the sanctuary, and the audio and video connections that will be required. The meeting included Pat Fuerst, Rod Sprague, Steve Flint, myself and Roger Shattuck, the site manager for the contractor, Figuring it all out is a complicated process.
April 29, 2021
The Stem Walls are Filled with Concrete
The pumper truck and cement truck arrived at a bit after 11am. They started pouring at the southeast corner. I was curious how they would do this so the fluid concrete wouldn’t just sluice down into the lower stem wall. They filled the lower part first and came back to fill the upper part 15 minutes later when the lower past had started to set up and wouldn’t flow.
A key quality control is the cement test. This guy has filled what looks a like a small pressure cooker with a sample of the cement. The test is to apply pressure and see how much the sample compresses. If it compresses too much, this means it has been mixed too vigorously incorporating air bubbles and will make weak porous concrete. This sample passed the test.
Here they are pouring the north stem wall, and since these forms are taller, several of them must work balanced on the top. The man on the left has a vibrator, which he runs all the way down to settle the fluid concrete into the corners and eliminate air bubbles. The man in blue has the wireless remote strapped around his waist so he can control the overhead boom that delivers the concrete.
Concrete sets surprisingly quickly so it is a priority to allocate many hands to very quickly trowel it smooth and level. They are also checking the alignment of the forms and adjusting the braces when necessary. The fluid concrete is extremely heavy and capable of bowing the forms even with all the ties and braces.
I like this view of the site. The forms are full, the cement truck left a few minutes ago and the pump truck is about to leave. One of the last tasks is to insert J bolts part way into the wet cement to fasten down the wood sill of the new wall. It is easy to imagine the slab floor to be poured in this space, but there is lots to do first – more work on the elevator space, the under-slab plumbing, the compacted fill, and a lot more. It may be several weeks before we see the slab.
April 28, 2021
Putting Final Touches on the Foundation Forms
There are many details requiring attention before the forms are ready to be filled with concrete. Roger is still working on the earthquake tie-down bolts. Their placement must be measured carefully, or else a bolt will protrude upward through a door sill or vie for space with a wall stud. Note the vertical bit of the foundation forms on the right. This will make a pier to brace the corner of the church foundation where there was one big stone with little visible remaining support.
The plan is to pour the cement for the stem wall at 10 am tomorrow. They hope to pour the footing for the elevator at the same time, but they still have work to complete before then.
April 27, 2021
The Stem Walls Take Form
It takes a lot of work to put together the forms for the foundations or stem walls. Below you can see the plywood sides of the forms, stiffened by 2x4s, held in place by braces, and the two sides tied together by metal cross ties. They are not done yet. The workers have been measuring, checking dimensions and adjusting, because the structure above will come together much easier if the dimensions are exact. Among the last parts to be added are the ties that will bind the foundations and the walls above together more tightly in the event of a future earthquake.
The foundation walls are different heights. The south and west walls are lower, near the elevation of the interior floor. The north foundation wall is higher – somewhat higher at the west end, and then even higher near the church. The backfill and walkway behind the addition will ramp up gradually to the level near the back fence. There are a number of things to be done before the forms are complete, but they may be ready for city inspection and a concrete pour late tomorrow, or else Thursday morning.
April 24, 2021
The Plywood Forms for the Stem Walls
Yesterday the forms were removed from the footings and new forms were started for the stem walls (or foundation walls). These will be 2 to 3 feet high, and high enough to cover the vertical reinforcing bars now covered with the orange caps. It will take a while to put the plywood forms in place and perhaps longer to put in place the plumbing and electrical conduits that need to pass through the foundation. The cement pour will happen Tuesday or Wednesday.
April 22, 2021
The First Pour of Concrete – the Footings
The concrete pump arrived a bit before 10 am. This vehicle has a powerful pump and a very long arm that can reach clear across the building to disgorge liquid concrete into the footing forms. The concrete truck arrived a few minutes later.
A hand or two on the heavy hose guides most of the stream into the footing forms. The shovel evens out the fill and settles it into the forms.
Two workers, one on each side, use trowels to smooth the surface. If the form is filled too high, a bit is flicked off to the side.
Al Poplawsky took this picture. The workers are filling the forms in the area where the new front door will be. The orange caps cover the sharp ends of the reinforcing rods as a safety measure. In a few days the rods will be incorporated into the stem walls (foundation walls), to be poured on top of the footings and 2 to 3 feet tall.
The pour went very fast – two truckloads totaling 17 cubic yards of concrete was pumped into forms in less than half an hour. It was not until the process was almost done that I noticed this guy standing around at the edge of the action. I finally realized that he was controlling the pumping truck and the great long arm – with a wireless joystick belted to his waist.
April 21, 2021
Footing Forms & Progress Inside the Church
The workers spent most of the day completing the forms for the footings, including conduits for electrical wiring and some plumbing connections. The first loads of cement will probably arrive sometime tomorrow morning.
Things are happening inside the church. The stairs to the basement have been removed, and the hole has been patched with framing and subflooring. This is the corner where the door will enter from the new foyer in the addition. Without the stairs this leaves a long narrow closet down below, which we will probably use for chair and table storage.
I am sure I needed a historic picture of the shuffleboard markings under the secretary’s office carpet before it gets sanded away.
The stage at the front of the sanctuary is now being framed. If you look closely, you might see the shims under the frame planks. The old floor is almost 2 inches lower at the west end of the stage relative to under the east end. With shims, the new stage will be level. There remains the question of whether a front railing is needed. There will be handrails for the rear ramp and for the front steps. The stage will be about eighteen inches high, so a front railing is not required by code. The spindles were saved from the demolished railings which could be used in a front railing. Eighteen inches is a big jump – or fall – but a front railing would impede visibility.
April 20, 2021
A Building Permit and Forms for the Footings
I don’t have a picture for this important piece of paper – our building permit. The work to this point has been based on an excavation and demolition permit. The issuance of the actual building permit by the City of Moscow has been slowed by the many details and by the pandemic, but today we got our approval. That’s a call for celebration.
The picture below shows the footprint of the addition marked in white paint on the compacted crushed rock base. The location for the west door is visible. The white 6” pipe will be buried beneath the footing to make a passage for the water supply for the fire suppression system. There will be other utility connections – some above and others below the footings. The tripod device is the laser level machine, to get all the footings in line.
The forms for the cement footings are held in place by 3’ long metal stakes driven with a hammer into the compacted crushed rock. The stakes are positioned with a string line tied at the corners of the addition.
Here the 2×12 wood plank forms are in place. The Moscow building inspector needs to approve the forms, and then metal reinforcing rods and sill bolts will be put in place. Depending on timing, the cement may be poured tomorrow or Thursday. The footings in the bottom of the elevator shaft will probably be poured at the same time.
There are still sounds of demolition coming from the church building. The stairway from foyer down to the basement is now gone. I have not seen it yet, but I understand that when they demolished the secretary’s office, they found remnants of the shuffleboard lines that characterized the building’s tenure as a senior center. I need to document that history with a photo.
April 16, 2021
I Can See the Footprint of the Addition
The big yellow machines have completed a trench around the perimeter of the addition and filled it with crushed rock, which is moistened and then compacted. Early next week they will build forms on top of the crushed rock layer and then fill them with concrete to make the footing of the building. In this picture note that they have excavated a hole where the elevator mechanism will extend below the level of the first floor. The elevator hole is partly obscured by the top of the excavator arm. Note also that the little structure that once housed the door from Friendship Hall to the patio has been removed.
I was intrigued by their device that measures the degree of compaction of the moistened crushed rock to be sure it is adequate to support the weight of the new building. The vertical probe is driven into the compacted crushed rock, then removed to be read in the yellow console. I didn’t understand either the physics or the mathematics of his explanation, since he was getting readings of 105% to 110% when the readings had to be at least 100%.
April 14, 2021
Progress both Outside and Inside
I took the picture below from my favorite perch – from the top of the fire escape stairs on the McConnell Mansion. Note several things. Most important, the trench for the north wall of the addition has been dug and filled with compacted crushed rock. The reinforced concrete footing will be poured on top of the gravel base. The jog to the north is where the north door from the first floor will exit. Note also that the church exit door to what was the patio has been mostly removed. It was well made and will take a jackhammer to sever the rest of it from the foundation. Also note the dumpster full of rubble from the demolition at the rear of the sanctuary.
In late afternoon today I managed to get a better view inside the sanctuary. Again, it is amazing how big the space seems when the rear is opened up. It will be interesting to see how that perception of space changes as the balcony is added.
April 13, 2021
Jetcrete to stabilize the Church Foundation
Jetcrete, which is also called shotcrete, gunite or sprayed concrete, is used for a wide range of construction purposes. It was applied today to stabilize the foundation of the church. The mixed concrete is pumped through a 3-inch hose and air flows under 180 psi through a second smaller hose. They meet at the nozzle and are propelled out to coat the surface and fill voids. As the concrete begins to set, multiple layers are applied.
Scaffolding was used to reach the top of the foundation. Most of the time he carries the hose over his shoulder. Imagine the weight of the 3- inch hose full of liquid concrete.
When they moved to the kitchen, a train of four men, each 10 feet apart with the heavy hoses over their shoulders marched through the door. He filled the old kitchen windows, covering the plywood backing and rebar mesh to a depth of perhaps 8 inches. The entire north and east kitchen walls received a coat.
I was not in the basement very long taking pictures, since there was lots of cement dust in the air, and I try to stay out of the way. However, I was there long enough to marvel at the big room with the office walls removed. It is going to make a great Fellowship Hall. I was amazed how big the room felt, and how nice it was to have the natural light from the three south windows.
Demolition has moved to the sanctuary. Because work was going on I couldn’t look inside, but I did peek in through the east window adjacent to the handicapped ramp. It is hard to see much since I was looking through the screen, but a man on a scaffold is removing the upper part of the wall between sanctuary and foyer. I expect the wall will be mostly gone tomorrow. Outside, I expect footings and foundations will begin to take shape soon.
April 12, 2021
Preparing for the Jetcrete Treatment
Today was mostly devoted to preparing for the jetcrete application to stabilize the foundation walls. This will be applied tomorrow on the west exterior wall, and the north and east interior walls of the Kitchen. The kitchen window wells have been blocked with plywood, which will be coated on the inside with a thick layer of jetcrete – and across the adjacent walls to tie them all together.
They are preparing the exterior foundation.
The west window of the foundation will be blocked by the addition. Note the rebar used in this window and the windows in the kitchen to tie things together.
Demolition has been going on in the office spaces in the basement. Since the basement was off limits when I was there, I took a picture of the basement walls now in a dumpster.
April 9, 2021
Dealing with the Foundation of the Church
Most of the past week has been spent dealing with the realities of our century old church building. In the picture below you will note the absence of the monster vacuum machine. It has completed the removal of the toxic insulation from the attic. It is good to have all the hazardous materials gone – that was a very noisy machine. The other thing you can see in the picture is the exposed foundation where the addition will attach to the church.
The picture below shows what the contractors found as they dug around the foundation. The upper white line is the level of the floor in the Fellowship Hall and will be the top of the concrete slab floor in the addition. The lower white line, just 6 inches down, is the bottom of the boulders that make up the foundation wall. There is no footing, just dirt below the foundation rocks. Digging 36 inches down below frost line with heavy and vibrating machinery adjacent to such a foundation is to risk collapse. Fortunately, there are some fixes to proceed with the project.
Below is a closeup of the foundation wall. It’s a classic rock wall from a hundred years ago, except that if it ever had mortar between the rocks, it has now dissolved away. A way to stabilize such a wall is to coat it with shotcrete, or sprayed concrete. This is concrete sprayed form a hose at high pressure and may include a fiber as reinforcing. Next Tuesday the exposed wall will get a layer of shotcrete which should penetrate the cracks and stabilize the wall so they can proceed with the foundation of the addition. The window will also be closed by shotcrete before it is covered by the addition.
Since the company that does the shotcrete will be here on Tuesday, it’s a good time to have them do the kitchen also. There’s little evidence of mortar around the old window wells in the north wall of the kitchen. The idea is to remove the lid, put in a sheet of plywood as a form, spray the plywood and the rest of the wall with shotcrete, and fill the outer part of the old window well with crushed rock.
The picture above is the window well on the left and the one below is on the right. The right one is clearly in the worst shape. Several big rocks have already fallen away. This one will require some bracing and perhaps a steel post to reinforce the right edge. Both the north and east walls of the kitchen will be sprayed with shotcrete. I guess it is reassuring that the shotcrete guy indicated that he had worked on rock walls that were in worse shape than ours.
April 1, 2021
Filling the Hole
Much of today was occupied filling the basement hole. The hole must be filled to a few inches below the level of the floor in Fellowship Hall to make a base for the concrete first level floor of the addition. This means about 3 feet of crushed rock, compacted to make a stable base. That’s a lot of truckloads of rock.
After the loads are dumped in a pile, they are spread around with the monster excavator machine. I never tire of watching the delicate precision of the operator. It’s almost as if he uses the long appendage of the machine as an extension of his own hands.
As each layer of gravel is added, the compactor tamps it down. This extremely heavy roller-vibrator is operated with a controller on the end of a 10-foot cord.
The excavator was busy during its free time between loads of rock. It removed the soil and shrubbery against the southwest corner of the foundation of the church. This is the first time in a century that this rock wall has seen the light of day. Soon they will remove the entry way between the patio and Fellowship Hall. The addition will be built tight against the west wall of the church.