Stick figures of Chloe, Andrew and Henderson with their camper parked in front of Blue Mountain beside the Susquehanna River. Playful Curiosity.

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Elevating the House - the work begins
Photos by Steve Gray
(April 2012)

After SEVEN months of preparing - building permit, bids, contracts, insurance paperwork, funding - and operating at a learning curve that makes rollercoasters seem dull...

Finally the day - the official start of work, the big dramatic (even the news was coming) - day was here.

I rolled onto the site looked up at the truck and went. That will never work.

Let me back up a bit. I don't know who came out to do our bid or what planet he was from. It seemed (and this is a guess not neccesarily factually supported) like he was involved with the business previously and it had been sold to this new outfit. That would explain the disconnect between what I was told by the estimater and what I was told later.

It took three frustrating, miserable weeks to even get them out there. When you look at it taking seven months that doesn't sound like a big deal but the first thing that needs to be done to start the process is a building permit and bids. Three weeks lost waiting for a bid that held up the other bids. Too complicated to explain but it did. Add to that the week it took to find them on the Internet (while using my phone as a mobile hotspot) and I lost a month.

It was particularly frustrating because we were living in the camper, using a half destroyed bathroom in a very destroyed house while we both had lung infections.

I got so frustrated I spent hours trying to find another company that did the work in the area. I finally found one two days before these guys called to schedule the estimate. Turns out the other company was a flake too - they never got back to me about a bid.

Back to the estimater. He told me that they had concrete saws and that they could just cut out holes in the concrete to remove their beams. Not true. I had to build holes into the new concrete (see Walls). Fortunately I found that out before they built the walls wrong.

Then he said they would place the new beams when they took out the old ones. Also wrong. As a result I ended up scrambling around looking for someone to do it. (see Beams).

But the big one - the one that would not be found out until today - was the cribbing. He knew that if we were to place the cribbing - pile of blocks that the house sits on after it's been jacked up - inside the basement we would have to bury them. He told me they had concrete cribbing so I figured no problemo. I was going to have to fill, compact and test the basement and was not about to dig the cribbing back out after all that was done and the walls were poured.

They showed up with wood cribbing. And we're back to where I said. That will never work.

Big honking stack of WOOD cribbing.

I called the main office. They said, "This is what you agreed to." I said, "You knew I was burying the cribbing. You listed a price for it on the contract."

They said, "There's no such thing as concrete cribbing." I started to think I was totally crazy or in serious shock when I talked to the estimator but my brother (who was there both times) assured me my memory was accurate.

Somewhere during the increasingly heated discussion someone suggested putting the cribbing on the outside of the house but that would mean they would have to dig and ,of course, go get the digging equipment.

They said it would cost an additional $3000. I said, "Your hat's on too tight" and started seriously considering sending them packing. Finally, we agreed (both rather reluctantly) on an additional $2000. My rationale was that it would have cost more to bring the right equipment anyway. And I just wanted to get started!

Trying not to make a dork of myself on TV.

Half the house crew stayed and prepped what they could. They other half went for equipment.

While they were gone CBS21 showed up for an interview. We had to explain why the house wouldn't go up today.

We came across ok. My normal shy and often tongue-tied wife, really leapt out of her shell and did a great job. I came across aw-right. I sounded like I hadn't slept or had been smoking grass since early in the morning - one of those is true.

Funny thing is - and most won't believe this - I wanted nothing to do with it. I knew the news would pick up on elevating the house. It's unusual and interesting. So I thought, let's take advantage of it.

One of my tai chi student teachers - Steve Gray - is a semi-professional photographer so my brainstorm was to write a press release and have him submit photos. Sort of worked, but his byline from the gracious and community supporting Patriot was "Submitted Photo".

Then I figured if doing print news, might as well do TV news and see if some of the contractors signs make it on air. Nope.

My plans though well intentioned really only garnered attention for my wife and I - the two people there who didn't want it.

Here's a link to the story.

Back and digging.

Ok. Last story about these guys. Probably.

In PA whenever you dig you should call PA One Call (811). It's a service that alerts all pipeline owners in the area that you plan to dig so that they can make sure you are a safe distance from pipes.

Confession. I should have known there was a gas line in front of my property. There's a sign on the adjacent property and a sign down the road. What did I expect, that it forked across the road and back. Then again the water line does. Still I should have called.

Right after the decision to dig was made. The house lifting company called One Call. I found out later that afternoon when I got an irate call from the pipeline owner that he got the notice and called them. He left a message not to dig until he got there. The company did not return his call all day. By the time he got there, they were done digging. Now I'm not saying that they ignored his call. Maybe everyone left the office after I spoke to them an hour earlier. I will say that they called four times this winter to see if I was still doing the job. They have office personnel. Everytime I called I reached someone - except when I was calling to find out when they would put me on the schedule.

Placing the lenght-wise beams. 50 footers. The cross beams rest on this.

Doing our part.

Now we wait until tomorrow for the real action.

End of a long day.

Placing cross beams the next morning.

Placing the jacks.

Testing the pressure and setting the jacks.

Up she goes.

Because who can resist a cheesy shot.