Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Step in the Right Direction

Even though it was a short work week at the house due to Memorial Day, those four days were really, really exciting.  Why?  Because, in looking at the pictures I took on Friday, I'm pretty sure that this was the first week during which more things were put together than were torn apart. :)  So, here are a few pics of what's been going on:

New plumbing was roughed in for the basement bathrooms. 

The black pipes running across the top of the kitchen ceiling are part of the fire sprinkler system. 

The concrete footers for the new dining room extension were poured early in the week.  See the poles with the orange caps?  Those mark the concrete slab that is the footing (the base of the foundation).  

This is another view of the footers for the dining room.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Too Tired to Think of a Terrific Title (but I get points for alliteration, right?)

It was a flurry of activity at the DG house on both Friday and Tuesday, so much so that practically every time I turned a corner, I ran into some guy working on something.  The most noticeable difference between last week and this week, though, is that there is no longer any furniture in the house.  In order to protect it, most of the furniture was moved out to be stored for the summer.  This will also allow the workers freer access to all the rooms in the house, which in turn will (hopefully) speed things up.  Now, moving the furniture to a different area is just one less thing the guys will have to do every time they need access to a room.

Cold dorm sans beds.

Goodbye and good riddance (if this house mom can say so) white-entryway-tile-that-is-impossible-to-keep-clean-no-matter-how-often-you-mop-it.

The concrete basement floors in the old bedrooms were saw cut to make way for the new bathroom plumbing that will run in those freshly-cut grooves.

Another view of the cut basement floors (and Dane, our temporary site superintendent, who will be on site this week while Tony is on vacay).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Foundations 101

As those of you that have been reading this blog probably know by now, I like to know how things work.  This leads me to ask a lot of questions, and yesterday Tony (the site superintendent) and I got to talking about helical piles.  Naturally, I found myself asking "So, what are helical piles?"  To answer my question, we took a field trip outside and into the area enclosed by the construction fence (an area I normally avoid due to the heavy machinery and, well, mud).  And that is where I learned (and now you get to learn, too!) all about how the house is being supported during construction.   

You see, since the house is being extended out in two directions, holes had to be dug adjacent to the existing structure for the basement areas that are being added.   In the center of the first picture, you can see the very bottom of the french doors that lead out of the library onto what used to be a patio.  Obviously, that is where the ground used to meet the house.  The "trench" or hole they dug (where the ladder is going) extends down to the bottom of the basement and the actual foundation of the house.  The dirt that used to be there before they dug the trench is really important, since the ground is a large part of what was holding the house up and in place.  Removing it leaves the house vulnerable, and so supports had to be added to hold up the house before pouring the foundation for the new addition. 

Enter helical piles.  Helical piles are giant augers (sort of like screws) that are drilled into the ground next to the foundation.  In the picture to the left (a close up of the same area as the first picture), the two pipes coming out of the ground are the tops of the helical piles.   

 A metal "clamp" is then attached to the top of the pipes.  The third picture (left) shows a close-up of the clamp (that's not the technical term for it, but I don't know how else to describe it).  The clamp has a flat metal piece that extends out from the pipe and under the base of the foundation.  This forms what looks like a little shelf that the foundation sits on, which provides extra support from underneath the concrete.  

The helical piles are regularly spaced along the foundation to provide even support.  On the wall in the pictures (the library wall), there are about four helical piles.   I didn't get close enough to see how many run along the dining room, but I'm guessing about 6, based on the length of the wall.  This same system can be used to repair homes in which the foundations have settled or cracked because, once the supports are under the foundation, they can adjust the tension and thus move the house up or down (kind of like a car jack). 

Here's a picture of our helical piles from another angle.  (For the curious reader, the dark metal "cage" surrounding the shiny silver helical pile is installed prior to pouring the concrete footings, which they poured late Friday afternoon.)  

If you're interested, there are some better pictures of a similar system at this site:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clean Sweep

Last week I mentioned the discovery of asbestos tiles in the basement of the house.  Asbestos building materials aren't really dangerous provided the asbestos isn't disturbed, but leaving these tiles alone was impossible because the floor in that area will need to be cut for the new restroom plumbing that will run there.  For the past two days, a crew of about six or seven guys certified in asbestos abatement has been working to demo the floor.  Though I'm curious to see how it's done, I'm just not curious enough to peek into the restricted area for the very good reasons listed in the warning poster.  But for those of you interested, the process involves keeping the tiles immersed in a gel-like substance during removal.  I'm also happy to report that DG is going completely asbestos free: while we've got these guys hired, they will remove the asbestos tiles from the second and third floors, which do not have to be disturbed for this project, but could be in the future.  May as well make a clean sweep!

Here are some more interior pics, as promised:

Interior wall of House Director's apartment.  Or at least what used to be a wall.  This is the view from my living room looking into the hallway that leads to the rest of the house (near the basement stairs).

I'll give you three guesses....  Basement?  No.  Boiler room?  No.  Kitchenette?  Yes.

First floor half bath.  It will have a similar layout, just slightly smaller.

View of the exposed cinderblock on the south wall of the kitchen.  They will cut an entryway into the new addition in this area, which will lead to an expanded pantry/kitchen storage.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Hole in the Ground

I temporarily moved out of DG this past weekend since the demolition of the kitchenette left me nowhere to cook, the impending removal of the asbestos tiles poses some health concerns, and the upcoming demo of my apartment will literally make the house unlivable for awhile. I hope to move back when the house mom's apartment is complete (3-4 weeks). I'll still be at the house daily to see what's going (in fact, I'm at the house now). They'll never keep me away!

The point? Well... I'm sorry to say that yesterday I forgot to bring my camera to take more pictures for you. So, what I've posted today are some "file photos" that I took earlier and never used. These two pictures (taken from a south window inside the house looking out towards 44th Street) show the giant hole in the ground that was dug in April and still looks basically the same today. This area is where the new three story addition (plus basement) will be built.

You're probably wondering, what's the hold-up? Oh boy.... When they initially dug the hole, they found an active sewer line running approximately three feet below what is to be the foundation of the addition. This line is extensive and services several houses on the block. Didn't they know about this? No. The line showed nowhere on the surveys of the area and there is no record of it existing. Surprise!

What does this mean? Well, there were two ways to deal with the pipe: build over it, or reroute it around the addition. The best option (cheapest, fastest, least disruptive to the neighboring houses, etc) turned out to be the only way to deal with it, since there is not actually enough slope in the pipe to reroute it. And so, we will build over it. After applying for a variance, the city approved the plan and now the architects are reviewing the drawings to adjust for the existence of the pipe. As soon as the old sewer line (which is cracked and crumbling) is replaced according to the city's request, the new addition will begin to be raised. I'll update you after our next owner/architect/builder meeting (later this week).

I know the "nuts and bolts" stuff, as I call it, isn't so interesting to everyone, so hopefully I'll have some more fun inside pictures for you later today.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My Baby, She Wrote Me a Letter

I spent most of yesterday working at my other job, so I wasn't here to watch the work being done at the house.  I'm sure the construction workers were glad to get rid of me for the day, since I'm always asking questions about what's going on.  I'm just so curious about the process of building a house, as well as all the things hidden in the walls that help run it.  And since the walls keep disappearing, this is a great time to see how it all works.  

Anyway, when I returned home, I did notice that the mailboxes in the mailroom had been removed from the wall (don't worry, ladies, I still have your mail, though I think I'll delegate sorting an entire summer's worth to someone else when you get back :).  I knew they were going to do it that day, which is why I packed up all the existing mail before leaving for work.  So when I got home and found a pile of letters scattered across the floor, I was confused.  Hadn't I just collected all of that?  

And here is where the FUN begins....  When I picked up the pile on the floor, I realized it was a collection of letters that, over the years, had fallen behind the mailboxes or gotten lodged in the nooks and crannies around them.   How cool!  The earliest paper dates to 1969 (a change of address form for the Post Office, bottom left corner in the picture below), and the most recent is a SGA "Spirit Card" listing upcoming campus events from 1997 (below, the white almost-square card, top center-left).  I spread out the letters on a cork board and took a picture so you can see what I found.

Top Left Corner: The Master's Business church newsletter, Volume 9, dated March 1, 1972.  Addressed to Marilyn White.

Orange Card (Top Left): $2.00 off on your next large pizza purchase OR $1.25 off on a medium sicilian pizza.  Expires March 4, 1985.

Pink Card (Top Left): An advertisement for "a personalized picture by Nancy."  Free delivery and the pictures are "made to order to resemble you or whoever." (undated)

Business Envelope (Top Left): Unopened letter from the National Association for Visually Impaired addressed to Lynn A. Schreiber (looks like someone was Doing Good!).  Postmarked December 1983.  Lynn - if you're reading this, I will forward it to you!  

Business Envelope (Top Center): Unopened notification from Life magazine addressed to Miss K. S. Rempe, subscriber.  (undated)

Large Yellowed Envelope (Center): Appears to be a newsletter, or possibly a letter, addressed to Gracie Luttrell, from a Jean M. Walsh.  Unopened.  $0.06 Eisenhower stamp.  Postmarked October 24, 1970.

Two Light Green Cards (Center): Looks like Anne E. Fields took Freshman English 2 (Jordan Hall Rm 307) and College Algebra & Trig (Jordan Hall Room 302) in the spring of 1983 (these are receipts for payment for the classes, dated 11/29/1982).

Dark Blue Card with Bulldog Image (Center): Bulldog Savings Card.  "Card must be presented before ordering merchandise/services.  Not valid on special sales.  Expires 6-1-87."

White Bookmark-sized Card (Lower Center-left): Discount Coupon for 10% off any printed item on pages 5-7 of the Anderson Fraternity & Sorority Supplies company catalog.  Expires 8/1/83.

White/Grey Card with Image (Bottom Center): Parklane Hosiery (Lafayette Square Shopping Center, Suite 766) Pantyhose Savings Club card, dated February 1972.  "Club members receive a free pair of pantyhose or stockings after purchasing 12 pairs as needed.  The free pair is to be of average price as those purchased.  Honored at all stores coast to coast."

White Index Card-Sized Post Card (Top Right): Addressed to Jana Held, postmarked January 26, 1983: "I have been trying to reach you.  Please call me as soon as possible, even nights or weekends.  My toll-free telephone number is 1-800-641-4520.  Jane P, Magazine Service Company."  Unfortunately, I don't think this helped her get in touch quickly....

Letter & Envelope (Bottom Right): First, I have to say that the letter was separated from the envelope (I didn't open it, I swear!), but they clearly go together based on the handwriting.  The envelope is addressed to Anne Fields, Delta Gamma, and reads: "Anne, Hi.  I just wanted to drop you a line to let you know that I really enjoyed being with you last Saturday at the pool.  I hope we can get together again very soon.  I think you're a very special person, and I would like to get to know you alot better.  Love, Tim (Jim?) Edwards."  AWWWWWWW.  So cute!  Anne, if you're reading this, I hope you don't mind me sharing.  Also, Anne (or anyone who knows Anne), get in touch and I'll forward this to you!

....I know I won't be a house mom forever (as much fun as it is), so I find myself often wondering about what exactly this job is preparing me for.  From the looks of this post, I ought to either consider a job in construction (ha!), or maybe as an archivist.  I just loved finding these letters and notes and scrap papers.  Sure, there's a lot of history in the house, between the yearbooks and trophies and composite photos, but this seemed to me a much more interesting glimpse into the past and the women who lived here before us.  How wonderful that this building has been housing Alpha Taus (and at least one Gamma Iota :) since 1936, and will continue to do so for the next 73 years!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm Not Much of a Cook Anyway

Not a whole lot of work is going to be done to our cook Michele's kitchen.  However, since the pantry will extend into the new south addition, several cabinets were removed to make the pathway to the pantry wider.  The kitchenette will be expanded, wrapping around a corner into the mailroom.  Here are some pics of the demo in those areas.  Guess I get to eat out for the rest of the summer!

Upper cabinets were removed (and lower cabinets will be removed) from the big kitchen.

View of the kitchenette from the big kitchen.  There used to be counters, a sink... and a wall there.

View of the kitchenette from the mailroom (near the water cooler).  

The "phone booth" that is no longer used was removed to make room for the bigger kitchenette.

Just another exterior shot of the south wall.  You can see the hole for the basement of the addition.  It's a gorgeous day!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

It was a rainy, dreary day, and so the only work completed today was in the interior.  Demolition continued on the dining room (left) and the existing flooring, which revealed amazing hardwood floors (darker than the ones upstairs) in the formal and card room.   If you ask me, they look really cool with the black wall paint.

I know I keep harping on and on about the hardwoods, but I absolutely love them.  As for restoring them, it simply isn't practical.  Let me tell you, I've been living here while construction workers have been walking around upstairs, and I can hear every single step throughout the house (every... single... step...).  Carpet helps with the noise and will be much warmer in the winter.

View of formal from the foyer.  (That's plaster dust covering the piano and floors - and every, single corner of the house.)

Card room (and dining room in the background).

One could say that the theme of the last several days has been "revelation."  That is, every time something is demolished, what's underneath (whether it be different flooring, old paint, electrical & plumbing systems, etc.) is revealed.  Today, two closets in the hallway to the House Director's apartment (a utility closet and the silver closet) were torn down.  At that time, a mysterious locked box was found behind a picture hanging on the wall.  My hopes that it would turn out to be a previous house mom's wall safe (full of cash and diamonds, of course!) or a DG time capsule were ruined when opening it up revealed an ancient fire alarm system.  Not as fun as jewelry, but interesting nevertheless. :)

Ex-closets in the hallway to the House Mom's apartment (near the door to the basement, which is no longer on it's hinges).

Ancient fire alarm system (not diamonds).  The hand-written note taped underneath the buzzer reads "Do not push this button unless there is a fire."

For those of you that read yesterday's post about the fire sprinkler system's water line that runs from the city line into the house, here's an exterior shot of that work, as well as an interior shot in the basement of where the new lines end up.

Construction Zone!

Basement storage room ("Rat Room") and new pipes for the sprinkler system.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Asbestos in Show

Today's construction schedule called for saw cutting of the basement floors where plumbing will run for the new basement bathrooms.  Unfortunately, the asbestos tests on the tiles came back positive, which means the floors will need to be demo-ed by a company certified in asbestos removal.  The floors have not been disturbed, so at the time it is not hazardous (whew!).  This should not present a huge delay, and work continued throughout the house all day.  

Construction has been going non-stop, morning to night.  I awoke at the usual time (6:45 AM) to construction noise above me in the room known as Upper Deck, and, no-kidding-on-my-honor-honest-to-goodness, the fire sprinkler contractor is still working outside right now (9:05 PM).  

Pictures from today don't show as dramatic a change as the last two days since most of the interior demo is already done.  However, those of you interested in the "nuts and bolts" (the construction of systems that support the house's plumbing, electrical, foundation, heating/cooling, etc.) may want to take a look at these.

View of front yard (adjacent to Alpha Chi Omega) from the House Mom's apartment window.   Portions of the front yard were dug up to run a new water pipe from the city line into the house.  This water flow will service exclusively the fire sprinkler system that is being installed.  

The best laid plans.

West side of the property - view from inside the dining room french doors.  The area below - previously a concrete patio - is where the foundation for the dining room extension will be poured.

Exterior view of the west side (same area as picture above, just from the outside).  Those are the french doors that lead into the existing dining room.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sounds Like Somebody's Got a Case of the Mondays

Last week's plan of attack was to work from the basement up, but today's theme seemed more like a going out of business sale - "Everything Must Go!"  As you can see, more demo work has started outside as well as on the second floor.

Student room in the 1936 structure (north side of the house).  These appear to be the original hardwood floors. 

Second floor hallway.  Look at those gorgeous hardwoods!  They are in great shape, thanks to the carpet that was covering them.  And they'll stay looking good thanks to the new carpet to be installed.

On the west side, excavation has begun for the foundation of the new dining room.  There will be a crawl space underneath and a sunny patio above.

Goodbye, kitchenette sink...

On the south wing, the exterior brick is halfway removed, exposing the underlying cinderblock. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Summer of Fun

Less than 24 hours after my lovely Dee Gees moved out, two of the basement rooms are no longer rooms at all!  It quickly became apparent that emailing a few pics once and awhile just won't do to keep pace with the renovation and construction.  And so, I'm going to do my best to blog about the project this summer. 

For now, construction is moving from the bottom to the top of the house.  These pics are of what used to be two student rooms in the basement (now just one big room, and eventually a bathroom and laundry room), the dining room, the stairs to the basement, and computer labs.

The rooms formerly known as "Poop Deck" and "Lower Lounge"

Don't worry: the dining room hardwoods are still there.  Right now they're covered in carpet scraps from the basement to protect them.  The ceiling tile, however, is gone for good.

Bare stair.

Yes, the carpet in the computer lab was better than the floor underneath... but not much!

There's been no work over the weekend, but you can see what's happened in just two days.  The pace is almost overwhelming - there doesn't seem to be enough time to clean out a closet before it is already being torn down!  But the goal is to get as much done as quickly as possible, and the crew from Meyer Najem Construction has really hit the ground running.