Where in the world does a person start on a project like this? That seemed to be Sandy's question as I prepared to get into the dream project of a lifetime. We had enjoyed the deck on the west side of the house, but not nearly as much as we would have liked. The sliding door did not work well so we generally went out the north door to gain access, and since it was in the sun most of the day it was generally pretty warm for just setting around. But if this project was to get started the deck had to go. It was early in the morning on Memorial Day weekend when Sandy and I ripped apart the old deck so we could start work on the sunroom addition.
Our plan for this project was to remove the deck and construct a 10' addition to the west of the house, which was the full width of the 1975 flat roof addition. We made short work of the deck on our first day and were able to save most of the redwood for use on other projects in the future. There was some rotted material but for the most part the lumber was in weathered but good shape. Then it was time to layout the perimeter of the addition and start digging footings. At this point there are those that would call me crazy, I decided to dig the footings by hand. I did this to save money and to save damage to the lawn and the birch tree that could be disturbed by heavy equipment near it. The digging was not all that difficult as this was very nice black soil and no rock.
We had purchased a small two-wheel trailer for use around the place and this along with a small riding mower became my primary tools for moving the dirt. The footings needed to be 2-foot wide and 4-foot deep and there was also the need to lower the area that would later be the crawl space. I have no idea how much dirt I ended up moving, but it took well over a month of nights and weekends to get the dirt moved and the rock back in the foundation.
This was the first time I had used the foundation system we settled on, but I was sure it was the best way of keeping costs down and I was anxious to try it. It is a wood foundation and NO concrete. The theory is that if the soil is undisturbed in the trench, which it wasn't, then filling the trench with washed river rock would be the same as filling a bucket with rock. It is impossible to force an object through the rock under normal circumstances so by using the rock there is nothing to crack from the weight. The rock will allow the footings to drain so frost is never an issue. The rock is filled to within a foot of the surface then a 2 X 6 wall is framed using foundation grade pressure treated material. This rests on a 2 X 8 footer and all the fasteners are stainless steel nails.
Unlike projects in subsequent years, the material for this project arrived on a single truck and was dumped in a pile. I was told that it would come off neatly but as you can see it ended up a mess that had to be moved to the concrete floor of the old machine shed. The image below shows the rock in place and the foundation walls framed and setting in place. I was very impressed with the ease of construction of the foundation walls. I built them in 12 foot sections and lowered them into the trench, then nailed them together with the 1/2" plywood overlapping the joint in the framing. Once in place it was a simple matter to raise them to level and stuff more rock under the footer plate. Straightening them was equally easy.
As you can see in the picture below I installed the 2 X 8 joist every 8 foot or so to straighten the walls and hold them in place. Since I was not sure that the old house wall was straight I used a string corner to corner on the west wall and cut the joist to fit in place. I later filled in between them to complete the framing. I might add that I had this idea that the floor of the crawl space needed a layer of river rock over the black plastic I installed. This was later determined to be a big mistake when I needed to crawl over it on my hands and knees.
My planning for this project included the desire not to destroy the best lawn we had on the porperty so as soon as the foundation was completed and the sheating installed I shifted gears and constructed the west deck. I used the redwood lumber salvaged from the old redwood deck as framing and covered it with pressure treated 5/4 X 6 lumber. I was later dissappinted in this pressure treated material when it started bleeding sap out of every knot and making a sticky mess. The building center refused to help me out, they suggested using keorsene to remove the sap, so we put up with the mess for several years.
We were so pleased to finally have the foundation work completed and as I have said on many projects of this type, "we were out of the ground." One of the features of the new deck was the use of rounded corners to soften to look of the structure. We also created two planters in the deck that allowed plantings to grow right out of the surface of the deck area.
Please return to the Sunroom and Gambrel Roof project page for more information about this phase of our home renovation.
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