Hello everyone! I know that I have not written for quite some time, and that was due to a variety of factors, not the least being that I was sick for 3 weeks, and I had a month — long project at work (my REAL) job that required a lot of overtime. They call it “uncompensated” time because I don’t get paid any more for it, being a salaried employee, but other than the money, the result is the same. No work on the house, and no time to write about what I wasn’t doing. But now things are back on track.!
In order to actually get to the “remodeling” part of the project, I need to demolish the things that I need to get rid of. But, since this involves rooms where we actually live, we have to move out first. Now, when I was active duty military, we moved a lot. About once every 2-3 years. And because of that, we went through ALL of our stuff and tossed what we know we wouldn’t be using anymore. Yes, we accumulated things over time, but we felt these things were what we really wanted to keep.
Fast forward to the now. We’ve been living in this one place going on 17 years (!) and without that periodic purging that was our habit before, we looked around and noticed that we had a lot of crap. And the places I needed to vacate, the master bedroom, garage, and attic, were the places where we put most of the crap that we didn’t want to deal with at the moment. So, we needed a plan. There are basically 3 ways to deal with one’s possessions. (1) Get more storage, (2) store your stuff more efficiently (i.e., be neat), and (3) go through everything and get rid of the stuff you don’t need or want.
The first option, getting more storage, is actually a primary goal of the remodeling project. Unfortunately, we needed the storage now, and the typical answer for a remodeling job is to rent storage. Storage rentals come in two flavors: on-site or at a storage facility. I knew that I would be getting an on-site storage container, primarily because I still wanted access to some of the things I was putting away, but also felt I might need off-site storage as well. So I looked into the cost, figuring that I would need it for at least a year. Wow. I was coming up with some crazy numbers like between $4,000 and $5,000! Hey, that’s my new kitchen cabinets right there! It turned out that the off-site warehousing was the biggest cost contributor, so I decided to go with just on-site storage first, and wait to see if I really needed any off-site warehousing. I got a bunch of bids and found a local company that would rent me an 8’x10′ container for $60.50 per month with a one way delivery charge of $89.00. That worked out to about $1,000 for the year. Compare that to Pods ($2,600) and Pack-Rat ($1,700), and I believe I found a deal.
Here is the 8×10 container. It fits the area very nicely.
Now, onto #2 (efficiency) and #3 (elimination).
In practice, efficiency and elimination go hand-in-hand. When you’re going through your stuff, deciding where to put it, you’re also deciding what to keep and what to eliminate. As things get sorted, you decide what to keep, BUT, you have to HAVE a place to keep it. Therefore, there are some decisions to make. Personally, I believe that the hardest part of the entire process is to decide what to keep and what to toss. My attitude is to toss everything and convince myself that whatever is in my hand is, somehow, worth keeping. The objective is to toss, so if there is any doubt.. TOSS! And then move on. No sentimentality! Well, OK, I kept a few things (paintings from our children, my sword and hat from the Navy, and maybe some other stuff, God knows what else), but really, one has to be firm in these matters!
Here are 6 large garbage bags of shred. We had a lot of old papers with personal information. Good thing we had a pro shredder!
Wow! What a big pile of disks. This stuff has a bunch of personal information like tax returns (SSN’s), financial info, etc.. They were made in the days where identity theft was not such a big concern. All the more reason to shred!
Pry the disk cover open by inserting a screwdriver near the metal slide.
Pop open the plastic cover and retrieve the magnetic film.
Here is the magnetic film that stores the information. Unfortunately, there is this pesky metal center which doesn’t shred very well, so….
Tear the metal center out from the magnetic film of the disk.
And just drop it in the shredder!
One of our cats helping with the move out. For some reason, all cats are attracted to boxes. They were really having a field day during the move!
Back to #2. (WHO DOES #2 WORK FOR?) As far as our sleeping arrangements, we actually had 2 other bedrooms that were available. We decided to split up our clothes and bed, and it turned out that we had enough space. It isn’t pretty, but it’s functional. Pretty comes later. We sorted through our clothes, packed up those which we could not part with, and the rest we put in the “eliminate” pile. Suddenly, we were out of our bedroom. One down, two to go. The attic was predictable with a lot of stuff (crap) which went into the “eliminate” pile. However, we had a lot of camping equipment, which I knew I would have to deal with. Finally, I had the garage. I did my best to organize all of the tools and parts that I had, and quite unemotionally tossing those things which I knew I would never use again. Even if I bought them for one purpose (think rebar caps) and then saw no foreseeable use for them. NO EMOTION ALLOWED. Except when I had to pack my “I Love Me” wall (all of the mementoes that I had accumulated over my Navy career). Parting with your past is hard….
The master bedroom before the move out.
Our master bedroom being properly guarded by one of our cats.
All nice and cozy in our “new” bedroom. Even the cat likes it!
Bedroom #2, all packed in. I guess we still have some clutter. Alas, that is part of our lifestyle, so best to learn to live with it!
I have what I call a “sea story” about packing things efficiently in a confined space. Being a submariner, I have extensive experience in such matters. However, there is the story of the excess toilet paper. First some background. There are stories in old submarine lore that tell of times where the Supply Officer failed to order enough toilet paper to last for a 60 day patrol. If you run out at day 45, things can get pretty nasty and depressing. You get the picture, yes? So, I knew of one Chief Of the Boat (COB) who was determined not to let that happen. He ordered a significant amount of toilet paper, and after the loading crew had stuffed as much as possible into every nook and cranny, there were still two cases of TP left. These are Navy cases, meaning that each case has about 4,000 rolls. Not to be thwarted, this COB started a rumor that these were the “last 2 cases” that supply had available, and there would be no more before the ship got underway. He then left the cases of TP in crew’s mess and walked away. In 15 minutes, those cases were empty. COB, where are you when I need you the most?!
Finally #3. What are you going to do with all of the stuff you eliminate? Again, you have a few choices. (1) Throw in the trash. This is good for a lot of stuff, but it negatively contributes to the environment and landfill, so maybe it’s not the best choice. (2) Give it away. Craigslist is great for having somebody pick up your junk for free. So long as you advertise it as free. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, yes? Another great option, at least around here, is AMVETS. These guys are great. They come to your home, pick up what you want to get rid of (OK, so no trash or HAZMAT), but it’s free, reliable, and tax-deductible. Did I mention these guys were good?
After a fashion, I progressed to the point where I knew I didn’t need off-site storage. I packed things carefully into the on-site storage container, making sure that I put the things I would need the least in back, and leaving room to access those things that I might need in the near future. I’m sure that won’t work and I’ll for some reason have a need for the very thing that is in the way-back, but one must move forward with the best guess of what the future might bring.
Here is all of our camping equipment. It looks like a lot, but I ended up stacking it up very neatly. The wooden reindeer is a stray Christmas element which we typically do not take with us on camping trips.
The storage container, all packed up. There’s a lot of room still in the overhead spaces, but the idea was to keep things accessible, especially for all of the tools.
The garage. I know, it looks like there’s still a lot of stuff, but most of it is old cabinets and storage which is on its way out.
And the near future is demolition. Stay tuned!!
A last look at our master bedroom before the remodel. Notice the demolition tools at the ready.
The dumpster, delivered and ready to receive.
One last look at the original house. I will be documenting the transformation in numerous future blog postings.
One of my “successful” DIY projects was a paver patio I built when I was living in Chesapeake Virginia. In fact, you can still see the results of my handiwork on Google Earth. The address is 1901 Shady Cove Ct. (if you want to check it out). Building a paver patio is DEFINITELY in the realm of DIY. The question is, do you want it do look like DIY, or do you want it to look professional? I always choose the latter. And I think that all serious DIY’ers aspire to create works that equal the quality of, if not exceed, those that can be professionally built. I guess that strays into the realm of “artisan”, but let’s keep the discussion on the practical side.
We start with the basics. Looking good is one thing. Looking good and lasting a long time is quite another. In my second attempt at building a paver patio, which happened to be at my current address, I took a few shortcuts. While the initial results were nothing short of outstanding (hey, this was the second time I was doing this, right?), over time the patio deteriorated. I didn’t put in a proper aggregate base, and I didn’t seal it, so the ants came in and undermined the sand under the pavers which caused the pavers to sink and the ants to rise up and threaten our very existence. Additionally, the level and slope did not provide proper drainage. I spent a lot of time and effort (and $) fixing the level and drainage problems, as profusely documented in other posts on this blog, but I want to now focus on slope.
It is important to make sure that the ground has at least a 2% slope away from the foundation of the house to allow for proper drainage and water shedding during a heavy rainfall. While we don’t get a lot of rain here in San Diego, when it comes, it comes in gigantic buckets. So my landscape has to be able to handle large rates of rainfall, as infrequent as they might be. A 2% slope is more than adequate, but how, exactly, do you do this?
Making an accurate slope starts with defining a reference point. In the case of a slope away from a house, the reference is, well, the house. Convenient references are typically siding or the weep screed on stucco. Since I have stucco, I’m using the weep screed. Because stucco absorbs water, the top of the finished grade must be at least 4″ below the weep screed. Adding 2″ for the pavers, 1″ for the sand base, and 4″ for the aggregate base means that the ground must be 11″ lower than the weep screed. That’s fine for the level at the foundation, but my drainage grates are 10′ away from the house (120″) meaning that I have to subtract an additional 2-1/2″ to from the 11″ to get the required 2% slope away from the foundation (120″ x 2% = 2.4″). This means that the ground must be 13 -1/2″ lower than the weep screed at the line of my drains.
Now, you have to transfer these measurements to the surface of the soil. You can use a tape measure to transfer the marks from the weep screed, and then use a line level to transfer that mark to the reference you’re using for the slope, and measure down from there. However, that’s not very accurate, and it’s pretty fussy, especially for a DIY’er. A far better method is to get a laser level and a grade stick. It used to be that these setups cost thousands of dollars. But now, you can pick up a good rig for around $375.00. OK, that’s not exactly cheap, and if you’re doing just one job, then maybe renting is a good idea. But if you are doing remodeling as a DIYer working alone, this will come in mighty handy. Plus, isn’t collecting cool tools part of the DIY experience? I can always justify the expense by how much I save in labor costs. But I digress. Here is what you need:
Laser level tools. Make sure you get a grade rod calibrated in fractional inches. Most surveying grade rods are in decimal feet, and that can be a pain to convert, unless you’re a professional surveyor, in which case you don’t bother converting and leave that to the other trades.
Onto the task of transferring these measurements. After a lot of thought, I came up the idea of pounding in grade stakes close to the foundation, and then doing the same where I wanted the low point of the grade to be (near the drainage grates). I would then connect them with strings, and I would have an accurate grid to which I could properly set the grade. The only problem was that if I used the calculated level of the ground, I would have to be fussing with marking and stringing at ground level. Totally a non-starter. What I came up with was to offset the level by 4″. This corresponds to the depth of the aggregate base which I plan on putting in. I would then use a wooden “block” that was 4″ in height to run along the string, which would establish the proper level of the ground with the correct slope. Here is a video and some pictures.
Now that the building lines are set, I have to remove additional dirt to get to the correct level.
Look at these dirt clods. I needed a pick to break them apart!
More petrified potatoes. Fortunately, these are very popular as free giveaways on Craigslist. I don’t have problems getting rid of these.
This shows how I graded to the lines. I ran my 4″ block along the lines and then established the correct grade at the lines.
I then eyeballed the grade and leveled everything out. Pretty nice, eh?
Unfortunately while digging (again) I had some trouble locating previously buried services. This is a repair job of my blasting apart my pristine new greywater irrigation system. Fortunately I know how to fix this stuff.
Here is the truck used to deliver the 15 yards of aggregate base.
And here is the aggregate base in all its 15 yards of wonderfulness. This is really going to suck.
Here is a cool video on how to tighten, and easily loosen, building strings.
Now that the proper grade is established at the ground level, the next step is to add the aggregate base. The best aggregate base to use, at least in Southern California, is something called “Class 2 Road Base”. This is a mixture of aggregates from 3/4″ gravel down to dust. Plus it had recycled concrete. And it’s cheap(er). Best of all it compacts to a very stable base which is perfectly suited to a paver patio. Because I had the true genius of using a 4″ offset for my building strings, “all” I had to do was to trundle in the aggregate base and make it level with my strings. However, all of my genius could not overcome the basic fact of having to muscle the 15 yards of aggregate that was required to fill my front and back yard to the required 4″. Once the aggregate base is in place, it MUST be compacted. The best way to do this is with a plate vibratory compactor that can be rented. The aggregate base that I’m using compacts really well because of the different aggregate sizes. It really makes a stable, sturdy base on which to lay your pavers. Here are some pictures of the finished product:
This is the fill all compacted. The orange beast in the foreground is the plate compactor. Also notice the wet say in the background. This tool is essential in making nice cuts for your pavers.
Side yard all nice and compacted.
Front yard all ready for the next step. I’ll be filling this with decomposed granite (DG) and will stabilize it with a goop which promises to be resistant to erosion. We’ll see…
The next thing to do is to lay out the sand on which you’ll be placing the pavers. After doing some research on the Internet, I found a really nifty way to get it perfect. Obtain some 3/4″ PVC pipes, which have an outside diameter of 1″, and lay them down at 4′ intervals. Then dump your sand between the pipes and screed it off with a 2×4. The original video on the Internet showed an 8′ spacing, but they had 2 people working the screed. So I chose to shorten the distance to make it easier for a one-person crew. Working as one person sometimes requires a different approach than what a professional crew would do, so just “doing it like the pros” is not always possible.
Everything is now ready for actually laying the pavers. While this can be a big payoff, because it’s so easy as compared to setting the grade and leveling the aggregate base, you have to be careful to set up that all important first course as accurately as you can. Once again, we need some reference points, and the most common one is the foundation of the house. In my case, since the patio occupies the entire back yard, I chose to use the corner of my foundation. The first bricks to lay will be the brick edging, which are bricks that are set perpendicular to the wall. For the corners, I used some 8″x8″ paver blocks, which made the corner transitions easier than cutting up 4″x8″ bricks on the diagonal. More of that to come. Now to set the pattern which you’re going to use for the “field”. Many patterns (basket-weave. running bond, 90º herringbone) should fit right along your edging, and you can merrily brick away. However, I chose to use a 45º herringbone pattern because (a) looks really cool, (b) aligns with the cardinal compass points relative to true north on the property, and (c) is a bit more challenging.
To line up a 45º pattern, the first thing to do is to set up a building line with some masonry string and blocks. This line needs to be parallel to the edge you’ll be working, and should be offset such that the filler bricks are relatively easy to cut and fit. I’ve seen some videos of how to set this up on the Internet, and while watching the process is instructive, these videos miss the obvious when it comes to determining the offset. It’s really quite simple: since the bricks will intersect the edge at a 45º angle, you’ll want to cut off the corner of a brick so you can flip the pieces around and complete the pattern. Here is a diagram:
Diagram of how to set up the first course.
A closer look at the diagram shows that the offset is the hypotenuse of a 45º right triangle, whose two legs correspond to the width of your brick. The hypotenuse is the square root of the sum of the squares of the legs (Pythagorean theorem, yes?), So since my bricks are 4″x8″, the offset is √(4² + 4²) = √(16+16) = √32 = 5.65. That works out to 5-5/8″. (If you really want to be nerdly, the closest fraction is 21/32 which is right between 5/8 and 11/16, so you could use your tape measure to get spot on, but in reality, 1/8″ is pretty good.) Why do I discuss this? Because I’m a nerd. And proud of it! That bit of mathematical nuance out of the way, it’s time to lay some brick! Take your bricks and align the corners diagonally with the mason’s line. You want to lay a fair number of bricks to establish a good course to build from, as shown in the picture. I set about 10 pairs (20 bricks).
Now we get to a point where we have to start thinking about the order of things. Specifically, you need to think about how you’re going to set the sand base, then lay the brick, without stepping in the sand base (which defeats the purpose), or disrupting the bricks that you’ve already set. You can (indeed must) walk on the placed brick, but you must step gingerly so as not to disrupt the bricks on the edges. So the brick path you step on needs to be at least 5-6 courses wide. You can start from one edge and build out until it’s wide enough, and then you’re home free.
Stepping Stones. Lay enough brick so you can step on it (carefully) and work your way out.
One of the critical observations in doing masonry work is to realize that masonry is the art of adjustment. Constantly. Bricks are not exactly the same size. Foundations are not exactly straight. So, one has to constantly compromise. In laying this particular herringbone pattern, I noticed that the bricks tended to become misaligned, probably due to the fact that the bricks came in contact with the edging at their corners. This meant that only a slight misalignment in the angle of the bricks will make a big difference. The way to notice this is to look at the gaps between the bricks. If there are excessive gaps, then it is likely that the bricks are misaligned. This is where your rubber hammer becomes your friend. Simply tap the edges of the bricks and they will tend to lock together and self-align. To a point. If you’re not vigilant, then things can get away from you and you might have to pull some of the bricks up so you can align them. Bottom line: constantly pay attention!
It turns out that laying the pavers, as whole bricks, is only half the job. The other half comes when you have to cut the bricks to fit along the edges and any other protuberances, such as post foundations and drainage grates. This is where a diamond blade wet saw comes in handy. Although one can dry cut the bricks with a grinder, the wet saw makes the cuts much more accurately, resulting in a very nice, professional look. The cost of renting this type of saw is totally worth it, especially when compared to the effort you will expend in putting all of the pavers in. The technique is to fit a brick where it would normally go, and then mark where it contacts the edge with a sharpie. Turn the brick over, draw a line between your two marks, and you now have your cut line. I also number the cuts so I can cut in batches to save time, yet keep all of the pieces organized. You’d be surprised how much they all start looking alike! Remember — mark the BOTTOM of the brick. Having a bunch of numbers on the top of your bricks will elicit some uncomfortable questions by your guests after you finish.
Step #1: Line up your bricks.
Step #2: Mark where the brick intersects the edge.
Step #3: Connect the marks to make a line.
Step #4: Number your bricks so you’ll remember where they go.
Step #5 Cut the bricks. See how handy the numbers are?
Step #6. Set the bricks in place. Looks nice!
Now that the bricks are in place, they should be set into the sand base. This is best done with a plate vibratory compactor. This is a little like a lawn mower, except that it’s heavy and has some weights that rapidly spin, causing the plate on the bottom to buzz in a heavy manner. This is, perhaps, one interpretation of getting “heavily buzzed”. At any rate, the bricks will settle nicely into the sand base and start to lock up with each other, stabilizing the entire assembly. That’s all good, but in order to completely stabilize the structure, you must add sand. These pavers are specifically designed to have small (1/8″) gaps between them — in fact, there are little tabs on the sides of the brick to optimize this spacing and keep it uniform throughout. Because the gap is small, and the friction of the sand is what is used to lock the pavers in place, it is important to use “joint sand”, which has the right grain size and sharp edges. The process is to spread the sand all around, sweeping it back and forth a bit to get it to go into the gaps, and then take the plate compactor and run it over the bricks again. This will shake the bricks and the sand will rapidly and completely fill the gaps. (Heavily buzzed with “joint” sand — hmmm…. maybe that’s what makes them act like bricks.) You’ll want to sweep and vibrate one more time to make sure the gaps are filled all the way to the top. You will likely now have some excess sand on top, so it will need to be swept off. I used the extra sand to make a sandbox for our outdoor cat, Tiger.
Here is our outdoor cat, Tiger, in the supervisory mode. He is a feral cat that we tamed, and he comes in to eat and when the weather is bad, but we could never litter train him. So….
Tiger’s Toidy. A pristine sandbox in a secluded, private location. It pays to be a cat!
Finally, the last step: sealer. Sealer is important because (a) it penetrates the sand, discouraging ants and other bugs from coming up through the gaps between the bricks, and (b) penetrates the surface of the bricks to make the cleanup of spills, including such things as grease from your grill and bird poop, much easier. Putting on the sealer was not particularly difficult, but it was important to flood the bricks, and especially the gaps, to get good penetration. I used a roller attached to a pole and it worked pretty well.
This particular job took a lot of time, particularly in some unseasonable heat, but I took some vitamins and had a few extra cups of coffee, so the following video outlines the process from start to finish.
As a bonus, I now have completely cleared my driveway which, for the past 18 months, has served as a lay down area, particularly for the bricks and sand I harvested from the original patio. I finally feel as though my outside projects are near conclusion. Here are some more pictures:
Driveway with all the junk and lay-down for the patio. I removed the patio bricks 18 months before and they’ve been sitting there until now when I could reinstall them.
After 18 months, the driveway is clear and I can now park my cars! Unfortunately, this is a temporary situation as I will be starting on the inside of the house and will need this space for another lay-down area. 😦
So, the next few steps will be to finish off the outside, and that begins with a terrific outdoor space called a “catio”. More to follow….
Now that I had the brush cleared and a dumpster to put my detritus, it was time to start demolition in earnest. The first step was to get rid of my retaining wall, sidewalks, and driveway apron made of cobblestones.
Basically any hardscape besides the driveway proper was going to go. In a blinding flash of naivete, I went ahead and rented a breaker (a.k.a jackhammer) and had the notion that I would be able to take care of this trifling demolition effort in a mere afternoon. 2 days later, I had barely made progress on that damned retaining wall, and it wasn’t looking good for the completion of the demo that weekend. I had to lift that heavy jackhammer and get it into all sorts of crazy positions in order to get proper purchase on the wall, and even then, it took forever to bust up the concrete — especially the foundation. So, I stopped the foolishness with the retaining wall and focused my remaining efforts in breaking up the sidewalk on the side of the house so I at least accomplished something during the weekend. I went back inside, cleaned up, and nursed a beer while I licked my wounds and began plotting plan “B”.
The problem that I had was that I needed bigger tools and more power, preferably something that I didn’t have to lift and lug around. Fortunately, I rented a mini “skid steer” for use during the Columbus day holiday weekend, and I was initally planning to use the skid-steer to do excavation and grading. But these little beasties have all manner of attachments, and all I needed to do was to rent the companion breaker attachment. So, for a mere $700 extra (it was $800 for the skid-steer), I would be in business. Now, I just had to do some replanning and figure out how to operate the damned thing.
First, a little background on what a skid steer is. These are smaller versions of a standard power shovel, with a bucket on arms that can be used to scrape, scoop, push, pick up, and dump stuff. It has a small diesel engine that powers a hydraulic pump, and it has 4 wheels which are powered by hydraulic motors. These motors are controlled by handles on either side of the operator such that when you push both forward, the machine goes forward, and when you pull them both back, the machine goes back. And when you push one forward and the other back, the machine skids and spins around and does donuts. Hence “skid-steer”. The best thing about these little guys is, well, they’re little. Perhaps compact is a better work. They weigh about a ton and a half, but they’re only 36″ wide, which means they can fit into your living room through your front door. Not that you’d want to excavate your living room, but I’ve seen videos of folks driving them into garages and using them to bust up garage slabs. Which is where I got the idea to rent the breaker attachment to help me finish the demo work. Here are some pictures:
The day came when the rental company delivered the skid steer and attachments (hydraulic breaker and two buckets). I had downloaded and printed a copy of the operator’s manual, studied it, and watched some videos on operating it. With my hard had and safety glasses, I nervously strapped myself in the seat, checked everything out, and fired it up. After a few tentative moves, I found that it was very intuitive to operate, so I set the bucket down and disconnected it from the arms so I could mount the breaker attachment. Bad move. I went over some uneven ground and got stuck. Turns out that you need the weight of the bucket , or attachment, to balance things out. So the lesson is that you put all of your attachments in one place next to each other on level ground and make your changeouts there. I put on the breaker attachment, and then went to town on the front sidewalk. Awesome! That thing broke apart fairly quickly, and using the machine to pull out deeply buried chunks of concrete with the breaker was a real labor saver.
One of the conundrums I had to overcome was getting the little guy in the back yard. There was not enough clearance on the sides of the house (yep, less than 3′), but fortunately there is a common walkway on one side of the property, and there are gaps in the masonry wall that borders that walkway, covered with wood fencing. So all I had to do was remove the chunk of fence and I was in business, right? Well… not so fast! The walkway is about 20″ higher than the level of the ground in my back yard. So I had to build a ramp. The first version looked pretty sturdy, but literally broke apart after a few uses. I had to build another one, at a critical time while I was still paying for use of the skid steer (that $1500 clock was ticking), and it was better lasting a whole day, but in the end, it didn’t cut it either. Plus it was too steep, so I was on the edge of doing wheelies going up with 1.5 tons of machine and another half ton of load. Not cool. Especially when I slipped off once, had to back up, and ended up bashing a support column on my porch cover. Ahh… the joys of DIY! At least I had to replace that column for other reasons, so NBD. I’m trying a new scheme for next time which involves railroad ties. I figure if it can support a locomotive, it can support a measly skid steer!
Here are some pics of the failed ramp(s) and the broken post:
In the end, I moved 2 loads of concrete and rocks (about 25 yards) and loaded up another 15 yard dumpster with excess earth. I still have some grading to do, so there will be more earth removal. And my grading skills suck. But I relish the chance to improve for next time, and I’m carefully studying YouTube videos as part of my heavy equipment apprenticeship program. Nonetheless, one typically learns by doing. Either that, or I’m going to have a really bumpy landscape!
One of the (many) common denominators in a remodeling project is demolition. With demolition comes the necessity to get rid of the debris. There are two basic approaches for a DIY’er to address this requirement: (1) Pay somebody to come and do the clean-up and haul all the detritus away; (2) rent a dumpster. A third option, which is not DIY, is to task your subcontractor to dispose of any waste generated by the job. This makes sense, especially if you’re dealing with things like brush removal, tree trimming, or hazardous waste, like asbestos, which is typically encountered with HVAC upgrades. But usually the folks who you will subcontract know how to deal with this, and again, it ain’t DIY.
Option one, paying somebody to come in and haul away your stuff, can be very useful, especially if you have a relatively small job. These folks are quick, efficient, tidy, and you don’t have to concern yourself with any of the codes, regulations, or liabilities of disposing your waste. The downside is that these folks are pretty expensive, and you lose some flexibility with respect to generating your waste on your own time schedule.
Option two, renting a dumpster, is fairly typical of what a remodeling contractor will do. The dumpster will be placed in front of the home, and you can add as your needs require. How simple can that be? Well…. NOTHING in remodeling can be so simple!
You just can’t plop a dumpster anywhere you want. If you have some space on your property, then consider yourself lucky as the requirements are typically less demanding. In my case, I have no room on my postage stamp sized property, so the only option was to place it on the street in front of my house. Now the fun starts.
Because the street is owned by the homeowners association, I had to get permission of the HOA board. They granted permission provided that I informed my neighbors about the dumpster. Turned out that I had the opportunity to meet some of my neighbors (for the first time), so maybe that is a blessing in disguise. However, I also had to deal with the city ordinances, and the company who would supply the dumpster is contracted by the city, so there was no way out. When I first requested a dumpster from the waste services company, all of a sudden, I had to deal with additional complexities. (1) What type of waste? (general residential demolition). (2) Do you have any heavy waste? (Yes, I have concrete, stones, brick, and dirt. (3) Concrete, bricks, and stones go in a 15 yd dumpster. If you put dirt in it, we have to charge extra. (Well , at least they told me.) (3) Do you have a permit from the city? (No, but not required because, this is a private street). Here is where the plot thickens.
I tried, valiantly, to get an answer from the city as to whether I needed a permit or not. I left a message with somebody at public works, but I wanted to find out the answer, so I kept calling the city and eventually found a city employee who said “If it’s a private street, you don’t need a permit, but you have to place traffic barriers with flashing lights around the dumpster.” I inquired about the necessity for that requirement and was told that there had been a number of accidents whereby the drivers of certain vehicles have crashed into dumpsters parked on the street because they did not have the same kind of reflective markings that a parked car does. I am certain that alcohol was NOT a factor in any of these incidents. (The person on the phone chuckled appropriately.) In any case, I agreed to procure (purchase) traffic barricades and lights. Heck. They may be useful in other circumstances in the future.
So, I called back the dumpster company, and I reassured them that I did not need a permit, and that all I needed was a HOA letter telling them that it was OK to put a dumpster on the street. Then, 2 days before delivery, I get a call from the city saying that thee person whom I called was out and that they looked up my address and determined that I would need a permit. So much for inter-organizational communications! So I went to the place where they issue permits, got the permit, and e-mailed it to the waste disposal company to make sure that everything was square. I’m not sure what the $65 fee was used for other than supporting the city’s bureaucracy, but being a retired military officer, I should not be one to judge. I followed up with the dumpster company and was assured of prompt delivery on the date agreed upon. The dumpster came and I was ready to accept in all respects.
This is what I learned:
(1) A bureaucracy has a mind of its own, and you need to be flexible, and be accommodating, to get what you want. Honey is better than vinegar.
(2) Your project has a mind of its own. After I took a lot of effort to setting up the dumpster, and equipment rental, I originally wanted to get all of the demoe’d hardscape into the dumpster the first day, but the backyard retaining wall was far more difficult to demo. I ran into serious trouble. My schedule was trashed, and I had to quickly re-arrange my plan. The bottom line is that I did not have the right tool for the job. So I came up with plan “b”. Rent a hydraulic breaker with the steer-skid, and stop the manual demolition nonsense. Heavy equipment (on a DIY scale), will make short order of this problem.