"Before" picture

"Before" picture

Monday, January 4, 2010

Our home-improvement resume, part II

Because we are gluttons for punishment, and Ken has lots of tools and a hobby car, a year after we moved into the house and did all that wallpaper and floor-finishing work we said, "Hey, why don't we build a detached garage in the back yard?" The original layout of these split-levels had a one-car garage with a mudroom on the lower level, but a previous homeowner had long ago converted that space in our house into a family room.

Thank goodness because the house would be waaay too small without it, plus it was one of the main reasons we bought the place. Fireplace + wet bar = heck ya! In fact, we've spent every evening of the last two weeks in front of the fireplace you see here. Very nice and oh, so toasty.

But since we had the awesome family room, in trade there was no garage of any kind for Ken to use to store his wide assortment of tools, both power and non. He dreamed of having a place to park his Caprice and have a workshop in which to do all sorts of handyman type stuff. Or, as his friend Jay so aptly put it, Ken built a garage so he'd have a place to store all the tools he bought to build the garage. Touche.

Ken started drawing up a variety of plans that could possibly become his new garage/workshop. Let's just say I nixed the 4-car version that would've taken up the entire width of our backyard and would've required us to pave most of the rest of it in order for cars to make it back there. I was pretty adamant that if we owned just over a quarter acre that part of it was going to be reserved for things like our (then future, now actual) kids playing. He eventually reduced his dream to a 2.5-car beast that would only take up the entire right-hand half of our yard, front to back. The plans were helped along by a few things Ken was gifted that he incorporated into the design: two garage doors (one huge one, one normal size) and a bunch of roofing trusses. Having those items set some parameters that helped solidify the dream into a reality. On paper. A lot of work was still ahead. And we won't even get involved in this story in the parts about the township office and inspector.

The first step, sadly, was to take down what was arguably the prettiest, healthiest tree on the entire property. We tried to work around it, and there was just no feasible way, so down it came. Sorry, tree! Somewhere I have a picture of it in all its glory, and if I ever find it I will post it here as a memorial tribute.

Then excavation began, ripping up our beautiful green lawn and turning it into this:

Sniffle. And then this:

And then, immediately after the entire footer had been dug, the rain came. Lots of it. And turned the footer into a moat. We had to sit around waiting for the moat to dry out before the concrete could be poured, which had to cure for about 45 years. And finally, after it was ready, the mason could come and set the block rows to support the walls. Being unskilled labor, I was assigned the job of spreading tar on the outside of the block before Ken backfilled with gravel. I was not very good at the job since at one point I clearly remember gluing my calf to my thigh with tar. Oops. But I finished my messy job, and then Ken got to backfill with gravel, using this handy little apparatus that I got to drive around a few times, too (also not very well):

A quick word about gravel. We used many, many tons of it for this job. So many that I lost count, but it got to be that the gravel truck was a staple in our neighborhood, that guy came to our house so many times. Thankfully, on none of his visits did he hit the high-voltage wire running down the easement on the garage side of our property. Yay for him and us.

And so, with gooey tarred blocks in place and properly backfilled, it was finally time to start putting up walls to this would-be garage.

And once the 457,000 tons of gravel had settled as much as we thought it would, we brought in some firefighters who are experts at concrete work and had the floor put in. If you ever need a place to park a semi or perhaps a tank, this would be it. Besides all the gravel that's under there (the lowest layer is currently melting because of its proximity to the earth's core), the concrete pad is roughly 8-10in thick, which is nice and sturdy. Ken doesn't under-build things, no sirree.

Hey, what's that tarp for? Oh, right. It started raining in the middle of the concrete work. Of course. Murphy's Law is no joke, people.

Eventually, the swamp of concrete cured to perfection, and then Ken and the neighbors tackled the raising of those free roof trusses:

It was a hot summer and thirsty work, so everyone stopped for a beer now and then.

Then one day I finally got a chance to look up from all the pizza menus I was ordering from and noticed that there were walls and a roof forming:
Ultimately, the presence of those items led Ken to feel like attaching other things to them, like siding and shingles.

Until the blissful day came when the project (minus repairing the utterly damaged lawn surrounding it) was done, and we christened it The Garage-Mahal.

And then there was a lot of cleaning up to do. And all our friends and neighbors scurried away, praying never to get involved with another one of Ken's harebrained schemes ever again. Though that really hasn't panned out for them.

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