Jul 30, 2015

Into the Earth #3

We crossed our fingers on Friday for a weekend without rain, as it has proven to be impossible for trucks to climb up the grassy hill when the ground is wet. Against all odds after all the bad luck, the Weather Lords favoured our cause!  So on early Monday morning, after a 250 kg plate compactor which did not move an inch in the mud had been changed to a 80 kg piece of machinery, Pekka started preparing the ground for landscaping fabric to be placed between sub soil and the first layer of compatable gravel.

Compacted ground ready for landscaping fabric

Then a cement truck loaded with gravel arrived. Instead of manually carrying all the gravel uphill, it would be delivered "by air" to the correct location. Why did we not think of this before but relied on raw manpower and wheelbarrows before?

Gravel truck arriving

So the next part was easy. Pekka could just watch 15 tons of gravel (0 - 32 mm in size) moving 20 meters up hill to our backyard, slowly covering the landscaping fabric.

Flying gravel

More flying gravel

Then the gravel was evenly spread around the 45 m2 terrace area with shovel and then compacted carefully with water and compactor to finish the first gravel layer.

First gravel layer ready

Next the entire area was covered with 50 mm Finnfoam thermal insulation to minimise the impact of ground frost. Gaps between the panels and walls were filled with expandable urethane foam.

Laying down insulation

The picture below shows the slight inclination of the terrace on the border of foam and wall. The exact inclination will be adjusted with the following layers to match the recommendations.

Ready for the second layer of gravel

The following morning, at 6.30 am (way before Pekka's morning coffee), the gravel truck returned and shot another 17 tons of gravel (0 - 16 mm in size) on top of the insulated terrace.

Second set of flying gravel

The piles look huge first, but both times the amount was just perfect (thanks for the providers calculator!). Fortunately Pekka got some help from Sofi, who was quite keen on assisting with her own shovel.

Shoveling team

After 2.5 days of intense teamwork, we were finally at the point we originally planned to have achieved more than a week ago.

Terrace foundation - ready!

Compacted gravel

Without Juha's laser Pekka had to rely on a traditional string line method to determine the right ground level. The top gravel layer is now compacted and levelled correctly with an inclination of approximately 2 cm per each meter away from the building. The border stones (which were actually recycled stones from Project Underground) have also been laid to determine the area and support the structure.

Determining the correct level

Despite this being perhaps the project with most adversities, everything is now finally ready for stone dust and slates. But those will need to wait a bit. We need a small vacation first. All inclusive with relatives.

Terrace to be

Jul 24, 2015

Into the Earth #2

At this point, it is rather difficult to hide what we are doing. One can just follow the mud track to ground zero. If day one had it's challenges, day two started out in the very same spirit. Already before their morning coffee, Pekka and Juha were struggling to help a truck to survive the muddy uphill to come and pick up the pallet. Needless to say, the attempts were first unsuccessful. Only after covering the critical parts of the entry way with gravel, the truck finally managed to drive up. At this point, we had basically wasted 8 hours, a full working day.

Do not mind the mud!

But finally, digging continued. During the next hours, progress was significant as Pekka and Juha were able to work uninterrupted.

In action

Just in case you have never had an opportunity to follow an excavator in action, it is pretty intriguing. In addition to the skill to manage the machine, the driver needs to be pretty good in problem solving - for example how to get the depth and shape just right, how to manoeuvre in a small space without damaging anything or how to move around large rocks without breaking things. Juha proved himself to be a professional - he was fantastic!

A thoughtful moment

It was not only the large rocks giving Pekka and Juha a headache, but also a large tree stump (remainings of one of the two pine trees cut down in 2012) The roots were long, strong and tangled with rocks, so it was difficult to remove from the ground in the first place. Furthermore, it was nearly impossible to move around. We first thought it would classify as landfill waste, which is free to dispose, but it does not. Fortunately, Juha and Pekka got it off the pallet - now we just need to get creative what to do with it...

Obnoxious old stump

This is how the work site looked like after day 2. The required depth had been reached across the entire area, and we were ready for the next step. But...not so fast. It rained the entire night and the morning of day 3, and there was no way the full pallet could once again be picked up. Furthermore, the truck bringing the gravel would not be able to get close enough either. So yes, unfortunately it will be a day off. Needless to say the level of frustration is quite high, but what can you do - this is the Finnish summer.

Digging completed

About 50 cm down

And by the way Urho, who can relax anywhere, did so in the heart of all action. Given the size of his ego it is of course clear there is absolutely no danger in his positioning!

Construction dog

Jul 21, 2015

Into the Earth

At 7.30 am it arrived. At 8.00 am the engine started. The digging begun. At that time, we had no idea of the challenges the day would bring. Ignorance truly is bliss.

A two ton fairy

The goal was to move 10 tons of soil to build the foundation for the terrace. An empty pallet on our backyard is becoming a very familiar looking sight.

So it begins

The dynamic duo, Pekka and Minna's brother Juha had a clear experience-based division of work - each would be responsible for what they know best: Juha was to focus on handling the excavator, whereas Pekka would focus his energy on the wheelbarrow. To know when they had reached sufficient depth, laser was once again handy.

Heavy-duty laser

Juha has been sharing his life with excavators since he was four years old. In his thirties, a life long dream finally came true and digging become a serious hobby for him, first with a rental equipment and ultimately with his own machine. Therefore, it was not very difficult to persuade him use a couple of his summer vacation days to come for a visit and do the digging for us.

Man and machine

No one knew what to expect - soil, rocks, construction waste...? One big tree stump for sure. Could be anything.

Hidden treasures

It was not expected it to be a walk-in-a-park project, but enough is enough. At some point during the day a moment came when the camel's back nearly broke. There had been other lesser problems with the excavator already earlier, but just when it was blocking the way to the pallet one of the tracks broke. There stood the yellow monster, and in split second, everything went on hold. For way too many hours.

Broken track

To make a long story short, challenges are meant to be overcome, and after a few hours of desperation, depression and determination Juha and Pekka were back on track again. And the digging continued.

And then there was a hole

In the end of the day, the first pallet was full. The nearly dead and buried wish of a new terrace had been brought to live again. Tomorrow is a new day, fingers crossed it will be better than this one.

Highway to heaven

As a small side note, we had a lovely visitor over today to see our place for the first time. Despite of the dust invading every nook and cranny of the place and the crazy mess in every single room, she very kindly complemented our place. Perhaps in a few weeks the place will be dust free again. Not for forever, but at least for a while.

Dust, everywhere

Jul 19, 2015

Clearing the way for an excavator

Today we woke up full of energy. After morning coffee, it was decided that the first thing to do was to buy a chainsaw to be efficient. An hour later Pekka returned with his Makita.

The Makita

And what did we do? The goal was to empty and clean the terrace area, including removal of about 130 concrete blocks each weighing 29 kg. The excavator would arrive on Monday morning at 8.00 am. To make a long story short, we made it.

10.00 AM

12.30 PM

3.00 PM

5.30 PM

The leftover slates and most of the wood moved to their temporary locations.

10.00 AM

12.30 PM

5.30 PM

In the spirit of recycling, 66 concrete blocks were sold on a Facebook flea market. Hope they serve well their new owner!

Blocks in line

Urho proved himself once again of being very skilled in positioning himself in very ungrateful places as related to where the action was. Call it a dachshund's luck, but once again he survived a day of serious renovation without a scratch.

What on earth...?

Jul 18, 2015

Guest room slate floor

Sweat. Sore muscles. Exhaustion. Backyard looking like a disaster. That is seems to be slate floor assembly in a nutshell. Yet, Pekka is enjoying himself. And making progress.

Slate master

Pekka was following the protocol he learned while assisting Harri from Liuskemestarit last summer. Clearly, he had been paying close attention to the process as after day one, more than half of the slates were successfully laid down and attached with cement.

Half way there

View from the door

There are few more pieces to be cut and installed before the floor is ready. Not to mention what is waiting for outside at the terrace. Speaking of the devil - we have exactly one day time to clean up the mess before digging begins. It is going to be one busy Sunday.

Made to measure

While Pekka was working on the backyard, baby Eino (who is no longer very little after doubling his birth weight in less than three months) was hanging out at the atrium terrace with his favorite toy. He wasn't too excited about Sofi's earmuffs Minna tried to make him wear to block the loud grinder sound. But the apple seems not to have fallen too far from the tree - being Pekka's son and probably strongly expressing the renovation gene, he did not seem to mind the grinder noise at all, but happily carried on his games.

Like father like son

Jul 17, 2015

Guest room kick off

Finally, summer vacation! What could be better to set one's mind off of work projects, than little renovation? There are two goals for the next few weeks: to conquer the Final Frontier, i.e. the downstairs guest room and to build a 45 m2 terrace on the backyard. Easy, right?

The first thing to do was to empty the room. It was a junk yard, but as a silver lining Pekka made some interesting finds while digging deeper and deeper into the unknown. He found things we thought we had lost for good. And he found things we didn't even remember we had.

Before and after

The Final Frontier ready for a face lift 

The plan is simple. We want to paint the walls and install a slate floor. Earlier, Pekka had covered one of the walls with a self adhesive Buzziskin felt when the room served as the first Man Cave. As the plans had now changed, the felt needed to be removed. The removal part was easy, but cleaning the remainings of the self adhesive glue off the wall was quite the opposite. Let's put it this way - we spent a bit more time and effort cleaning the wall than originally planned.

"Almost" ready to be painted!

After trashing the old plastic carpet we were happy to find out that a few ugly looking stains were not an indication of water damage, and we could go on with priming the floor. By the way, one of the benefits of constantly being on the renovation mode is that there is a surprisingly large selection of renovation equipment and materials readily available. No need to go shopping for primer, for example!

Being primed

For more than two years we have had two big piles of slate just sitting and waiting something to happen. Finally, the day has arrived: some of those slates are now spread around on our backyard for Pekka to select the best ones for the floor. Once again, we are eternally thankful for having extremely understanding neighbours!

Pick and choose your favorites!

Few of the chosen ones

So we are hoping to have the slate floor ready and the backyard all cleared by the coming Monday, when the excavator arrives to do the groundwork for the terrace. It will be one laborious weekend ahead so everyone interested in some serious physical exercise around the theme of construction is more than welcome to join - the beer has already been chilled!