Shangri La

Shangri La

Monday, April 27, 2009

Concrete Plans

My excavator called me last night from Orlando to let me know that the site had been graded if I wanted to take a final look before the foundation trenches were dug. I was impressed that he’d take time out from his vacation update me – my experience with contractors being more on the give-them-a-deposit-pray-they-get-around-to-it-this-year end of the spectrum.

When I met with him and the concrete guy 2 Saturdays ago, it was agreed that the foundation could go in right after May 15th – the date they lift the mud season heavy load restriction on Shangri-La’s roads. (The town only has 2 paved roads – the only two that don’t dead-end – and even they have dirt sections.) The concrete work would take 3 days, and a week or two to cure after that, setting my start date in early June.

That Saturday was also the first time the project began to feel a little intimidating. Standing in the center of this denuded patch of forest I was struck that I would have to actually construct a building here – possibly by myself – before the first frost. It suddenly seemed a tall order.

A few random notes from the last two weeks:

The cabin plans have always called for a porch, and it occurred to me that the right time to pour the footings is while the foundation is being done. My plans call for 5 piers for the front porch, and 2 piers for the back; the excavator agreed to do the work on a per hour basis – at $45, expecting about a ½ day’s work. He also agreed to pick up the sonitubes and footing forms. The concrete guy expected to have enough concrete in the truck to pour them, so he thought the charge would be minimal if anything at all. I may not build the porches this year, but at least we’ll be ready for them.

I met with the CVPS guy on the same day, and we talked about plans for underground service to the house. Turns out that the $35/foot I quoted here was specifically for underground service. If I went overhead, the charge would be less, involving only wire, the weather head and the meter – no pole needed if the gable end of the house was less than 125’ from the pole. (I should just squeak by on that one.) This option does mean that I’ll need temporary power, however, which will be an $80 setup charge plus the cost of an electrician.

The excavator noted that he saved the stone from the wall so he could put it back in place once the width and location of the driveway had been finalized. This wasn’t something I expected, and one more reason why I’d recommend this guy to anyone. Not only was he less expensive than the others, but he seems to take a lot of pride in his work. And a hell of a nice guy.

The concrete guy had quoted me about 5,200 over the phone based upon a level site. He spent almost an hour brainstorming with the excavator on how they could carve a roughly level area out of the 15% slope we had to work with. In the end, he noted that the price could go up by a couple hundred dollars if the forms need to be stepped. This was still significantly cheaper than the next bid, so I’m not concerned.

With the land cleared, we’re now in clear view of the neighbors across the street. Not terrible, but I preferred the out-in-the-woods feeling. We’ll need to do some landscaping eventually the reclaim some of the privacy. On the other hand, the new sight lines should deter any vandalism, so I’ll have to think about this.

Financial tally: $1,000 to the excavator for the balance of the land clearing, and $1,000 deposit on the grading and excavating. Last week I got the formal proposal from the concrete guy, and cut another check for half of the foundation work - $2,600.


Shellmo said...

Sounds like you have a sharp excavator! Are you GCing this project yourself?

CabinFever said...

I think there are two factors at work with my excavator:
1) He lives at the bottom of the hill, so he's a neighbor
2) His excavating company is a second job, so he can probably afford to undercut the competition

Yes, I'm my own GC. More out of economic necessity than choice, unfortunately.

Ben said...

Have you considered using an ICF (Insulated Concrete Form) system for your foundation. I am an independant sales rep for the New England Eco-Block distributor. Their website is You can easily build this foundation yourself, and have the comfort of R-22 walls in the cold Vermont winter. Please give me a call at 603-228-6506 if you have any questions. For a list of our Green Products our site is

CabinFever said...

Ben! Where were you when I was planning? Sounds like something I should have considered.