Sunday, August 8, 2010

How Firm A Foundation

Tired of walls and more walls? Well, when you have to shore up fifty feet of dirt and gravel, it takes a lot of walls. Yes, first they removed the dirt, then they built the wall, then they replaced the dirt. But this isn't any dirt. This is specially sifted and compacted dirt. After each compaction a soils inspector comes out and checks that the compaction is tamped down enough to withstand a 10.0 earthquake (even though this is not earthquake country). So the walls go up slowly. Dig, build, fill, check. Rinse and repeat.

And this is what an almost finished wall looks like. The bottom level is the rockery wall; carefully placed boulders that are wired in place and covering a concrete block wall. The next level of concrete block wall is a bit of a mismash of colors, but the entire wall will be covered with dark black and red stone tiles. Notice the 30% slope between the two walls. I'm not sure how the landscapers are going to deal with that slope, but there won't be any ground cover on it, just trees. Though after this compaction, how they will dig holes and watering lines to the trees, I have no idea.

This picture shows the final color of the rockery wall. When the local rocks are dug up out of the ground, they are white. Over time they will weather to a dark brown, but in the meantime the color is helped along by a coat of spray paint. Even the local canyon walls are spray painted. By the time the paint wears off, the color should be natural. You can just see the rebar for third and final level of retaining walls in the middle of the picture.

And finally all the retaining walls are completed and the foundation is started. If you look way, way down to the left hand side of the picture you will see the top of the rockery wall. Fifty feet of descent looks a lot steeper when you are standing at the top of it. These jagged walls are the last retaining walls before the foundation. The jutting out triangle in the front of the picture will be the location for our spa in the master bedroom courtyard. The entire master bedroom will be three and a half feet lower than the rest of the house. Since the descent is steeper on the east (master bedroom side), the only way we could make an almost one story house work is to slightly drop the master bedroom section. There is still a deep foundation on that side that acts as the final retaining wall.

But it was not all walls, walls, walls in June and July. We enjoyed a long road trip from Lexington, Kentucky, to Las Vegas. We also attended Westercon, a roving science fiction convention held in Pasadena, California, this year. Since most of our friends live elsewhere in the world, it is always good to get together and see them at conventions.