Friday, October 7, 2011

Ready. Set. Stop.

Did I say in that last post that framing would start this week? Ha ha!

I guess in some sense it started, since all the framing materials were delivered. It felt like some kind of Christmas morning to stop by the site Monday and find a lumber yard.

I especially liked to see the 4 x 12 beams, conveniently left across the front of my driveway by the delivery person. Just kidding, kind of - it seems there was no other choice; the beams were too long to be placed farther down the driveway.

Tuesday was the scheduled start of framing. I met with the framer that morning to go over all the unique (read OCD) visual demands I'm placing on this phase of the work. (Every stud has to center on a brick, for instance. He took notes on that one.) Then I left the site for a local wood shop to pick up my ipe trim. (Yeah, I think it's rainforest wood. But there's only a little bit, just an accent, a line, beside columns and below beams. And consider, from the photos below, how pretty.) I finally got to use my truck for something! Saved me $120 in delivery fees.

But I had only gotten a few miles down the road when the framer called me to say the bolts in the steel columns were not holding into the concrete slab. He was able to just push them over; the "anchor" bolts were sliding right out of the holes. So he sent his helper home and called off framing till we could resolve the issue. When I got back to the site with the ipe I checked several columns and saw the same thing - I could push them with my hand and the bolts pulled out of the concrete.

This would not be a problem if the columns only had to resist the weight of the roof, of course. But they also have to resist "uplift" forces. Without proper anchoring, a hurricane or tornado could lift this whole part of the house right off the foundation.

My framer suggested the only apparent solution - re-drill all 88 holes bigger, fill them with epoxy, set the bolts, and let it cure for a day or two.

But who would do all that extra work? And for how much? Why weren't the expansion bolts holding anyway?? Were they too small?? Were the holes drilled to large??! SERIOUSLY! WHAT KIND OF--- WHO WOULD---  WHAT THE---- ???  So, naturally my first reaction was to call the steel company that I paid good money to install the columns. I was spectacularly calm. "I have a question - the bolts you guys put in to anchor the steel columns, they're - ha ha! - able to be pulled out of the slab BY HAND."

The steel guy then explained, just as calmly, that they left the bolts loose so we could level the columns later, and that the nuts have to be tightened all the way down before the expansion part of the bolt will grab securely in the hole.

"Oh. Okay. Thanks!"

I knew that the nuts were left a little loose, but I also assumed that they had been tightened enough to expand completely in the concrete. Still slightly skeptical, I asked my framer to come out Thursday morning to test one. He tightened a nut - and tightened, and tightened - until the rod was several inches above the nut and seemed like it would never stop. Then he said it felt like it was getting tighter. He did the same to the other three bolts. Then I gave the column a push. Didn't budge. I pushed harder. Still no budging. It worked!

My framer texted me later to say he was happy with the result of the test and has rescheduled to start framing this coming Monday. So it seems that the project was delayed six days because neither I nor the framer understood how expansion bolts work. At least that won't happen again.

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