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Monthly Archives: December 2011

We’ve finally started our master bathroom!

We’ve been dreaming of this moment for a long time. Four people in a one-bathroom house is pretty tight. It’s even tighter when that one bathroom is about the same size as most walk-in closets in new homes. Now that we have a permit and have started, we can almost taste the water in the soon-to-be lavatory faucets! I can almost feel the lack of wind in my face from not having to go outside to do the laundry!

We used white marking paint to show where we would remove existing concrete, and to mark the limits of the excavation.

A shot of the bathroom laid out in paint.

We had to dig down below the existing foundation so the new footing would flow beneath the old one.

The previous owner sunk a 4X6 post in concrete. Like, eight bags of it. He used the post to hold up a speed bag. I think he was afraid he might knock it down with a mighty blow.

We had to dig the post out and used a sledgehammer, a heavy bar, and a jackhammer to try and reduce the size of it. We found rebar and copper Romex in the concrete.

We estimated the post weighed around 600 pounds. Caleb is around 200 pounds and would stand on one end of the post, which balanced on the edge of the hole. We managed to roll the post out of the hole, stand it up, and roll it out of the way, The entire time we were dealing with this monstrosity, we kept asking ourselves, why? Why did somebody think they needed 600 pounds of concrete to hold up a post? One 80-pound bag would have been fine.

After we dug the footings, we had to raise the level of the ground inside the building. Because the house is in the floodplain, various levels of government required us to ensure the new bathroom would be 12" above the flood elevation, which happens to be precisely equal to the bedroom floor elevation. So we will have two steps up into the bathroom. Alas, no ADA wheelchair accessible entrance from within..

As we dug the southern footing, we encountered a giant concrete box that had been filled in and buried. I suspect it is the old septic tank, as our house was on septic until the seventies. We also found a variety of abandoned plumbing lines.

We removed all the concrete in front of the back room. We needed to remove most of it to make the connection to the existing sewer line. I also wanted to run a greywater line from the laundry, sinks, and shower to our fruit trees, and that needed to go under the patio too. It sloped toward the house anyway. We re-poured it with positive slope away from the house, and made the back door wheelchair-accessible in the process.

After the plumbers came and went. We have separate drains for sewer and greywater, so there is a lot more pipe than is usual. Arizona is a desert, so it only makes sense to reuse the water from sinks, washing machines, and showers to irrigate the landscape. Arizona has wonderfully progressive greywater laws and incentives so it is easy to do.

The forms are up.

We used a pumper truck to get the concrete all the way to the bathroom. It made the pour a LOT easier and faster than using wheelbarrows.

After a parade of inspectors and concrete guys came and checked everything out in prior days, the pumper truck operator took one look at our forms and said they wouldn't hold. And they didn't. As I watched them blow out, my life flashed before my eyes. It took seven cubic yards of concrete to do the job, and I envisioned a giant useless lump of rebar-reinforced concrete in my back yard. A permanent testimony to my DIY foolery. But it worked out. The concrete guys were awesome. The top stayed square and true, and the finishers were able to strip off the forms and straighten the sides. At the end of the day I had eaten a large slice of humble pie, but was better for it, and everything worked out fine.

There it is! A beautiful finished slab, thanks to an awesome crew of helpers, some professional and some not. I'm looking forward to framing!

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