Finally Building for Real

It's been 11 months since I last posted; it took 9 months to restart construction after discovering that the foundation was not reusable. Sigh. Here's how it went down:

  1. We realized that since the foundation would be rebuilt, there was no reason to exactly copy the original footprint. So we decided to slide the whole house up five feet on the lot to maximize backyard while still respecting the front setback. This required some work on the site plan.
  2. We also had to draw up a new foundation roughly mimicking the original one, and redo structural engineering. 
  3. We applied for a permit modification. After a long delay (permitting in Seattle is a nightmare), the city came back to us with a concern. The foundation is five feet from the property line, and ten feet deep; excavation would require a deeper cut than allowed without some sort of shoring preventing a landslide. Sigh.
  4. I considered some options, such as shrinking the basement, but in the end decided to stick with the plan and install temporary shoring. My contractor didn't think it would be dramatically expensive, and it would be the fastest route, since other changes required more significant design and permitting work.
  5. The first step in designing the new shoring was to get a geotechnical report, which involves sampling the soil and estimating what kind of shoring is required. The construction industry is very busy in Seattle, so it took a while to get a geotech out to the site, and a report made. 
  6. The soil turned out to be very, very soft, which means we needed the most expensive possible shoring: a soldier pile wall. Sigh. I got our structural engineer to design the wall, and we resubmitted to the city.
  7. Then we waited. Forever. It turns out the geotechnical reviewers at City of Seattle are backed up for months. 
  8. The contractor told me that the temporary shoring wall, and new foundation, were going to be DRAMATICALLY expensive. I considered selling the whole project and hiding in a hole, but after looking at existing houses out there, I didn't think I could buy a house that I liked for any less than the total cost of my project, even with the new price. But this is why no one builds basements in Seattle; excavation on tight lots is just too expensive, and the city watches with hawk eyes. 
  9. The permit finally issues right after Christmas. We finally get started with earthwork early February.
Phew. Building a house sure isn't easy or cheap. The next post will continue with the fun stuff; pictures and progress!


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