Thomas and Zilpah Ludlam House (ca. 1790)

Thomas and Zilpah Ludlam House (ca. 1790)
Thomas + Zilpah Ludlam House, ca. 1790

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What Design? Plus Septic System Woes...

Having determined that we needed an addition, it was clear from the start that although we knew what spaces were to be created, we couldn't agree on room and addition sizes.

My feeling is that I don't want to build something small only to regret it later.  From the start, I envisioned a 1 1/2-story addition with 2 bedrooms (one to be used for storage) on the second floor; the first floor would have a generously-sized kitchen, along with a normal-sized bathroom and laundry room.  To get that roomy kitchen, I figured a 16' wide by 30' footprint that gave us a 16' x 15' kitchen was perfect.  Plus, with the stair, we could have a coat closet at one end and a pantry at the other tucked under the risers.

My husband disagreed.  He thought a 1-story addition, with storage under the rafters and a 16' x 22' footprint was perfect.  We'd eliminate the stair, shrink the footprint to just a kitchen, laundry, and full bath. Ever practical, he also thought--rightfully so--that it would cost us considerably less than what I was considering.  After much discussion, tinkering with floor plans, and analysing costs, we decided on a 16' x 28' footprint, 1 1/2-stories tall, with the 2 upstairs rooms I'd wanted.  The kitchen is 2' shorter than I'd hoped for, but I'm a big believer in compromise.

Scott drew most of the various sketches for the building permit application.  Having built custom homes, he knew just what pitch to make the roof, how to frame the walls, floors, and the foundation, what height the stair steps had to be, and so on.  I contributed floor plans drawn on the computer with a decades-old (1996) home architecture program that is simple and reliable.  I also drew the elevations on the computer using another decades-old drawing program that I still use with my professional work.  The plumber, HVAC contractor, and electrician added their plans, too.  We submitted everything last week and found out today (a mere 4 days later) that everything was approved!  We should have the permit by the end of this week.  Cause for celebration!

The good news, though, is always tempered by the bad, and with us it is with the septic system.  I mentioned earlier that the ca. 1975 septic system is exactly, precisely where we want to build the addition.  So, it must be moved, and in order to do that, we had to hire an engineer to draw the plans to be submitted to the county health department.  The bad news started when he came out to dig the test pits, two of them, and found an 8" layer of white clay not far from the bottom of the mandatory 10' deep bed.  Mind you, we live at the Jersey shore and the majority of the dirt they dug through was sandy. Clay is not easily permeated by water (read sewage here), so it must all be removed and replaced with sandy soil.  The cost to do this was a shock (read almost 20K), but if we want to do the addition, it has to be done.  The plans were submitted and we got our septic approval a few weeks ago.  And, we had to have that approval before we could submit the plans for the building permit. 

Lesson learned here:  whatever time you think it will take to get your approvals, double it.  We started the septic process at the end of January and weren't approved until 4 months later.  Some of this had to do with laggardness on behalf of the engineer while the rest was county bureaucracy.  When you're at the mercy of others, you quickly learn that your time frame is not their concern.

They started digging the septic field today and I'm told that tomorrow will be a continuous parade of dump trucks hauling out the "bad" soil and then replacing it with the good.

The layer of white clay is clearly seen near the bottom of the hole.

Up next:  More Details, e.g. energy efficient windows for historic building additions, timber framing, scavenger hunt for historic building materials, and more.

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