Saturday, June 30, 2007
It's not like I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself. Really. Between planning the barn construction, finishing remodeling projects in the main house, and getting in a variety of workouts, I've got PLENTY of things to keep me busy. Last week, Lisa and I went to Grand Marais (she had a nursing gig at their hospital, and I was along for 'moral' support). While hanging around Lake Superior attempting to have some fun, I can't get my mind off the fact that I should be putting up roof trusses by now! Feeling completely dead in the water, I came upon the quote, "When your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it." How ironic that I come up with this while watching ore boats putt across the big lake. Applying it to my predicament, I have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to set up a meeting with the Building Official (who is 2 hours away). I've offered to drive to his town anytime to sit down and work this out. We've had numerous phone conversations plus I've answered dozens of questions via email in the past few weeks. He is smart and thorough, I'll give him that! But he ranks poorly in the "timeliness" category, and seems to be precisely oblivious to the fact that I've now got only 3 good months before the pumpkins freeze and the snow shovels come back out. He assures me (every time we talk) that my permit will be approved once he goes over a few more details. And so I wait. Longer. Tick, tick, tick.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
It's been a week since my last posting, and several weeks since I've played in the big giant sandbox. After numerous conversations with the City Administrator, Building Official, State Code Office, Structural Engineers, experts, friends, and psychiatrists, I have come to the conclusion that somebody is plotting against me (and that's not just the meds talking). The issue at hand is with my foundation design. I am trying to build what is referred to as a Frost-Protected Shallow Foundation (FPSF)- a concept developed half a century ago in Scandinavia and used with much success for decades even in this backwards country. Without going into (more) boring detail, let's just say it is a more sensible design with respect to environmental impact, raw materials useage, and energy efficiency. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Hah! That's what I thought. Instead of being accepted as the foundation-of-the-future, it seems to carry the stigma of some newfangled idea that has yet to be proven. It's new and different and therefore it must be bad.... Seems that it wasn't until the last few years that this type of foundation was even included in the code book (referred to hereafter as The Book). It also appears that The Book has misinterpreted the way a FPSF design is intended to work (that is, if you believe the dozen or so professional publications I have studied on the subject). This was eluded to by my Building Official (who is on my side, but trying to work within the RULES of The Book) in his email to me today regarding my project, in which he stated, "1) The code does not permit insulation under the slab in a shallow frost protected foundation system. 2) Insulation is needed under that slab to keep you from heating a big chuck of earth underneath your home and spending lots of extra fuel, which another code frowns upon." I still haven't gotten a permit approved for an insulated foundation, but I'm getting closer. In the process, perhaps I've unearthed a conspiracy, and we'll have to keep the oil flowing to heat all those uninsulated foundations that are being built according to The Book....
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The deconstruction of the barn went smoothly and the project was ahead of schedule for awhile. If things were going according to plan, I'd be bolting down the sillplates and framing the walls right now. But unfortunately I have not posted any updates because, well, there aren't any to speak of. I grossly underestimated the bureaucratic system of our little town. Actually, I was working based on old knowledge- when I set out to remodel this dilapitated old farmhouse a few years ago, all it took was a signature and a $20 bill to get a permit. Nobody EVER came to even check my work...I was expecting something along those lines for this go-around. Apparently things have changed. Now I need to file a "plumbing review" ($150) with the state, and "building plan" ($900) with the city. I'll need a separate permit for the electrical work, too. I was on-the-ball with these first two items, and got all that done on time. But since the building inspector noticed that my structure is not the typical unconsciously-designed starter mansion, a red flag came up and more design work was requested. This requires a "plan review" to be stamped by a professional engineer (I have an engineering degree, but not a "professional engineer's" certification), at a cost of $1000-$2000 based on the estimates I have gotten so far. And it all takes time- a precious commodity with the short building season here at the North Pole. The whole situation has been exacerbated with the hiring of a new city administrator (5 weeks ago) and a new building inspector (yesterday, Ughh!). I can't seem to keep everybody on the same page long enough to get my project approved. I originally budgeted $50K to build and furnish this barn. So far, it looks like about 5% of the budget will used to get 3 very expensive signatures. Anybody want to come over and play in the $2500 sandbox?