Building/moving to a new home – day 100

The devil is in the details

In project management, it is generally understood that the last 5 percent of a project requires an enormous amount of effort, so when you feel that a project is 95 percent complete, be prepared for an uphill struggle to break out into the clear.

We have made great progress in the last 100 days, but there is a lot left to do. One hundred days ago we had 3 1/2 acres of forest with a well and a septic system. Our plans were to build a workshop this year and a house next year. Hurricane Katrina changed our plans. Then rising cost of materials made it advisable to complete construction while costs could still be managed. Today we have two buildings and five vaults of household furnishings on the site – some final assembly required.

Connecting Part A to Part B

Yesterday, our contractors teamed up to dig trenches between house and workshop and install power, water, and phone lines between the buildings. We should have power and water working in both buildings by the weekend, if all goes well.

Today, we expect Citizens, the local phone cooperative, to connect up our DSL service. Once this happens, we will be able to do research and order materials online without skipping down to Cafe Del Sol or to Chateau Thompson.

Note to those who plan to be their own General Contractors: An internet connection is one of your most valuable assets. You will use it to get answers, find materials, and to stay in touch with suppliers. When you cannot get online, you will waste hours you cannot spare.

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud! (With apologies to Flanders and Swann)

As we get closer to putting in carpets and furnishing the house, it becomes apparent that something is wrong with the current picture. Our walls are pristine white, but our floors are covered with several inches of what looks like donkey-crap. It is the local clay mixed with large nuggets of gravel.

We have a boot brush at the door and we all use it, but the clay is tenacious and usually covers the lower six inches of our boots and a good portion of our pant legs.

Our yard, except for the gravel driveway, still consists of 2 inches of glare ice punctuated by islands of sticky clay. The only thing that stops us from falling on our butt is sliding into a convenient outcropping of clay. Any work done off the graveled area involves clay and more clay.

When we walk back on the driveway, our clay-covered boots pick up gravel which doesn’t fall off until we walk into the house. Through this simple process we are gradually bringing the outside indoors.  🙂

When we have a front porch and a means to keep the clay outside, we may be able to bring in furniture without messing up the house. That will be a project worth blogging.

I have ordered boot scrubbers and will purchase a new shop-vac to clean up the floor and give ourselves a fresh start, but I would appreciate any suggestions from those of you who have experience living with this problem. I have been advised by my contractors that we can expect four more months of wet weather and mud before the ground firms up and the grass seed takes hold.

Is there a solution that will let us keep the inside of the house clean and leave the clay outside? I have seen some boot brushes with water jets, but would like to hear from someone who has used them.

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0 Responses to Building/moving to a new home – day 100

  1. Jim Brodhead says:

    When we lived out in the country I acquired an old pair of fireman’s boots. After I cut off the top they came to about mid-calf and since they were designed for quick use they slipped on and off easily. Those might help for the short trips outside and back in. Caveat emptor however, what goes on easily most likely comes off easily as well and a foot or so of sucking muddy clay could leave you barefoot in Floyd.

  2. Carl says:

    Are your floors subflooring or already finished? I’d hate to think of finished floors going through this kind of treatment. Still, I don’t know that I would fight the inevitable. I would engineer to accomodate. How about construction floor covering (not sure if that is the name). A buddy of mine is redoing his house and has this stuff taped down to protect his wood floors. While this approach won’t do anything to keep the mud out it may reduce sensitivity to it and save time as the new tolerance level allows less frequent time spent for cleanup. One other thought is to buy the cheapest plywood you can find and lay it out around the entrances…

  3. Dick Hassenger says:

    Home Depot sells a 3′ wide roll of red paper that is somewhat (not 100%) waterproof used to protect floors during construction. I’m using it right now to protect our wood floors during a bathroom remodel. Sells (here in San Diego) for around $10 a roll. I used painters tape to hold it in place, and it has helped.

  4. Build a Mud Room! Just like it sounds. A place for boots, coats, hats and mitts that have been poisoned by the mud. heated or not, your choice.
    Build the floor out of expanded metal lath on 2×2’s, in a heavy gauge, that you will probably need to visit the steel yard for. Looks like stucco lath, but is a much heavier gauge.

    You can always recycle it as the cooking surface for the construction party in the spring. You will also be able to use it to separate the rocks from the mud in the spring.

    The previous commenter had a good idea, with the paper, it’s called red rosin paper.

    Become a real prolific potter.

  5. I would concur with both the last two commenters with one slight twist. There is, in the same format as red rosin paper, undyed paper called gray sheathing or standard dry sheathing (different manufacturers call it different things). Both should be available at your local lumberyard. It’s the same stuff without the red dye, making it less obtrusive and less likely to stain. It is also good for painting with latex (how I use it) because it is absorbent. It’s cheap, so when it gets mucked up, just throw it away. And, because it’s paper, it is also recyclable. All of which combine to leave you with neither grime nor guilt. But D.H. is right; tape down the edges because it is thick, has been rolled and, therefore, has some spring back to it. Good luck.

  6. Thanks for all of your suggestions.

    We have tall rubber boots, like Wellingtons and we have constructed boardwalks through the mud using large scraps of leftover oriented strand board. Rosin paper is on the list of immediate purchases.

    The floors are unfinished OSB that will be covered by oak flooring only when we get a handle on the mud problem.

    I also like the idea of an external mud room with a steel grate floor on at least part of it. A 2×3 foot grate with a shallow pit under it would serve as an efficient mud collector, especially when followed by a boot brush system.

    I also bought a new Rigid wet/dry shop vac to clean up the house while construction is going on. It has already made a difference.

    I have also been a potter. This clay might fire up nicely if I can’t handle it any other way. 🙂

  7. Sean Pecor says:

    Being a horse farmer in Franklin County I may have some worthwhile advice, so let’s get started.

    First, proper boots are important. The Muck Boot company makes great – you guessed it – muck boots. They’re made from rubber and dry suit material and slip on and pull off with ease. In any case, shop around for a boot with minimal tread. Deep tread will grab knuckles of clay and will ball up clay quickly on the bottom of your shoes. My muck boots if memory are called Chore Boots and I highly recommend them. Another option I use is Neos, which is a covering that goes over your house shoes / sneakers quickly. They’re waterproof and have good traction. In this manner, you can sit down outside and quickly remove them on your way into the house while keeping on your clean shoes to keep your tootsies warm while in the house.

    The tread scrapers work fine but won’t get all the muck off. Better than nothing however, and still possible to use them if you’re carrying something heavy in both hands.

    One option is to rent a Gator style vehicle or borrow a pickup. Load up the pickup in the clay and back it up to the front porch where helpers with clean shoes are waiting to lend a hand in bringing in the furnishings.

    The first thing we built in our new home after we moved in in May was a mudroom, chiseled out of our large garage. We have a bench just inside the entrance where heavily laden boots get removed and set aside, and further into the mudroom an open locker bench awaits the rest of one’s work or play gear.

    Also important is work clothing. If you’ve got red clay, like we have in Franklin County, keep in mind that the red is Iron Oxide and will NOT come out easily from clothing (or furnishings or carpet and so on). I have white work shirts permanently stained with streaks of red. The best cleaning solution that works most often is something with Oxalic Acid in it. You might be familiar with Oxalic Acid as it is sold as a wood bleach in powder form. The stuff is powerful in that form so be careful. Oxy Clean has a small amount of the acid in it, not enough to make a difference. And when you’re shopping for Carhartts opt for the brown not the blue because it hides the clay better 😉

    Then when the house is all settled, invest in paver walks so you can minimize clay exposure when walking to and fro.


  8. Sean,

    The point you make about minimal tread on boots makes a lot of sense! I have a pair of the ankle-high muckboots, but never thought of investing in the knee-high versions.

    Instead, I bought several different pairs of DEEP tread boots (for traction)and am beginning to regret it.

    I have an idea for converting our utility room into an effective mud room – details to follow in a later post.

  9. Josh Rothman says:

    Oh boy, are you gonna love this: the answer is straw. Cheap ($1-2 a bale), organic, and it works great on mud. Whenever I do room additions I allow $100 or so to pick up, distribute, and rake up (later) a few bales of straw. Just spread it out where you need to walk or work, and when the mud works its way thru, add more. Cheap, easy, and it truly solves almost all the mud problem on a jobsite.

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