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  • Writer's pictureMarc S. Tremblay

Bringing down the house

Updated: May 8

I'm back on the blog after a 2-month hiatus.


Thankfully, contractor Steve and his crew kept working on our project while I was getting treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at Vancouver General Hospital.


So, after our contractor framed and poured the footings, the guys assembled the Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF) for the foundations. Working off our building plans, Steve ordered the forms from Quad-Lock, and they were delivered on Mayne Island within a couple of weeks.


ICF foundations at the Grove on Mayne Island

What is ICF? Imagine two pieces of high-density polystyrene foam held together by plastic ties, with nobs on the top like Lego blocks. The blocks fit on top of one-another, while the plastic ties not only hold the foam boards together, but they also hold the required steel rebar to reinforce the structure. Once these are assembled to the required height, ready-mix cement is poured into the forms to make create the foundation walls.

ICF provides several advantages over the more traditional way of building wooden forms for foundations.


First, the foam provides a high degree of insolation to the foundation wall. Often, people who use the more conventional way of building foundation walls will add Styrofoam to the inside wall after the concrete cures. No need for that here since the wall is insulated on both sides.


Second, it saves time and money. As mentioned, the blocks are like Legos, so workers can quickly set rows upon rows of blocks to make the walls. No need to spend a lot of money for the contractor to build traditional wooden forms, and then disassemble them.


Third, ICF saves wood. The more conventional method uses wood forms that need to be built and taken apart once the concrete cures. Sure, some of the wood can be recycled, but a lot of it becomes unusable because it’s coated with dry cement.



Steve and his crew completed the ICF forms, added massive support beams to ensure proper support for the 70,000+ pound-house above, and they worked on framing for the outer wall of the walkout basement, which also provides support to the top structure.


Pouring the cement into the foundation walls went well. Like for the footings, the ready-mix cement came from Gulf Excavating Ltd. on Pender Island, while a Coho Concrete pumper-truck came from Victoria for the day.



Once the cement got poured, we had the immense pleasure of contacting Nickel Brothers for them to come back to the Grove to lower the house on the foundations, which happened on December 14, when the cement had sufficiently cured.


Lowering the house was uneventful – almost anticlimactic!


Once the Nickel Brothers’ crew set up their pneumatic jack system, the house was lowered on the foundations in about 30 minutes. Not only did the lowering go smoothly, but the house ended up within half an inch where it was supposed to be around the entire perimeter, thanks to the precision with which Steve and his crew build the ICF walls.


But the Nickel crew wasn’t done yet. The big, heavy steel I-beams that provided support for the house during the move still had to be removed.


That was a bit trickier, as two massive I-beams supported the house lengthwise, each about 65 feet long, while two other smaller beams, each about 30 feet long, provided support for the garage structure. Pulling out the beams was also uneventful, thanks in part to our Excavator, Matt, who performed the delicate task of pulling out the smaller perpendicular beams from the side of the house (see video below).


Nickel Brothers then had to disassemble the cribbing that supported the steel I-beams. There were six structures of massive Jenga-like blocks holding up the beams, with four inside the perimeter of the house, and two outside. Each block had to be removed one-by one, and carried to a staging area where they stacked the blocks, making them ready to lift onto a flatbed truck, all chained together.


Unfortunately for Nickel Brothers, they sent a crew with a flatbed truck that was too small for the 65-feet I-beams. In order for them to load them on the truck, the longer beams had to be cut with a plasma torch by a Cam Rennie, a young local welder, who happened to be available at that time.


Check out the sped-up video below to see the house get lowered and the removal of the massive steel I-beams.



All in all, lowering the house went as well as it could have. Special thanks to Steve Pike, Ben Korinth, Matt Taylor and Cam Rennie for being there to assist the Nickel Brothers crew.


Now onto the next tasks: more framing for walls and one extra support footing, installing perimeter drains, electrical and plumbing rough-in, pouring the cement slab, starting to build the flooring system in the former garage, etc.

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