As I mentioned in my previous post, construction has started on my house two months ago. Things are going pretty well, despite being behind the first estimated schedule. But that is something that everyone told me to expect, that initial estimates are wrong. That is possibly the only thing programming and construction work has in common.
But my construction team is only doing the actual construction part, meaning foundations, walls and roof. A modern day house has a lot more components, part of which is the water drainage system for the foundations.
This system is supposed to be a weeping tile that goes around my basement, accumulating all the water that somehow makes it down, wherever it comes from, and goes into a catch basin, where a sump pump will pump it out.
I had asked for a team to install this for me, but they kept postponing the time when they could come. After a while, I decided that this isn’t something that requires a lot of construction knowledge, so I can do this with a couple of friends.
So on two Saturdays, I, together with Calin, Filip and Daniel (and even my dad once), started digging. That part went quite well. Well, I was exhausted and barely able to move in the evening, but still, it went no problemo. Despite the soil having a clay-like composition and being quite hard, we broke up the soil, we dug and we shoveled and got it done.
But then came the fun part: installing the catch basin, which is made of three concrete rings, each 1 meter long and 70 centimeters in diameter. I had an inkling that they are heavy, but boy, they are HEAVY.
First, we made sure that the hole for it is deep enough. Then we realized it’s not wide enough. So dig some more on the sides, then realize that the soil that’s falling into the hole is basically raising the level up, so you have to dig down even more. But after a couple of hours the hole is 1 meter and 5 centimeters deep (from the weeping tile level) and around 75 centimeters wide all around.
Now, how do we get the concrete rings down? Moving them around on flat soil is difficult enough, let alone just letting them down slowly 3 meters from ground level. We estimated one to be around 200 kg. We got a rope rated for 2000 kilograms, just to be sure. Together with Victor, a neighbor, we built a pulley system out of three shoring props. We used as a counterweight another concrete ring and we slowly let down the first ring. It got stuck a couple of times on various protuberances of the soil. When jiggled around so that it would continue down, it would jerk around quite strongly, in one case breaking a stray PVC tube. In the end it landed at the bottom of the hole, except twisted 90 degrees, so we couldn’t take out the piece of rebar the rope was attached to. We tried lifting it, but it wouldn’t budge, not even with 4 of us hanging from the opposite side of the pulley. That's probably the only time I'll ever hear someone saying I'm not fat enough.
That wasn’t a problem, because we could cut it, but the wrong orientation would be a problem for the next ring. Because this ring was the one where the draining pipes of the weeping tile would have to be connected. Because of this, we had drilled two holes into the concrete ring and then we had to lower it down in the correct orientation. Somehow it happened. I don’t know how, because I was holding on to the rope on the other end of the pulley, but Victor did it, while giving orders: “5 more centimeters” (easy enough, but I’m not sure if it was only 5 centimeters), “Hang on, back up a bit” (yeah, right) and “All right, draining tube is in, you can let go” (finally).
The third ring had the smallest distance to go, but for some reason, it didn’t want to fit on top of the others, so there was actually a lot of futzing around to get it in correctly (again, mostly by Victor and my dad, while Calin, Filip and I were holding on to the rope for dear life).
After all three rings were in place, there was much rejoicing all around for 5 minutes and then we went back to shoveling to fill what we had just taken out, on top of the weeping tile.
This whole experience has left me with a greater appreciation for the builders of the pyramids and other ancient megastructures, and with an even greater question: how on earth did they move 10 ton blocks of stone for kilometers, when 5 of us could barely move a 200 kilogram concrete ring for 10 meters?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any good pictures of this whole operation, because when I was trying to take some, the others would yell at me to hold the rope.