This page follows the literal ground-up restoration of my early 1900's bungalow. Being stubborn and cheap, which means I won't pay someone to do it for me, some thought was required about how to maintain the livability of the house while installing a full basement under it. First off, I have to remove some 240 tons of compacted clay without using heavy equipment. Yup, 240 tons. Digging was fine, but how to get rid of all that "muck"? I had heard horror tales of folks doing it with buckets and ice cream pails...NOT! A solution was needed.

Presto. Build a seat-of-the-pants conveyor system out of old lawn-mower wheels, scrap lumber and an old electric motor. So far, it has moved about 75 cubic yards of dirt with only minor repairs and adjustments, at a cost of about 200 dollars. If it does the whole job, I'll get it bronzed and send it to the Smithsonian Institution. However, some folks have expressed interest in inheriting the machine for their basement project. Patent?

Photos for this page were produced by video frame capture and with an old Kodak DC50 digital camera with a handy PCMCIA card for interfacing with a laptop. Oh yes, Best viewed in Netscape.

 Muck-Removal Conveyor

 Progress Pictures

 Building a foundation wall

 2001, it's spaced, oddly

Sign the Guestbook

 Raising the new floor beam

 A conveyor designed for a quick get-away. Install quickly, load out, and...

 ...put away, all before the dirt notices. It's good exercise, too.



Up top, the business end...and Chris's Bobcat.

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So far the dig has encompassed about a two-thirds of the total needed to produce a full basement...several truckloads so far.

Removing the old foundation involves some tricky support you can see, the house was suspended in thin air for a while. New walls were constructed in sections and stood up on new footings, then the forest of jackposts was removed to transfer weight onto the walls.

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Here are some pictures of the steps in building a 12-foot-long section of foundation. Dang! I forgot to start the camera before I heaved it from the horizontal to the vertical position...but I did it all by myself! Honest! The wonders of creative leverage (seeing how a 12-footer weighs in at about 500 lb.)!


 Build walls in sections...using LOTS of galvanized nails.

 Measure carefully...PWF is expensive stuff...

 Cut....The last one for this panel.

 Coat wall with foundation sealant.

 Cover with 6-mil poly plastic and sheathe with 1'' pink celfort styrofoam

 Heave the wall into place.

My first attempt at using a video camera for a panoramic mosaic...oops, optical aberrations make my carpentry work look plumb and true, with perfectly straight frame-members and uniform stud-cavities. The section I stood up above is the one draped in plastic and filligreed with braces. Those braces are important...they hold the shape of the framework after it is test-fit into its opening prior to sheathing it with plywood. Reason: Ye kenna change it after ye fill it with ten pounds of nails, laddie. I really cannot imagine doing that over again!

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The wreck of #54.

Ever impetuous, I felt that the conveyor system was not up to snuff. My (its) own worst critic, I decided to replace a slipping belt drive with a chain drive (this while on a McGyver-esque impulse-buying trip to Princess Auto one afternoon). For a measly few sheckels, I flanged up the system with a modified centrifugal clutch and a set of sprockets, and looky there, the cart's capacity was nearly doubled. So, off to the races I went, hurling great heaps of damp clay up to the pile, when Kzzhhhweeeeek-gzzzzzzzzzzzt---BONK, the setscrew stripped on the main winch shaft and the venerable old wagon came hurtling down the ramp, fully loaded. In my rush to get more up the ramp, I had neglected to failsafe the system with.....brakes? The cart did a somersault back into the dirt pile, trashing the motor drive mounting in the process. Umm, OK... Back to the drawing (??) board (a cobweb-infested recess in the back of my mind) and presto!, a new system (oh yes, with a positive shaft-key holding all that torque in check....heh heh), and brakes fit to stop the Rocky Mountaineer loaded with uranium heading downhill at Field, BC. Now (he says cautiously) the drive hauls like mad, and the clutch disengages at the top of the ramp, allowing a controlled free fall (with sound effects) back to the bottom. The brakes hold a full load on the ramp with about one Kg of effort on the lever. (No, No, Mike, you don't need a wireless CCTV monitor....).


 Newly-refurbished and collision-proofed conveyor control panel...with bungee-cord brake-release thingy and compound brake lever system. I can stop 300 pounds with one finger, a feat not usually attempted anywhere else, 'xcept maybe at the King Eddy Jam.

 Tackling the latest section of the excavation, a sixteen-footer, or in volume terms, about ten cubic meters. Let's see...that's about a conservative 20,000 kg of clay, factoring in air pockets, caragana roots and sweat.


 Brother Bassist Glen Yorga came down to visit the dig and put in about 4000 Kg worth of effort. Watch it, Glen, plenty of Bonk Hazards for a person not vertically-challenged. Well, that's the whole point of the bloody exercise, for Glen to be able to 'play the upright' in this space.


 In preparation for replacing the joist plate, heavy metal straps are installed on each joist which tie the joists to the basement wall, counteracting soil loads. Leave out this step, and watch the walls bulge.

 The forms are in place, oiled and reinforced. The devices dropping from the joist plate prevent the form from rising when filled with concrete, and also act as adjustable feelers set to a level reference point...No, they aren't a fancy support system.


 Let the mixing binge begin...35 sacks of premixed concrete, beating the delivery charges from a ready-mix outfit.

 Another section of footing ready! The mine cavity expandeth, as do my biceps. Arrgh, Thag LIKE mucking about!



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More coming as I get the time! Seems I have very little, because the pace of work is outstripping my ability to keep up the website...I'm totally obsessed with dirt these days, having produced 8 truckloads at eight tons each so far this year...