Thursday, April 23, 2009

And Let the Pilings Begin…

After all the delays in getting to Belize, the rescheduling of various aspects of the construction and redesigns of the plans, the piling work has begun.

It started this morning with John Harris, my contractor, and Phil Freytag, my consulting engineer, coming over to my studio apartment for coffee and to go over some final details regarding the pilings. The piling trucks had not arrived, because I drove to the lot first thing this morning. They were coming around noon.

John took me around to a few of the pools he has built in the area. He has done some beautiful work and everyone seems to be very happy with his results.

From there, he showed me a good spot for breakfast, Miss June’s Kitchen, on College Road. She also bakes her own bread that is not as sweet as the other breads around here. I’m not used to the sweet types of bread so I will definitely be back.

From there, it was over to the cabinet maker, Ravy Gongora. He has an extensive shop with various woods in the rough cut form. With that, he makes beautiful kitchen cabinets, dressers, night stands, and whatever else you may need. Just use your imagination and I’m sure he could make it come true…..and at a good price. His work rivals any I’ve seen in the States. We toured his shop and saw projects in various stages of completion.

Then John got the call we had been expecting. The pilings were in Consejo. And we were in Corozal. Less than twenty minutes later we are pulling into Consejo Shores just as the pile driver is being unloaded from the trailer. This pile driver is on tracks instead of wheels, which you will see, is the best way for my situation.

On another truck, they have 6 – 30 foot pilings and 4 – 40 foot pilings. We had requested a couple of 35 footers, but I don’t think they had any in stock. I know….tomorrow.
So Phil lined up the first piling, forty footer, placing it in the middle corridor of the structure. We were using this as our test piling. How deep would it go before it would reach the 59,000 pounds of pressure that Phil was looking to achieve. John needs about 3 ½ feet of piling above ground so he can attach the support beams.

All of this was a guessing game. You can’t see below the ground, so the pile driver just pounds away until it reaches the point of 12 to 15 driver poundings per foot or more. Let me tell you, there were times that the pile would drop 3 feet with just one pounding of the 3000 pound dead weight. I’m thinking next stop-China. Or worse, we need bigger pilings. Every pound of that machine, every foot of pilings, were dollars flowing out of my pocket. Would it stop?

But after about 25 feet, the ground began to show some resistance. You could actually see the piling bounce and come back up. The first piling on our lot settled at 29 feet into the ground. We have 11 feet above ground. Phil and John decide to put the next pile on the other side of the middle corridor, in the same position as the first pile. It too, will be a forty footer. It too pounds down to about 30 feet, leaving about 10 feet above ground. Now we decide to pound one of the thirty footers on the eastern wall, in a straight line with the other two pilings. It pounds down to the almost ideal height of three feet. So now we pound three other thirty footers, all along the east wall of the guest bedroom and bath. They too end up with just three feet or so above ground, the perfect height.

Now we have two thirty footers and a forty footer left, but will they be long enough? Phil and John consult, and agree that thirty five footers should do the trick. But we need to order them by 5PM. So Phil heads home to make a phone call. We want thirty five and a couple of forty footers.

But during the minor celebration of figuring out what we wanted, came a new problem. The crane, during the process of driving another forty foot piling began to sink in a hidden cavern. What started off as a minor cavern collapse was turning into a serious problem and even the possibility of the crane overturning. The crane was in a bad position and needed to free itself of the cement pilings. After some heavy duty pushing and pulling by the crew, to free the actual pile driver, the crane was able to move the crane portion to a forward position enabling the crane to right itself and slowly drive out from the collapsed cavern. It was touch and go for a few minutes there.

But with the crane resituated, the pile driving began again. A total of eight piles were driven today. Ten more to go. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.


Dave + Dianna Rider said...

It's started. Congrats. Even with the cave-in. I know those can be scary. We almost lost the pole that our transformer is mounted to and had a full dump truck stuck for about 2-hours.
You're on your way (Hi-fives all around).

sandy a said...

wow that is pretty interesting!! I never saw that done before...neat-o!