Slab & Trench

No, Slab & Trench is not the latest Portland restaurant serving meat loving diners. We’re well into the site work in and around the ADU, piles of soil everywhere, open trenches to hop over.

Roberto and his team prepped the site for the monolithic slab, they added the plastic vapor barrier, rebar and metal mesh, which reinforces the concrete.


They built a temporary hoop house to shield from the rain, and it was all hands on deck while the concrete was pumped into the forms.


They came back later that night to smooth out the surface.


The other activity that has actually been very disruptive, has been the utility trenching that runs from the ADU to the main house. This trench serves a handful of purposes, it’s where the utility conduits run and all told there will be:

  • 3″ sewer pipe (for poop, waste water)
  • 1″ PEX water line
  • 1″ data conduit (for coax and ethernet)
  • 2″ electrical (for power to the ADU)
  • 2″ electrical (for future solar panels)

We added the second 2″ electrical conduit at the last minute, thankfully they could accommodate the request. The south facing ADU roof would be perfect for solar panels someday, and rather than have to dig up the yard for a trench again in the future, we added the conduit “just in case.” Materials and labor for the conduit was $275, which seems nominal thinking about the labor and destruction of the backyard to dig it up later.


Here’s the little guy standing in our future kitchen.



No Shit!

Do you know what a cesspool from 1926 looks like? Neither do I, but we’re about to find out. The City of Portland called our bluff and wants to see if there really is a cesspool 10 feet behind our house. So, as our GC would say “We have a setback”.

This is just the kind of thing we’re learning to cope with, the unforeseen obstacles in our path, which usually equate to some kind of financial outlay. We need a survey? Oh, here’s $1500 for that. We need a cesspool decommissioned? Here’s some cash for that!

Fingers crossed there’s a long forgotten stash of buried treasure in the cesspool.

Sickergrube.jpgNot our cesspool, but could look something like this.

Update: No cesspool was found! They just filled it back in and called it good. That saved us some money.

Adios Garage

IMG_8368.JPGWith the garage now out of the way, so to speak, progress has been swift. The next day the garage was loaded into a dumpster and hauled away. As was all the concrete from the foundation. Next, Jessie the excavator, dug the new foundation trenches, in prep for the concrete. The next day it took all of 2 hours a crew of three guys to set up the concrete forms for our slab on grade foundation. Then the day after that, Ben from Craftwork Plumbing, roughed in the plumbing. It’s cool to see physical spaces start to form, we know exactly where the toilet is going to go because now there’s a pipe there. Same for the shower, bathroom sink, kitchen sink and washing machine.



Ground Breaking!


Can you believe we started this blog almost two years ago, it has been dormant to say the least. But, there’s a lot to update because we have… Broken Ground!

So, this is what has happened in two years:

  • Finalized the design with Strongwork Architecture
  • Received a Land Use Review approval to build within the 5′ setback
  • Waited to see if Multnomah Co. would revise their prop tax calculations (they did)
  • Waited to see if the Portland SDC fees would continue to be waived (they did)
  • Submitted final plans to the city for permits
  • Permits granted
  • Selected Shelter Solutions as our builder
  • Systematically removed everything from the garage
  • Rented a dumpster from Flannery’s Drop Box

Ground breaking was such a long time coming that we weren’t quite sure what to think. A mix of emotions for sure: enthralled, scared, nervous, excited. Watching the excavator tear down the garage was so exciting and, at the same time, we realized that officially, there’s no turning back now! It didn’t take long, a mere 20 minutes, for the tractor to flatten the garage. The operator stated: “That’s the 2nd least stable building I’ve ever torn down.”

The garage, or what’s left of it, is now nestled into a huge dumpster that’s parked in our driveway. They should be hauling that away shortly leaving just the old concrete found to be torn out and trucked away.

Short term next steps:

  • Robert Johnson, our surveyor, will return to mark the ADU foundation markers
  • Excavation of the soil for the foundation
  • Trenching for utilities from the house to ADU
  • Concrete forms
  • We need to continue picking materials and planning the IKEA kitchen.

So, yes, a lot has happened and it’s only just getting started!



2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

Okay, it has been way too long since the last (and only) post, there is so much to update, that I won’t be going into great detail this time, just to save me some time.

  1. We applied for, and received, a Building Code Appeal which allows us to modify our ADU construction because we are going to build within the 5′ setback of the North property line. Essentially, we need to build a fire wall with fire rated materials.
  2. We finalized the design of the ADU. After several rounds of design with our architect, we have a very close to final design. We’re pretty excited about it (but it could be changing, see the Land Use Adjustment below).

    Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.05.41 PM

    Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 4.06.38 PM

  3. We’ve had numerous conversations with contractors. Here’s the take away: 1) They are all super busy and 2) this is going to cost more than we were hoping.
  4. To start preparing for the eventual garage tear down, we have started to clean up the garage by tossing and recycling as much as we can. The tools from the garage have (mostly) made their way into the basement workshop, new tool bench included. Part of the garage clean up will also be to build a potting/tool shed and a bicycle shed.
  5. And yes, the Land Use Adjustment. This is a $2000 application and process to appeal to the city that we would like to build the ADU within the 5′ property line set back. There is quite a bit of documentation that our architect amassed to submit the application – the process and approval is also quite involved – taking upwards to 90 days. We have received several initial comments from the city reviewer in charge of our application, she has expressed serious concerns over the approvability of our design. Essentially, the dormer on the north side is a concern because it raises the height of the building to almost 2 stories. Secondly, the dormer is in view from the street, another red flag apparently.

So, where does that leave us? Our architect is going to talk to the city reviewer to get a read on where there are really sticking points and where we might be able to slide through. Either way, we are looking at a design change. That could mean a smaller dormer or it could mean no dormer at all.

We are still very much excited about building and having an ADU on our property, that’s what we need to keep in our long term vision.


Off We Go!

A few developments have happened, here’s where we’re at:

1. We have officially started the initial phase with our architect! He made a site visit over the weekend to take measurements of our house and garage, snapped a lot of photos and took a few minutes to talk with us about any new design considerations we might have. It’s exciting to know that we’re now going down the path to have the ADU designed! On some levels we don’t feel the design will be anything extraordinary, or needs to be, but never the less, can’t wait to see what he comes up with based on our initial input.

2. I signed up for the Portland ADU Tour this May. It’s going to be a great opportunity to see local ADU’s that have been built and, hopefully, I’ll be able to gather a lot of resources around builders, contractors, budgets, etc. I will also be on the lookout for creative design solutions for things like storage, stairs and materials.

3. We had Ian from Design Build Portland over to our house today to pick his brain about scheduling, timelines, budgeting, etc. We’re still very early on in the process, so it was reassuring to know that we’re ahead of the curve talking to contractors. Design Build Portland are very much one of the go to ADU builders in town, with quite a few under their belt. I’m hoping that I can visit a couple ADU’s they are working on in the next couple of weeks.

One aspect of this project we’re evaluating is wether we should act as the general contractor. I clearly see the value in hiring a general contractor, as Ian put it, a lot of what you’re getting from that is their established relationships with sub-contractors. The whole process would go smoothly and, importantly, be coordinated well. On the flip side, you pay for that service, something in the world of 20% I hear. We could save money and learn a lot of critical building details with this route. I’m welcoming any input on this topic as I talk to everyone.

4. I’m reading this book about how to manage a home building project or major renovation. There are chapters such as “how to work with an architect” and numerous resources on establishing good contracts with contractors, building good schedules, etc. My hope is to be as educated as possible going into this.

Let’s Get Things Started

We’re doing it. We have a vision. We have a plan. We’re building an ADU. I’ll get back around to the vision and the plan later on. This whole thing is going to take a while, we’ve got time to dive into the details later.

Thanks for coming along.

M, L & K