I cannot begin to tell you what a blessing Kim is! Here it was, 103°, and she is out there step for step clearing brush and cleaning up the site from dawn to dusk. We came out to just camp that weekend. We had 3 days and we were exhausted with planning. We both had reservations about the height that I had designed and weren't sure how we were going to build a 2 story building out here on uneven ground without any scaffolding. We talked about it for a while and came to the agreement that we would lower the expectations and the wall height. With that in mind, there was no reason not to get started. We ran to Home Depot and loaded up on concrete piers and bricks. My initial thought was a block type that had a large bolt through it that could be adjusted for height and contour or the land. These were a special order though and we are not known for our patience. So we adjusted our plan on the fly and decided we could use the bricks to level the site of the pier and then just set the pier in place on top of the bricks. As long as we left the soil in tact, we should be OK with minimum settling.
The clearing for the building starts to take shape. I can't believe how hot it is here in the woods with no breeze. We took some time to wire some plugs on the HVAC blowers we had acquired at Kim's work. They were an absolute life saver. You could get a strong breeze across the 30 foot opening. The only problem with it was the debris that it kicked up. Oh well, you take the bad with the good.
Turns out the most useful tool was a hatchet that we had brought back from Clovis when we cleared out her grandfather's estate earlier that year. The roots were so thick that I could not dig through them with a shovel. I literally cut a perimeter with the hatchet for each set of blocks and pulled it out as a near solid plug. We had been studying how to level and square the foundation and found it was more difficult to get the batter boards lined up properly than it was to level the piers. Once
There was a lot more slope to the spot than we first realized. To minimize the rise on the back side, we buried the pier some at the tallest corner. This would reduce the need for 2 bricks on each of the 12 piers and it couldn't hurt on stability either. Doesn't look like a lot got done but this was the result of 2 very long days of work. Each pier took nearly an hour to set properly. We would dig out the roots. Lay the initial bricks/pier into place and then calculate how much it had to raise or lower to get it level with the rest of them. I must have lifted each pier 15 or 20 times before it was acceptable. As we moved towards the back, I had to place, lift and replace not only the pier but all of the bricks at each location as well. Once we got them level, we worked at getting them square. This wasn't too bad. We used the 3/4/5 method where you measure 3 feet along one line and 4 feet along the other. This should leave you with a perfect 5 feet on the diagonal between them. If your diagonal is too long, you close your angle a little. If it's too short, you open it up a bit. A couple of rounds of adjustments also meant that a couple of the bricks were now out of level so we had to fix that too as we went along. Finally we were happy with the placement of all of the piers and check the corner to corner measurements. We were less than a ¼" off between opposing diagonals. Not bad for a couple of amateurs that hadn't had a math class in 30 years. :)
Once all of the piers were in place and level and square, we built a frame of beams, a stud inside of a track. Still only a 2x4 in dimension but incredibly strong. I decided afterwards that we could have done with fewer piers but I wasn't about to take any out after the battle to get them into place! :)
Detail of the corners of the beams. We cut and overlapped the ends of the steel and then put a corner bracket in for extra measure. 2x6 16 gauge nested together and screwed securely every couple of feet. This easily would have held the 2 story structure that we had originally planned.