Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Yes! This Saturday we arrived at the lake to see big trucks delivering piles sand and earth movers spreading it around.  The goal is to create a base for the slab that is a foot higher than the surrounding ground in order to keep water moving away from the house.  First, two feet of existing soil was dug out, and then the sand (with water from the lake to settle it) was built up and compacted layer by layer.  Next step: piers!

There's John to the far left surveying the progress and the new look of our lot now that the unwanted trees and scrub have been removed.  To the right, the stubby remains of a mesquite tree nestled up to the hackberry it was crowding for space.  We'll pull the rest of it out later...

And actually those unwanted trees have been repurposed: here is a lovely big pile of newly chipped mulch, smelling sweetly of cedar, and ready for my garden to-be.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What is a Foundation Pier?

Standing at the edge of our seawall on Sunday, the view was serene and the breeze was lovely.
Of course, when it's over 100 degrees any breeze is appreciated! This is one hot summer in the Lone Star State!
The lake was full in April, but now it is down six feet, revealing a sandy beach. When we first saw this lake several years ago on a windy spring day, with whitecaps breaking and the horizon blending into the sky, it seemed immense. And improbable - all this water just an hour south of Dallas. Richland Chambers Reservoir is a big lake - the third largest in Texas, with 330 miles of shoreline.

John and I spent the morning marking trees: pink tape on those to be removed and green tape on those to be protected. Some were in the way of the house, some were crowding out the growth of others and some were too damaged to be saved.

Why am I sharing this photo of a hole in the ground?
It's were the core sample was taken - step one in the pier process.
What is a pier?
It is the support structure for the slab the house will rest on. Basically a pier is a hole in the ground, about 12 inches in diameter, and filled with rebar and concrete. The depth of the hole is determined by the soil structure on the site. Some soils make good supports and others, like sand, do not. Our house will require more than 40 piers, laid out in a grid pattern, and extending down 15 feet.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Three months worth of progress...

This pile looks rather small, but it's all here - a large set of plans and notebooks full of pictures, resources, research and ideas.

In April we selected our builder, and I sketched out our floor plan for him. That first drawing was formalized by an architect, and now, three months and half a dozen modifications later, we are ready to break ground.

I should note that this isn’t our first building experience. We’ve been through the process several times.  John and I share a clear idea of what we like and what we need. And we had the good fortune to find a creative and open-minded builder who was willing to work with our ideas!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Here we go...

This blog story begins with a lake property in Texas, just about midway between Corsicana and Palestine, in the north-eastern quadrant of our state. On this piece of land, just under an acre in size, my husband, John, and I are going to build a Texas style house and garden.

We have a number of key points in mind for our plan: a weekend house that can someday become our retirement home, a regionally appropriate design that will remain manageable as we grow older, room for family and friends to visit, energy efficiency, wise water use, and landscaping that relies heavily on native plants, but also has room for some fruits and vegetables.

After several years of daydreaming, a fat file of ideas and some research on historical Texas architecture, we are ready to start on our lakeside retreat.