Honey, I’m Home!

Well, well. The house has now been properly craned onto the new foundation and the move portion of the project is over. We had beautiful weather, clear skies and temps in the 80’s, and only a few scares.

With the Harvest Moon sinking into the Pacific and “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” in full swing (both good omens as far as Hyla might be concerned), the “100-ton crane” and the flatbed with the counterweights and spreader chugged around the bend at 8.45. These shots, taken later in the day, show the size of the thing.



Note how it has six turning wheels (front three on each side), and note also how the back of it, when traveling, is naked and red. That spot at the back is where the counterweights go.

Once they’ve parked it, the four traveling hydraulic arms are extended, and the crane is lifted completely off its wheels, becoming a stationary object.

up,Up,UP in the morning mist, goes the crane arm:


First step is to crane the counterweights off the flatbed and onto retractable pillars mounted on the crane itself. Click on the picture below (as with any of the pictures) to see a bigger view. You can see the black stacking pillars fairly well, also the word “grove”, which is where the counterweights go:


After the counterweights are stacked, the crane swings 180 and the stack is attached to the crane itself, the pillars are lowered, and the now-weighted crane is ready to go. You can also see the hydraulic support arms, with the candystripe stickers:


ditto in this view:


McKernon’s steel didn’t have holes for the crane-cable shacklebolts so Matthew went to work with the torch, cutting two holes on each end of the outside I-beams:


Two cables attached the spreader to the crane hook. This was the longest spreader they had and it turned out to be long enough. Just.

Three cables got hung from each end of the spreader; the outsides ones were steel and the middle ones were tubular webbing and looked pretty much like firehose:


Up over the house with the whole contraption:


At this point, the four outside cable ends got shacklebolted onto the steel, and the ‘firehoses’ were chained onto the ends of the center I-beam, C-clamps in place to make sure the chains didn’t slip off the end of the steel.


This shot, before the load came on, shows how tight the fit was, with the spreader. The cables on the front had plenty of clearance but on the backside there was an issue.


This part of the roof is going to be replaced but you had to wonder if the pinch was going to force the roofline right into the part of the house that’s supposed to stick around. A good photo to have for insurance reasons if the whole thing had collapsed inward like a stepped-on Coke can on the way up.

Once everything was ready, the crane took the load, very slowly. When things got hairy a while later someone asked the operator if this was the heaviest thing he’d ever lifted, and he said no. But none of us knew this during the initial lift, as the operator, staring at his scale, shouted out at intervals the weight he was carrying as the each corner of the house came off the steel in turn:


“45,000 lbs!” “50,000 lbs.” “55!” “60!” “65!” and Mark, Stewart, or someone shouted out “What’re you rated for?” and the reply of “55,000!” wasn’t very reassuring since there was still one corner at least to lift. Lift and lift, and still more weight with the house still partially on the steel, but finally it was airborne, having max’d out at 80,000 lbs, or nearly 50% beyond the rated capacity of the crane. At this point all the smokers were lit up and puffing. There was some discussion later as to whether the operator was milking things just a bit for drama’s sake, but by 70,000 lbs he was puffing away at his cigarette just as hard as anyone else.

We don’t remember the house ever seeming as askew as it looks here, but maybe it did. It was at this point that we wondered if our being aware all along that something might go horribly wrong had prepared us for that actually happening, if that in fact occured.

But she’s up:


and you can see how much clearance the ‘firehose’ had on the good (to be preserved) left/front side of the house, as opposed to the roofline on the right, which again will be replaced when they add height to accomodate 2nd floor (bedroom) of the reconstruction.

Up and level:


with guys on the offside hauling on ropes to pivot the thing (the crane hook is a swivel). You can see the spread of the cables on either side, each of which had some flimsy-looking 2×2 sections carved at the last minute by Mark with the chainsaw and nailed to the sills on the inside of each outer I-beam, as a precaution against the outer beams rolling inward, which would have been Bad News.

40 tons of farmhouse, moving toward the foundation:


Over the first half of the foundation, still a ways to go:


It was at this point that the crane’s hydraulic footing nearest the house began to sink, lifting one of the aft footings off the ground. Quickly enough, everyone grabbed a corner and rotated the house


so that the operator could set it down


with the steel athwart the foundation and slack the crane so the foot could be shored up.

We were a little concerned at how much the hook was diverged at this point from the center of the house, but they knew what they were doing. This resting shot shows how far (or unfar) the house had moved from the steel, in a couple hours:


At this point we rightly figured the worst of it was over. The house was resting, nearly in place, and what they’d lifted once they could lift again. Whew. Or as Hyla would say, “Sheesh!”

Resetting the sinking foot:


To be honest, this shot was taken after the foot had been shored up once, the house picked up again, the foot sinking some more, the house being set down again and the foot shored up yet again this time for good.

Up she went one last time, and got swung in place. It was still a good foot and a half off the slots cut in the foundation for the I-beams to drop into, but that last 18 inches was a job for manhandling, swinging, rotating the whole thing as it was slowly lowered over where it was supposed to go:


Nearly there, with some last swinging and tugging to get the overhang of the vertical brace outside the ecoblock:


down, down, down


The back corner is set, the front yet to be seated. The last real hassle involved trying to settle a not-square structure onto a square foundation. With the front of the house lined up to the foundation, the back was still obviously a bit off:


Pushing and shoving to split the difference between front and back, and down. Disconnect the cables. No whoops or champagne, but a collective lowering of blood pressure, for sure.

The house didn’t make a lot of noise throughout. There was some snapping and groaning as it was lifted, and the guys underneath said it was making a lot of noise as it came down, but nothing alarming. They said we lost a fair bit of plaster in the upstairs big bedroom, but that’s not surprising given the fact that the right sill on the ell wall, when the house was up, was tugged a good 8-12 inches higher than the left side of the same wall, which meant that when the left rear corner was down the right rear corner still had nearly a foot to go before it was in place, and that movement had to be absorbed by the frame. So we lost some plaster but that’s nothing really, and we sure didn’t expect to escape unscathed.

Done Deal. It’s down and the cables are coming off:


Stewart congratulates Hyla:


The crane, free. They still had three sections of extension to spare, though I bet they wouldn’t go Full with a house on the hook.


The crane boys putting it away, shown for scale. Beyond amazing that the swivel on that hook would allow five or six guys to rotate a 40-ton structure, under load, by hand:


Everyone’s basement should look this good:


The crane packed up and left, leaving only us and McKernon to pass the afternoon backfilling and talking about tomorrow (septic system), eventual grade, construction (rather than destruction or move) issues, and if it wasn’t a holiday feeling exactly there were at least a lot of relieved smiles and after-the-fact admission of concerns and worries, now past.

With some time left in the work day, why not pull some steel and make it official?

Hooking the Komatsu up to the center I-beam:


Click this one to enlarge it and you can just make Hyla out, way-away in the background under the excavator arm, imitating the Statue of Liberty:


And note also that our splintery old wooden farmhouse stepladder has been pulling its weight alongside giant excavators and 100-ton cranes. (“Why do they call it a 100-ton crane,” Matthew asked later, “if it’s only rated to 55,000 lbs?” Good question.)

Mark pulls the center I-beam:


Labatt’s Blue, Unoffical Beer of The McKernon Group, Inc:

Home And Dry. Safe as Houses. Choose your own metaphor.


This is the new view, and this is the new yard, which unlike the old one will finally be simple to mow. A vegetable garden as it should be, some fine sledding come winter and who knows maybe eventually a bocce court. In any event the house’s indignity is mostly over, and from now on her appearance should only improve.

Apologies for the length of this post, today’s and last thursday’s will probably be the worst before the Grand Tour once the renovation’s done, so thanks for your patience.

“God save the foundation”
— William Shakespeare, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’


  1. Peter says:

    Well done guys.
    Great pictures and a terrific post.
    (but why did you move out?)

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