After months of planning,
procrastination, worrying, and anticipation, the day that actual work on
the boat barn would begin approached. I had received word from my
excavator that he'd be able to begin the site work probably during the
week of July 28, so I began to make my own preparations for the
subcontracted site work.
The barn location at the
back of my property was covered with thick underbrush and thigh-high
grasses and weeds. In addition, there were several small birch
trees, as well as a few larger birches. All of this needed to be
cleared out of the way before the true earth work could begin.
Fortunately, the site was not heavily wooded--it was already a natural
clearing, with fewer trees than the rest of the back area of the property.
Over a period of two days,
I cleared most of the site. In one day, I chainsawed three sapling
trees (easy) and 3 or 4 larger trees, cutting off the branches and
chopping the trunks into manageable lengths that I threw back into the
woods behind the site. As tends to be the case, the trees all seemed
much larger once they hit the ground than they did when standing, and
cutting them up for removal was a big job. Finally, though, a
roughly rectangular area was free from trees and branches. I left
any remaining work for another day.
About a week later, I
attached a solid cutting blade to my monster weedwacker and set to work
chopping through the 4' tall goldenrod and other underbrush in an attempt
to clear the bulk of the site. The weedwacker made short work of the
brush and growth; I left a slight ring of brush around the lawn edge of
the new clearing for the moment, to sort of hide the work in progress
until the last minute before the excavator arrived. Once I had most
of the stuff cut down, I used my tractor and mower deck to further clear
With the bulk of the area
cleared, I set up a series of corner stakes and a string line (which I had
set up earlier in the spring) to depict the general location of the
barn. With the goal of leaving enough room on the southwest side of
the structure for one or more boats, as well as attempting to keep the
barn as far back in the woods as possible given the size and shape of the
cleared area, I test-fit the stakes and made some adjustments until they
marked out a location that I thought seemed pretty good. I left the
string and stakes in place for several days to mull the decision and make
minor adjustments as needed.
July 28, 2003: Site
As of last Friday, all I
knew was that sometime this week, the site work would begin.
However, knowing the contractor the way I do, I was prepared that it might
begin Monday, even though I had no confirmation. Sure enough, at
0645 Monday, the phone rang, and Scott Dugas told me that they were
planning to start this very morning. At about 0700, the first man
arrived, Tom, to scout out the driveway location with me and get prepared
for the job. We discussed the location (the day before, I had mowed
the lawn and had left the general driveway area unmowed as a sort of
indicator of the new driveway) and then he set to work laying out the
borders with a measuring stick and traffic paint. Meanwhile, I fired
up my weedwacker and completed cutting down the brush in the barn area; I
had been intending to do it today anyway.
The heavy machinery arrived
by about 0745, the two large flatbed trailers tying up the morning
traffic. I always wanted to drive construction equipment when I was
a kid, so of course it's always cool to have bulldozers and excavators
(what we used to call steam shovels) around. After a week of
lousy, humid, cloudy and rainy weather, Monday had dawned cool and crisp,
with dark blue, cloudless skies. A great sailing day, but alas...I'd
need to stick around the house to deal with any unforeseen issues with the
digging, should the arrive.
With the excavator, Tom
scraped off about 12" of the loam and sod to make way for the
driveway base material, beginning at the road and working inwards towards
the barn site at the back of the property. Watching one of these
machines in the hands of a pro is like watching ballet; the hydraulic arm
and bucket moved with symphonic elegance. Throughout the day, work
on the driveway progressed. The loam was carefully scraped
off; some was placed along the driveway and barn area to fringe the
compacted fill that would be placed there, but the rest (80-100 yards) was
piled up to be trucked away for credit against my total bill. The
rear portion of the driveway and especially the barn site back in the
brush was full of good loam. Several times throughout the day, I had
to make some decisions that changed the job a bit and, of course, that
will probably add to the cost. Sigh. But there's only one
chance to do the job right, and so it goes.
the minor changes to the original job quote: we decided to add a
culvert at a natural low point in the terrain, and to bring the driveway
up over it. It was obvious, as Tom and I looked things over early in
the day, that, even though I don't get much for pooling water or severely
mushy ground at any time, having the driveway go through the area would
create a dam that might exacerbate any issues. So in went an 8"
culvert. I also decided that a compacted fill pad was needed next to
the barn, for extra boat placement, etc., so that area had to be dug out
as well, plus extending the width of the driveway near the barn to
Click here to see more photos of the
day's site work.
29, 2003: Site Work, Day 2
Train of Trucks: This morning brought an impressive array of 10
and 12-yard dump trucks, all lined up along the street. The activity in
the backyard was reminiscent of a strip mine, with a steady stream of
trucks beep-beeping their way in and the excavator busily loading them
with my large pile of topsoil. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 trucks full.
starts to understand the high cost of site work and excavation when you
see a showing like this--and this is a small job. But four or five
large dump trucks, each with a driver, plus the man operating the
excavator, and the associated costs involved with the purchase, insurance,
and operation of all these vehicles...yeah, it adds up. The owner of
this particular business used to own a 31' lobster yacht named Sand
Dollars, which I always thought was pretty clever.
Throughout the day, work
continued. Trucks dumped sand and gravel for the base, and Tom
spread it as necessary, jockeying between three different machines. Right around lunchtime, I found someone at
the door: one of the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) reps
who drive around aimlessly in pickups.
do you have a permit", he asked?
I do," said I. I did--a town building permit. I knew
instantly that wasn't what he meant.
driveway entrance permit," he asked? A what? "Since
this is a state road," he went on, "you need to file for a
permit with MDOT."
I said. "I'm glad the town told me all about that when I
presented my information for the building permit." I mulled over the
issue. How come no one--the excavator, the town, no one--had
mentioned something like this? What do I know? It's not like I
do this for a living. I'm just a boat nut trying to put up a dumb
barn. I don't know no stinking driveway permits...
he was very nice, and gave me the proper application to send in. He
said it didn't appear to be a problem where the driveway was, but that the
application needed to be on file, his boss would have to probably come
check it out, blah blah blah. I thanked him for being understanding
and allowing my ignorance, and promised I'd send the application right
in--which I did, later the same day. Amazingly, there was no
application fee or other charge, the normal scourge of bureaucracy.
rest of the project proceeded without a hitch, at least as far as I could
tell. By 1600, the work was done. I had a not-particularly
attractive, but functional and solid, driveway and slab base , all with
minor disruption to the yard. Some minor raking, seeding, and
general cleanup will take care of making this new road fit into the
landscape better. All in due time.
Click here to see more photos of
the completed driveway and pad.
Next: Pouring the slab.