the saga of expansive soil

Hey there NPBC fans! This update is a bit overdue, but with the number of irons I have in the fire right now, there just has not been enough downtime to put forth a proper update. Thanks for being patient and following along so far. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more in the moment construction updates.

Over the last several weeks, we've made quite a bit of progress and we hit a few unexpected snags. The snags are probably par for the course when you consider the fact that we're turning a 1940's era department store building into a full on brewpub.

The most significant issue we discovered was that the original concrete floor in the front area of the building (where all our heavy beer production tanks will go) was not constructed in compliance with modern building codes. We discovered this when we cut out the first sections of the old 4" slab. The cut out chunks would drop down onto the sand beneath, and in some areas by several inches. We were surprised to find that there was no integral rebar in the slab, but rather that it was poured on a thin wire mesh offering little structural stability. What's worse is that as larger sections of the slab were cut and detached from adjacent sections, the remaining peninsular shapes slowly settled by inches onto the dirt below and resulted in sloping floors that were now too steep to comply with ADA standards. More and more concrete had to be removed. Our plans called for the removal of about 1,500 square feet of concrete and at the point that we were ready to start putting in trenches, we had removed about 2,300 square feet instead.

Concurrent with slab removal, we began digging trenches for the new waste water and vent pipes to service our bar fixtures and floor drains in the beer production areas. We quickly discovered that beneath the sand layer there was soil consisting primarily of clay. Clay is an "expansive soil" meaning that it swells when it gets wet. This discovery required a call to our special inspector as per our building plans.

Our special inspector promptly came out to check the structural integrity of the soil. The inspection involved the use of a T shaped probe to check the soil for its relative compaction value. The special inspector will hold the top of the T with both hands and then drive the probe into the ground below. In an ideal situation, the probe should only go into the ground a couple inches at most (good compaction), but instead it went down to his knuckles (very, very bad compaction). He checked several other areas and found the same results. This was, uh, how do you say... not good, not good at all. His assumption was that, "this [soil] wasn't even driven over by a truck before they poured the old slab." This was not exactly what I wanted to hear when I'm trying to get this brewery open in a timely manner.

The next step was to have a full soils investigation done. This is a time consuming and expensive process. This meant having a drilling rig on site to take core samples while a soils engineer observed and took notes:

The samples were sent to a soils testing lab and we were given an ETA of "about a week" for a written report. In the interim, the special inspector provided a recommendation based on his discussions with the soils engineer. Paraphrased, the recommendation stated, "1.) remove all remaining concrete, 2.) excavate and mix 3' of soil, 3.) scarify 1' of remaining soil, 4.) compact to compliant compaction value, 5.) bring in excavated soil and compact in 8" increments to compliant compaction value, 6.) bring in new material as needed to achieve grade level. 7.) Then, and only then, pick up where you left off and resume digging trenches again."  But, this is just the special inspector's recommendation. We really couldn't do much of anything to fix this problem until we have a documented soils report based on the soils lab's findings. Our report took nearly 3 full weeks to come available and was just about verbatim with what the special inspector thought would be required. So, out came the rest of the last 1,200 square feet or so of the slab and in comes the backhoe:

While this soils debacle pretty much sucks, it is fortunate that the entire project was not at a total standstill. We were able to stay on track with construction in our basement, mezzanine and on the ground floor above the basement. Most of our framing, electrical, plumbing and mechanical have been roughed in or completed in those areas. Open framed walls are not particularly interesting to look at... so I'll spare you the pictures.

We have since corrected the soils issue per the reported recommendations. Trenches were dug (again) and plumbing and electrical were roughed out in the brewery and bar areas. Trench drains were installed, which is something of a milestone as that is the first item to go in that makes it feel like you're building a brewery. Rebar was laid out and framing for curbs around our brewhouse and fermentation cellar were completed on Monday and finally, concrete was poured in that area on Tuesday:

More rebar went in yesterday and the remaining concrete will be poured today and Saturday. That should mostly catch you up with construction related detail. 

Beyond construction, there are a lot of fun projects in the works at NPBC HQ. We're working on finalizing our first selection of merchandise items, wrapping up job descriptions for the first set of career opportunities we'll be making available, and solidifying kitchen and food service plans.

Stay tuned!