To pour concrete or to not pour concrete?

During the design phase we played around with several configurations for the front overhang.  There were hip configurations and gable configurations.  The roofline of the garage played a large part in how the house would present itself from the front driveway.  What we settled on works nicely:  it is not too complicated and really connects the house and garage together in a cohesive unit (Photo 1-1)

The timber posts and beams played a large part in the look of the building facade.  Geometrically they are simple: spaced evenly across the front of the building provides for some uniformity in an otherwise asymmetrical structure.  Large timbers aren't common in Newfoundland...they call it "The Rock" for a reason.... So I looked towards the west.  After looking into shipping costs and lead times required for douglas fir (not to mention the amount of energy requried to ship the timber from BC) I looked towards our southerly neighbour: Nova Scotia.  Percy Delaney of Kodiak Forest Products Ltd. was very helpful and could easily accomodate our needs for large timber (Photo 2-1, 2-2, 2-3).  Eastern hemlock was readily available in the sizes we wanted and its bending/shear stress is better than SPF (spruce/pine/fir) so it was the logical choice.  These timbers will contrast nicely against the colors chosen for the building....which we will reveal once the clapboard installation starts in July.

Now, back to the the main focus of this article:  To pour concrete or not to pour concrete?  That was the question!  The foundation plan called for concrete filled sonotube for the posts to rest on.  Before we started excavation I had visited the Canadian Home Builders Association Home Show (  It is a one stop shop for everything related to home building.  As I walked in the GoliathTech booth was one of the first booths that caught my eye (  These are basically a ground screw:  A long steel shaft with a helical thread that can be used to bore into the ground.  I hand off my plans to Ken Duff (our local representative) and within a day or so their calculations came back with specifications on the screw piles to be used for this application.  After several delays on my side the appointment was schedule and Ken pulled up in a shiny black GoliathTech truck (Photo 3-1). Ken was a pleasure to work with and is very accomodating.  He is patient and works methodically to slowly let the helical pile do its work.  As it twists through the ground it cracks and pops and twists some more.  Some times it diverges and Ken works to bring the pile back on target.  Rocks in the ground do pose some problems but there are work arounds. Once they are bored into the ground they are cut and toped with a threaded connector that has a variety of top plates meant for centering posts.  There is some flexibility with centering.  There will be more on this at a later date ie once we start framing the timber entry).  The nice thing about these piles is that they also provide uplift protection as specified in the 2015 National Building Code of Canada.  In a windy location like Flatrock...this could come in handy!

Photo 1-1 Front elevation depicting the heavy timber supports for the roof overhang.

Photo 2-1.  large hemlock posts and beams dimensioned to our specifications

Photo 2-2.  Timbers individually wrapped and ready for shipment

Photo 2-3.  Large summer beam for the living room.  This beam is 16' and pretty clear of knots.  It must have been sourced from a massive tree.

Photo 3-2.  GoliathTech on site ready to drill through rocks!!!  Newfoundland is called "The Rock" for a reason: Rocks....and lots of them!

Photo 3-3.  Ken from GoliathTech drilling the final pile of the day.  This was a stuborn hole.  You never know whats below till you start drilling.  He struck two 16" diameter rock 14" below the surface.  After digging them out it was smooth sailing...well as smooth as it can be when you're drilling through rocks!


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