Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dang Ditches

You might remember my mom's VERY generous wedding present to us when we got married last October - the backhoe. Well it has been a life saver quite a few times through this whole house building process. We have used it to plant trees, install fence posts and re-route all our water piping.

Now it has come to our rescue once again as we dig the trenches to lay the water, gas, electrical and sewer lines to the house. We are relocating the propane tank and the generator to a newly laid pad to the south of the house which will have the solar hot water panels suspended over them.  

Thus we need to trench lines to and from the house to feed the gas, hot water and the poop bipedal organic excrement transit vessel which runs more southwesterly direction.

Of course nature laughs her posterior off at us by placing some honkers of rocks in the way which are going to require renting a jackhammer - AGAIN to get them out.

And even though the backhoe is a lifesaver and does the majority of the heavy lifting, it still requires a little old school action to clear extra debris, smaller rocks and level out the bottom of the trench. Just call me Manual Labor, I feel like Scarlett O'Hara with my blistered laptop adapted fingers.

 "Look at my hands. Mother said you could always tell a lady by her hands." - Gone with the Wind (1939)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Snoozebox is a Portable Container Hotel

Excellent construction, beautifully executed, these container hotels could fit so many needs.

Check out more at Jetson Green - Snoozebox is a Portable Container Hotel

ICF Pour #1

We have solid walls - the big bad wolf can no longer come along and blow our house down. Today we poured the concrete into the first floor ICF walls and boy is that a stressful process the first time you do it.

We had Mike Evans' crew, Tom and Dustin, as well as Pumper Dude with Ed and Robert. We were also required to have a concrete inspector who was Jasper from Youngdahl who had previously come out and inspected the welding we had done on the containers. Unfortunately we didn't get a pic of Jasper this time around as he was kindly behind the camera much of the time. It was better for him to snap some shots as the majority of the pour area was in tight spaces where an extra person just got in the way.

We started in the spare bedroom which was very tight quarters. They poured under the windows first with Robert and Tom pouring the concrete and then Dustin and Kyle following behind with the vibrator and Ed was managing the pumper and the pipe.

Here they are pouring through the cutouts in the window frames to get the concrete underneath the windows.

Then following with the vibrator to make sure all the concrete got settled. Each pour was only about 4ft, then we returned to the beginning and poured the second 4ft, and repeated this all the way to the top.

Here you can see how tricky it was to manage everyone, the concrete pipe and the vibrator in some of these areas. 

Now starting on the living room walls that will require another 8ft on top this week.

The concrete mix was pretty detailed for the walls. It was required to be 3,000 psi and the mix "recipe" was sent earlier in the week from our concrete provider, Georgetown Precast, to our engineers for review and approval stamp. We went with a smaller pea gravel aggregate, fly ash and more cement content so we could use a narrower concrete pipe that would be more manageable for moving around the walls and getting up to height.

It got a little messy in some spots but clean up shouldn't be too hard off the foam block.

Continually vibrating all the way around was vital to ensure the concrete settled through all the rebar with no pockets anywhere. 

The walls in the spare bedroom are the final height so I was able to put my concrete troweling skills to work finishing off the top and embedding bolts into the top where the roof will tie into

Kyle jumped in to help as it is tough concrete to trowel and we had to move quick

It was so much fun to be up there and finishing off my own home, I could have played and tweaked at it all day. I love the whole building process, it is so satisfying and just amazing to know every square inch of your house, what went in to it, where things are and how they are installed. Fantastic!!

The final troweled wall tops with the bolts placed. It is ready for a roof now and then move in...well, close.

We filled the walls to near the top in the living room. We used a lot less concrete than we anticipated which is great and we left a little room at the top for the second pour to settle in to, to ensure they fit together and that is also why the rebar is sticking out of the top to tie into the second layer.


The entire pour took about 2 and a half hours and went pretty smoothly but for a first timer it is stressful. Concrete is very unforgiving and you HAVE to move fast. You are worrying about the mix, the temp of the concrete, the flow rate, the moisture levels and then you hope the guys are okay hauling that heavy concrete pipe around, it is 92 degrees in the direct sun. You hope the blocks hold as all that concrete pours in and when the guys start to see a bow in the blocks, one of them jumps down to add some shoring all the while I am waiting for concrete to start exploding out of the sides and wondering what we would do with a mountain of concrete on the side of the house..

Fortunately no blowouts were had, in fact it all held really well. There were a few little tweaks here and there but  they guys were confident, moved quickly and were complete pros. We are so lucky we had them on site, made all the difference to have experienced ICF guys and professional concrete pumpers.

Now we need to get the second story on the living room and pour that level, so hopefully this week. We are also digging the trenches for piping out back. More on that thrilling event later;-) Meanwhile we are moving the bunny ears in every direction trying to get a glimpse of some Olympic action.....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Floor Pour Complete

Saturday dawned bright and early, 5:45AM to be precise. It was the last pour for the concrete floors.

The upstairs floor has been ready to pour for a while but with a busy summer for our fantastic concrete guru, Tim Crews of Precision Concrete, we left it to him to pour whenever he got the chance and Saturday was the "go" day.

We had kept the upper containers covered with tarps on the end after we installed the radiant tubing to keep the western sun off the plastic. We knew the pour would be a tad tricky as it was an enclosed space with no stair access. The guys went up and down via ladders at the end with a dedicated ladder for the pump hose and our scaffolding on the south side of the containers.


Tim had to use a concrete company called Livingston's who were further away as the upstairs containers required a lightweight concrete mix, a specialty our local concrete provider wasn't able to get for us. What makes it lightweight is the different aggregate that is used. Rather than local stone or pea gravel they use pumice rock or lava stone. It is a porous stone that was soaked in water overnight to absorb all the water it could before being added to the mix. If it hadn't been it would have absorbed all the water in the mix resulting in too dry a mix. Concrete is so interesting. 

We had Tim, of Precision Concrete, his dad Jim, brother Dustin and Jesus was back - YEH!!!! Pumper Dude Ed and Rob were also on the scene.

It went pretty fast but this concrete mix was definitely different from what the guys were used to pouring and it has a green tinge to it, actually not bad looking by itself.

Things got a tad tight as they got to the end and concreted themselves into a corner.

We put the zip strips in again so that when the concrete cracks (which it will) it will follow the zip strip and stay pretty straight, for the most part.

It got cozy with all the boys snugged up into the corner. Fortunately that is the west wall so the sun didn't hit all morning while they were working.

The concrete around my porthole laundry shoot....can't wait to get that installed.

Jesus and Tim above and below handling the zip strips.

All done, they had to wait longer than normal before they could get back on it with the knee floats to trowel out the surface. 

Jesus and his helper troweling out the surface. Then we put the tarps back down to keep the sun off of it while it continued to dry. The sun will dry it out to fast and the heat will cause excess cracking so we went back and watered it down later on to slow the curing process. 

We were all finished by about 12:30PM which was nice because it was a hot one. It was kind of sad because this is probably the last time we will have the whole concrete team here. There are the exterior concrete paths and porch to pour but I think those are pretty easy to do and don't require the whole team.

Pumper Ed and Rob will be back next week though when we pour the first floor of the ICF walls so that will be great. 

This week we are trying to get the trenches done around the house for the gas line, water line, sewer line and electric. 

Keep pushing onwards. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

1st ICF inspection aced

We had the first inspection of the ICF yesterday, no problems we are good to pour the first walls.

This morning we are pouring the upstairs concrete floor. Pictures to come.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Yeh, I made a huge Oooops this weekend. While trying to help Kyle cut those little squares out for the bolts to hold the ledger for the loft, I made a bit of a mistake.

I cut them out so carefully and stayed in the lines of all my measurements and I scooped out the big pieces BUT......I let the littler pieces fall back into the wall. I figured they would make good filler in the walls.

Yeh, Uh, NO! Kyle very carefully explained to me that they took vital room away from where the concrete should be.

So this is how we spent the 2 hours of our Sunday evening until 9:30pm.

Oh Yeh - we vacuumed the inside of the walls. That is the shop vac way up there, dangling on the scaffolding.

And a 10ft piece of PVC pipe that we attached to the end of the vacuum hose.

And we sucked every last little piece of polystyrene out from within the walls. It was  long arduous task, all thanks to my handwork. Sorry babe!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ICF so far

So we left off last week (yeh, kinda of is a soap opera) with the ICF (Mike and Dustin) guys  finishing up just about all the work for the first pour of concrete.

It looked something like this -

The main living area will get a few more rows on top after this course is poured as the walls are about 18' tall but we can't comfortably do it in one pour.

The second bedroom is just about complete as this is as high as the walls get in this room.

Denali got a bad hair cut with a pair of horse clippers, he looks even more like a wolf now, a real scrawny one.

Here are a few shots of the tops of the walls where you can see the recycled plastic webs that provide the blocks with stability, able to tie them together and solid strength to hang things on the wall.

The horizontal rebar is in place and tomorrow the vertical rebar gets installed.

ICF as far as the eye can see.

This is the ICF wall heading toward the container wall and that big steel beam where they will tie in together.

This is what the inside of the ICF walls look like. The large, vertical struts are the supports that hold the ICF blocks in place and keep the walls plum. They also hold the little walkway that is very useful for working up top.

These little cut outs will be holding large bolts for attaching the rafter that will support the loft. They are cut out of the ICF so that the concrete will flow to the front and give extra support to the bolts. There will be a piece of plywood that will go over these holes and hold the bolts. Then when the concrete has set the plywood will come off.

These sand bags hold the supports in place. Normally the struts would be screwed to the sub-floor but in our case where the concrete is the final floor we had to use these huge boards and then laden them down with the sand bags.

So now the guys return tomorrow to finish off the last pieces of the ICF and Kyle will put the rest of the bolts into the walls. We are hoping for an inspection by the end of the week and then we can pour concrete next week!!

Kyle is currently glued to an infomercial that is all in Chinese - I think he is trying to learn Mandarin Chinese by following along with the sales girls as she hocks her cosmetic line.....these are some long days.