Building My House

I have always wanted to build my own house. I am retired now, so I have the time. I found some land, designed a house that would fit the land and my needs and got started. I am doing all the work myself, so progress will be fairly slow. To read this blog from the beginning, start with the oldest archive and read posts from last to first.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Basement Slab - Second Half

It’s funny how when you do something the second time, it goes much faster. Such was forming up the second half of the basement concrete slab. It’s also funny how you can get ahead of yourself and maybe create a problem that you won’t realize until the concrete arrives (the absolute worst time to realize you have a problem). Long story short, I didn’t order enough concrete for the second slab pour. I ended up about a quarter yard short. And the pour was going so smoothly.

I got the concrete truck into and turned around on the site; remember it’s a small site with almost no extra room. I mean, like ten minutes after he arrived, we were ready to pour. I don’t know why, but I keep using the word “we”. Here, “we” means the concrete truck driver and me. So, we start the pour and by swinging the chute left and right I get about half the form filled up in like two minutes. Then we take the “come-along” (fancy name for a big hoe) and even out the concrete, pushing it into all the corners. I take my small hoe and make “sure” it’s evenly spread into the corners. Truck driver said take a hammer and bang on the forms lightly, that will help consolidate it into the corners even better.

We then screed off the top with a long 2x4; not too bad; went fairly smoothly. He moves the truck and we do it again; only this time I start to hear individual rocks (aggregate) bouncing around inside the truck “barrel” before we’ve finished filling up the forms. That’s a bad sound as it indicates the truck is about empty.

Houston, we have a problem.

Fortunately, it was only 85 degrees that day; that helped a lot as the concrete didn’t seem to start hardening as quickly as it had on previous pours, when the temp was 95.

So, I use the bull-float to smooth it as much as possible, while the truck driver washes out the truck (there was nothing to wash out); and then use the hand-float around the edges. I get him paid, and get the truck out of the site (it’s always easier getting him out, than getting him into the site). And then it’s off to the building supply to buy Quikcrete; twelve bags, sixty pounds each.

A friend gave me a concrete mixer. I knew the fanbelt had slipped off the pulley. So, I remove the cover, plug it in to make sure the motor works; it does. So now the fan belt goes back on and is adjusted for tension; and voila the mixer now DOESN’T work; can’t get it to run no matter what I do. Give the mixer blades a push to help get them going; no dice. So, it looks like we (there’s that “we” word again) will be mixing this stuff by hand in the wheelbarrow.

The Quikcrete instructions say add about a half gallon of water per bag of mix. Ha, if you do, you won’t be able to work the concrete at all; so maybe ¾ gallon, or maybe even a little more, and it’s wet enough to be workable. One bag at a time, for ten bags, shoveled into the forms, and finally the forms are filled up. Now comes the finishing. I no longer have the bull-float (belonged to the concrete truck), and one person can’t screed this much concrete by himself with the 2x4, so all finishing will be with a hand float only.

It works surprisingly well. The hardest part was feathering in the edge of the fresh, wet concrete, with the now beginning to dry concrete. Fortunately, the now beginning to dry mix, was firm enough that I could lay plywood pieces down on it, and kneel on it to reach far enough into the slab and smooth the edges.

So, at the end of the day, I have a completed basement slab. It isn’t going to win any awards for beauty, but is pretty flat and will function well for it’s intended purpose.

Boy, I’m glad I don’t do concrete for a living.

I’ve had a day or two now to think about how I came up short on the concrete. Long story short, I think I estimated it right, but the concrete company shorted me a little. I took readings of slab width and length every three feet. The ground was a little uneven, so I took a LOT of depth readings (about every two feet), and averaged them. My width and length readings were taken to the "outside" of the forms. All these precautions means there should have been concrete leftover, but there wasn't. The one mistake that I will admit too is I didn’t order “a little extra” like I should have. I’ve always ordered a little extra, about a quarter yard, so why didn’t I do it this time…hummm.

Solo home building; what an adventure. I hope this adventure doesn’t kill me.


At 1:17 PM, Blogger Ed Abbey said...

Having poured a lot of concrete in my time and always ordering some extra that has to get dumped somewhere before the truck can leave, it all ended up well. I know this because I can't begin to count the number of times that I've had to later bust up the extra concrete because the place where I had thought it would stay unmolested for decades is actually needed sans concrete.


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