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.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

More About The Porch

I thought a lot about how to build the front porch. This is what I came up with. Across the back two walls of the porch the block is 4 inches taller than across the front. Three inches of the four is for the concrete slab. This will leave a one inch concrete block splash guard on top of which the mudsill and rimjoist will sit. I’m hoping one inch is enough to keep the inevitable rain off the mudsill. My house siding will come down and cover the mudsill also, hiding it as well as hopefully keeping rain off of it.

There are holes drilled in the block for the slab rebar to fit into. While the slab will also sit on top of the rubble fill inside the perimeter I wanted a more secure connection to that block wall. In pic one you can see rebar pieces are not parallel. This is because I wanted the rebar to be concreted into the block wall where a piece of vertical rebar ran.

The dirt on top is only 3-4 inches deep; the rest of the volume is filled with concrete rubble, broken concrete block and anything else I could find (including one old lawn mower - gas and oil drained) that wouldn’t compact easily.

I will keep this covered with plastic to shed rain as I don’t want the block walls to fill up with water. With all that surface bonding cement, this thing would probably hold water like a swimming pool.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Little Visitor

My front porch will be a concrete slab, about 5’ x 7’ and sit atop the block wall foundation, which will be filled with dirt and leftover concrete rubble from pouring my concrete footers.

Collecting all my concrete rubble from around the worksite I came across four black widow spiders. They were in four different locations and were always found under some piece of concrete or inside a concrete block. None of them were found on wood, always concrete.

It was pretty cool the days I was collecting the concrete rubble, like maybe 45 degF, so none of the spiders were moving around very fast. That’s good because it made it easier to photo them.
I always knew that black widows had the familiar red hourglass shape on their bellies, but I didn’t know that some of them have a row of red diamonds down their back. The largest of these spiders I found had a tail bulb 3/8” to a little larger. I’m thinking a widow of this size could put a pretty good bite on you. Yes, I was wearing good leather work gloves when doing this work. I wear gloves when doing most any work. Still, I don’t know if a black widow this large could bite through the gloves.

Surface Bonding Cement - Final Thoughts

I finally got through applying all the surface bonding cement; 37 bags, 50 lbs each, about $450 for those who are interested. Initial purchase was 35 bags (one whole pallet). Only having to buy two additional bags tells me my first estimate was pretty good.

Each bag of cement has a small chart that tells you how many square feet of surface area the bag will cover at different thicknesses. I used 1/8” cement thickness for my estimate (though I found out later in another document that 1/16” thick is plenty strong). I’m sure in some places mine is 1/8” thick, but thicker (and thinner) in others.

The variation in thickness I think is caused mostly by temperature and by how I mixed it. While I could’ve used the cement mixer to do a whole bag at a time, I didn’t want to have that much material wet at once. If something happened (and it always does) my material might set up on the mortar board; and at roughly $12.50 a bag, that hurts. So, at first I mixed it by hand with a trowel (really slow) and later in a bucket with an electric drill and one of those stirring paddles (much, much easier). If you use the drill and paddle, this stuff is thick, so get a good drill, or you will burn out a cheap one. Ask me how I know this.

It’s not obvious but the same amount of water and cement does not always yield the same mixture density. Outside temperature comes into play, but they don’t tell you that on the bag. And with each batch being slightly different in density, it affects the thickness of application too. One or two batches were absolutely soupy they were so thin. And, troweling on soupy mortar is impossible, you’ve never seen a bigger mess. When that happens, either add a little more cement, or just wait a little while and the stuff will start to set up and become a good mix all by itself.

As you apply the stuff, on a hot day, it starts setting up pretty quick, which makes it hard to trowel. That is solved easily by having a water misting bottle handy (like Windex or counter top cleaner comes in). They don’t tell you that on the bag either. Hit it with a couple of squirts and the mix becomes workable again.

Another tip I learned along the way was on a really hot day, to wet the wall down really well before starting application of cement. The bag instructions say wet the wall, but don’t soak it. No, on a hot day, soak it. Now, if you do soak it, for heavens sake don’t use too much water and end up with a soupy mix too.

Troweling that much cement on to the walls wasn’t hard once you get the hang of it, but it did take up a LOT of time and it also got awfully repetitious. But, it’s finished now; so on to building with wood.

I’ve seen a couple of jobs locally where a contractor applied this stuff to a foundation wall for waterproofing. After looking at his work and then my own work, I’m glad I did my own work. Yes, it took longer, a lot longer for me to do it myself, but getting this house built fast is not the main goal.