Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Site Prep

Tonight we finished the base underneath our slab and footings. It came with a lot of hard work and I think my parents may have earned their sainthood. Some time, money and definitely a lot of hard work could have been saved, but I made a mistake. I shouldn't have had the entire excavation site dug to the depth of the bottom of the footings. If I had it to do all over again, I would simply strip the top one foot of topsoil and make a wide trench deep enough for the footings and wide enough for the footings plus the insulation. But, I haven't perfected my time machine yet so we were forced to go with what we had. Here is what we did.

First, we put down a layer of crushed stone throughout the entire excavation site about 4 inches deep and compacted it.

Then, we built up the perimeter wide enough for the footings and insulation with more crushed stone. We used screed rails and screeded it level and then compacted it again. This totaled another 4 inches (8 total inches).

The stuff in the middle is class 5 road gravel. That's what we used to build up the center under the slab portion. Once we got the perimeter done, I could no longer get the skid steer in there. This is where all the hard work comes into play.

We had to build up the middle using form boards. We built the form boards out of 1x12 boards. They should have been 2x12s instead. We got it part way filled in and then it rained really hard. The extra water pressure caused the boards to bow out. I'll have to carve the class 5 out to make them straight again before we can pour the concrete.

We filled and compacted each run of class 5 - wheel barrow by wheel barrow. I figure we probably moved better than 45 tons with wheel barrows and shovels between me, my wife and my parents.

When we got to the top of the forms we screeded it level. It feels really good to be done with the wheel barrows for a bit. Next, I'll compact it once more and then we'll be ready for the plumber to put in our under slab plumbing. Once that is in we'll set up forms outside of the class five to make our footings. I can't wait to cover all this hard work with a whole bunch of concrete.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Holey Moley

We have a hole in the ground. This is how it went. We staked out the area.

The topsoil was taken off.

Eight hours later we have a hole in the ground.

The man in the Bobcat is my wife's uncle Tom. He handled the Bobcat with precision and expertise. Perhaps that's because he has owned said skid steer since 1978. Jenn's Aunt Anita also showed up in the afternoon to help us check for level. By the by, I now know how to use a transit (another skill Tom brought to the table). We owe them both big time.

Our hole in the ground is 2 feet deep, 39 feet long and 32 feet wide. We are utilizing what I believe to be a very under used footing/foundation method. We are going to be pouring a slab on grade with frost protected shallow foundations (fpsf). Basically you use vertical and horizontal insulation around your footings in order to protect the footings from frost heaving. Here is a more in depth explanation.

The method is more widely used in Scandinavian countries but has been in the International Building Code since 2002 (if I remember correctly). It falls under section R403.3. The next step is to get ready for a concrete pour.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Time

It's time for my wife and I to reveal our inner crazy. Since we purchased our 12 acre piece of earth, we have been planning and dreaming of building our country home. Even before we found our land, I had begun researching building techniques and floor plans.

Through my research I found all kinds of books and websites on building techniques I had never even heard of. So I began reading ... and reading ... and reading. I read books on everything from stick frame to cordwood walls to strawbale building and everything in between. I liked all the alternative building methods and after every book we kept coming back to one technique in particular. Slipform stone masonry. If you don't know what that means (like I didn't) for now I'll refer you here (about mid-page) and here (some good pictures). It looked like a great system for a couple of novice builders.

After about two years of planning, drawing and redrawing - we have a set of plans and a permit. I think we have exhausted the "paper and pencil" stage and there's nothing left but to do it. We're facing a summer full of hard work and long days. My wife is a teacher so she will have half of the summer off, but I work a regular day job so much of our work will be done during nights and weekends. Wish us luck.

Next step - excavation.