Friday, July 30, 2010

Stonework Revealed

Since I last posted an update on the house, we have finished the earth bermed portion of the north wall and moved on to something more exciting - actual stonework. This picture is Jenn and her Dad working together on the bermed wall.

This is what it looked like after all the slipforms were removed. A hefty concrete wall. The little white circles towards the bottom of the wall are PVC sleeves we put into the wall to house things like electrical and propane lines into the house.

The inside of the bermed wall has 2 inches of insulation, the rest of the house will have six. In order to make the six inch panels, we glued three two inch panels together. We inserted the galvanized wire through them the same as we had done before. These wires tie the foam to the wall and leave a loop on the inside in order to tie on lath when the house is closed in.

When building a masonry wall, you need to pre-plan your openings quite carefully. We went with standard sized doors and windows. In order to make a hole for said openings you need to box it out. In order to make window and door boxes that would span our 18 inch walls, we tacked 1x2 pieces on the outside of 2x12 lumber. A 2x12 is actually 1 1/2 inches by 11 1/4 inches. 1x2 measures 3/4 of an inch deep making our depth a true 12 inches. That plus our six inches of foam made the 18 inches of wall.

This picture was taken while we were setting the forms. You can see the homemade insulation panels.

This is the door box in place.

We started laying up stones using the knowledge we had gained from books. The bad part of slipforming is that you can't see the work you have done until you have another level done on top of it. We used sand at the front of the forms to keep the concrete from running all the way to the front and staining all our hard work. This is Jenn applying the sand.

I'll post a more detailed account of the process later. I get into such a flurry that I often forget to take pictures. The picture below shows the window box.

This is what the stonework looks like when you take the forms off.

This is what a section of it looks like washed. We were very happy with our first attempt at slipform stone masonry. There were very few spots where the concrete had dared creep out farther than I would have liked. When all is said and done, we will do what is called "pointing". Basically, it is like grouting between the stones to leave a more finished look. We still plan to leave the stones extending beyond the mortar, but the joints will look more uniform.
I'll try not to go so long before I do another update, but building stone wall leaves me a bit tired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cast of Characters

Mike "the Mix Master" Barnhart

Becki "Portland Power" Barnhart

Jenn "Law and Mortar" Barnhart

Jared "Crack the Whip" Barnhart

Not Pictured:
Don "the Rock Pile Destroyer" Hermanson
Pat "the Hydrator" Hermanson

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We Begin Slipforming

We were finally able to go vertical on our house! We are now 16 inches up ... on 1/3 of the house. To us, it is a great victory. We started out on Friday by tying 10 foot vertical pieces of rebar to the rebar sticking out of the footing. We opted to start on the north side of the house since this side would be bermed into the earth up to the four foot level. The only downside of this is that the rocks are inside the wall rather than showing like a stone wall. That means that when we take the forms off, all we'll see is a concrete wall.

After we tied the vertical pieces on, we also tied on a horizontal piece making a rebar grid that will add support to our concrete and stone walls.

We made sure that none of the splices were anywhere near the corners, which are very structurally important.

My Mom and my Wife poked pieces of galvanized fencing wire through the insulation. The extra wire on the inside of the insulation will be embedded into the concrete, holding the insulation in place.

The loops on the inside of the wall will be used to tie on lath that we will plaster over when the house is done.

My wife had to take some time to set up the temporary 'facilities'. We bought a camping toilet that we lovingly call 'the cabana'.

After the rebar was in place (on Saturday) we bolted all the forms together and started locking them into place. We used two different methods. To keep the forms together we put a spacer in place and wrapped tie wire around two 1x2 pieces cut to 18 inches long. I used a nail to twist and therefore tighten the wires.

Method number two was some 1x4 pieces of lumber cut to 25 3/4 inches - the exact distance from the outside of one form to the outside of the other giving us 18 inches in between. We screwed them on the top to keep the forms from bowing out.

In the meantime, my Dad built these two knockouts to house some future plumbing. We oiled everything that would be touching concrete and called it a day since the temperature was in the upper 90's.

On Sunday, we were ready to start filling in the forms. We started the day using a 1:3:3 mix of concrete. One part portland cement, three parts pea rock and three parts sand. We quickly turned to a 1:2:3 mix of one part portland, two parts pea rock and three parts sand. Joe Kohler, in his book, has termed this mix 'morcrete'. It isn't quite mortar and it isn't quite concrete. It is strong yet easy to smoosh around the rocks. My parents graciously mixed all the morcrete for the first wall. The large rocks in this wall were more or less filler to save on cost.

We put in an eight hour day to fill in this section of wall. It was tiring but gratifying. And, unless we can find a way to live behind a 16 inch section of wall, it is only the beginning.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Big Pour!

We finally got to do our foundation pour, and I have to say that I am very satisfied with the final product. This is due, in no small part, to my cousin Josh and the crew he brought with him – Gary, Cody and Barry. I was very impressed with how well they worked together and just knew what to do. I definitely learned a lot. We started on the front end and worked our way around screeding off the masonry heater footing as planned.

Josh finished up the more difficult area that contained all the plumbing.

While Barry the hired finisher ran the power trowel ...

I installed the wall anchors.

Like I said it went well, but not without a couple incidences. The forms bowed out in one area (not a big deal) and lifted in another (a big deal). The lifted area ruins the ability to screed off of the form and retain the same grade. Josh and his team acted fast and screeded it by eyeballing it. When all was said and done, we put the four foot level on there and it was spot on. I was very impressed and grateful that they were there.

I ordered 20.5 yards of concrete and when we were done we had less than a wheelbarrow full of concrete left. I'd like to say I'm an expert estimator, but sometimes it's just better to be lucky than good. I had estimated 19.5 yards and added an extra yard to cover any errors.

We returned to the site today to check it out. The power troweled floor looks great and I can't wait to acid stain it. I'll snap a picture the next time we go out.

Next, we go vertical!